“Let’s gather as a band of one, in symphony across the land…” Henry Birtles, The Harvest
I would love to take us all today to a special Harvest service, organized by British Food Fortnight to rekindle the tradition of Harvest Festival, at the Westminster Abbey in 2013, an event that Damian Lewis does not only attend with family — as a foodie, I cannot think of anything better than celebrating food with family, no wonder Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! — but also actively participates in the celebrations as well as has a conversation with the Duchess of Cornwall, who is also in attendance, about the whereabouts of one certain Nicholas Brody! 😀
Harvest festival is an annual celebration around the time of the harvest —traditionally held on the Sunday of the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox — that has been going on since pagan times when “farmers offered the first cut sheaf of corn to one of their gods of fertility, in order to safeguard a good harvest the following year.” They kept the tradition after Christianity with church bells ringing on every day of the harvest and, according to Project Britain, farmers gave their freshly made bread to their local churches to be used as the communion bread at a special mass thanking God for the harvest. This custom ended when someone that we know very well, Henry VIII, broke ties with the Catholic Church. The tradition of celebrating the harvest in the churches started in 1843 and Victorian hymns like “We plough the fields and scatter”, “Come ye thankful people, come” and “All things bright and beautiful” as well as decorating churches with home-grown produce seem to have popularized the festival. The harvest celebrations today typically include singing hymns, praying and decorating churches with baskets of food.
British Food Fortnight is an annual national celebration of food in late September to early October in the UK. Founded by Alexia Robinson in response to the foot and mouth disease crisis in 2002 to support British farmers and food producers, the celebration takes place every year with special menus and promotions varying from finding the community organizing the most imaginative celebration for the harvest, to special tastings and menus in pubs across the country, to special events in care homes for the elderly to a competition for kids to create a new harvest anthem.
Damian, as part of the special harvest service, the first one held at the Westminster Abbey since 1966, reads a NEW poem “Harvest” by Henry Birtles, a BBC and Channel 4 sport poet, written particularly for this event.
Please enjoy Damian reading the entire poem here:
Henry Birtles expresses his feelings about his poem being read at this special event in writing:
“It was a mind-blowing honour to be sitting in such a place waiting for the moment when a poem I had written specially for this service — the first Harvest Festival Service held in the Abbey since 1966 — was to be read by arguably the world’s most in-vogue actor, Homeland’s Damian Lewis, in the presence of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. It’s hard to describe the moment when, as members of my family looked on, Damian started to read my words in one of the great and historical buildings in the United Kingdom. A moving experience indeed.”
The Times reports about Damian’s personal take on the Harvest Festival:
“I think the harvest festival service and the harvest time of year is very special – I remember it from when I was at school. There’s an abundance, and there’s great colour and produce – fruit and veg, as we’ve been talking about, and bread. It’s a good way for children to have a tangible connection to faith, and actually to understand you can give thanks to something that they see every day on the table. Children can become very disconnected from what they eat, so it is a good way to rekindle that awareness.”
The more exciting news is Damian has some experience growing vegetables with his kids that he shares in this little video:
Damian shares with Daily Mail some practical advice for parents whose kids are not as interested in vegetables as his kids:
“If they don’t like the look of the potatoes, then just chop them and make some chips. They’ll eat that. It all works. The important thing is that they have grown it themselves and know where it comes from.”
When the Duchess of Cornwall meets Damian and his family, their conversation starts with their own harvest festival memories at school, we learn young Damian took baked beans to school for harvest, and then turns to extremely important world matters! 😀
“Where are you?” asks the Duchess. She is not asking after Damian, she is, in fact, asking after Brody! This conversation takes place before Homeland Season 3 arrives on TV and the Duchess is anxious, like the rest of us, about Brody’s whereabouts. And who can blame her for that?
Damian: “I’m on the run, but wait and see.”
I find it quite hilarious that the Duchess asks Damian’s kids if they are allowed to watch their dad on TV, a question Damian himself answers with a laugh:
“No, certainly not. Fortunately mummy is in Harry Potter so they can watch that!”
In closing, I cannot help share these lovely words by Reverend Chartres, Bishop of London, in his address at this special harvest service: “As we celebrate our harvest we must also remember people in parts of the world where there is hardship. People who do not want handouts so much as they want help to bring in a harvest of their own.”
We must always remember.