There is an old saying in Xiaogan that “The jake desires for the first harvest of the year for there are only two harvests every year”. “Food is the paramount necessity of people” in agricultural society, people pay special attention to the Spring Festival holidays, and hold grand and religious sacrificial events to pray harvest of the year besides grand events of entertaining gods. The annual family reunion dinner must be wonderful, and even very poor families will borrow and scrimp in every possible way to eat meat or fish. This is the first “harvest” for the jake. The Spring Festival is Chinese lunar New Year. Farmers begin to work despite of wind and rain soon after the Spring Festival, working hard in the fields and fighting against various natural disasters during the period to wait for the harvest time in autumn and have the freshly grown crops such as rice, wheat and pasta, vegetables, and melons and fruits in season, which is known as “Enjoying the harvest”. While enjoying the harvest, rice straw with spike will be cut off for cows. If the Spring Festival is to thank for blessing of gods and pray for harvest of next year, enjoying the harvest expresses awareness of dependency of farmers on lands. “Fields benefit peoples”, and harvest can only be got through hardworking. As the old sayings in Xiaogan going: “People treat lands well and harvest will be got on lands to fill the belly”, and “No harvest will be got if not ploughing and weeding in time”. They feel the joy of harvest by enjoying the harvest, through which their hardworking is paid back; cows are loyal friends of people, and they certainly will not forget cows working hard in the fields, so they will cut off a bundle of fresh rice straw with spike for them to express their gratitude for their friends.
Enjoying the harvest is a custom left by the a preceding generation in agricultural society beginning at a very early age, it is prevailing in ancient times that “Plough the field in spring and till it in summer, cut in autumn and store in winter”, and the first time to enjoy the harvest is in autumn. To this day, upstream region of Liujiang still keeps the habit of enjoying the harvest at the first day of lunar June in autumn. Before harvesting, women pick up the fresh earhead in the fields to make rice, boil and steam into fragrant fresh rice, prepare best dishes, take out rice wine with heavy flavor made by fresh rice, and ask the old to invite neighbors and friends to enjoy the harvest, drink and sing. Following are lyrics of songs sung by guests: “The rice is fragrant, fish fat, and wine with heavy flavor in the harvest year...thank the host a lot and wish for all garners filled with golden grain. Do not forget to enjoy our harvest next year…” and “The family members respectively carry the drunk to go back” in the village, filled with joy. Original style of enjoying the harvest can be seen from it.
With development of agricultural technology, crops are not ripened once yearly any longer, but twice or even three times yearly, so enjoying the harvest is no more fixed in autumn. In the north with wheat as the staple food, the period of wheat harvest is to enjoy the harvest. The “double-rush” season to rush in rice harvest is for the south. In addition, the crops are ripened at different time due to geographical relationship, so the period to enjoy the harvest and custom of enjoying the harvest both differ even in the same village. As the old saying in Xiaogan going: “The custom differs ten miles away and style differs five mile away.” For example, the period the wheat is about to ripen is for Baodi area in Hebei to enjoy the harvest. Ears of wheat with oars are pinched from the wheat about to ripen, and grains of wheat are kneaded into the pot for slight frying, milled to strips of several inches, and stirred and fried with shredded meat, cucumber and lettuce, which then becomes food with unique flavor, known as “roll”. It is said in Roll by Li Guangting of Qing dynasty. When enjoying the harvest. Presenting friends with “roll” is filled with joy.
I spent my early childhood in the village of my grandma in northeast of Xiaogan, Hubei. The period of early rice harvest and late rice planting is to enjoy the harvest here. They have the harvested early and fresh rice. Those even peasant women slightly able to cook meals cook fresh rice into meal which is just right. Since it is for both harvest celebration and autumn greeting by enjoying the harvest, there is an old saying in Xiaogan that “Busy in sowing and harvesting”. Meat must be eaten to supplement nutrition and boost energy – which is the second meat diet (freshness) expected by the “jake”. Steamed pork with rice flour is the main meat food. Mill fresh rice into powder, add moderate salt, bruised ginger, and home-made sweet brown sauce to mix uniformly, chop into fat slices of streaky pork, and add garlic, then you will have delicious, fat but not greasy steamed pork with rice flour. In addition, every family will make rice wine with fresh rice. Before sowing and harvesting, the aunt opens the cover of rice wine tank, which is so fragrant! The tank is watery with clear wine sauce and granule similar to jade, which turns round and round after moving with chopsticks. They rush to the fields in high spirits after drinking a big bowl deliciously at home.
In some regions, enjoying the harvest is not only to have fresh rice and drink rice wine made from fresh rice, but also to eat boiled taro, boiled peanut, green soy bean boiled with salt and rice, and red water caltrops...in conclusion, cereals planted in fields, fresh vegetables, and melons and fruits in season. Customs of eating are various. Custom of enjoying the harvest was mixed with traditional festivals such as the Begging Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival afterwards. There is a custom that women hold a memorial ceremony for Weaver in the courtyard in the Begging Festival. As said in Jinchu Chronicle of Zonglin: “July 7 is the night for Cowherd and Weaver to get together, when the women decorate the house with festoons and thread the seven-hole needle or take gold, silver and jade as the needle, to put melons and fruits in the courtyard for begging.” They also divide foods and supply fruits after worship and play the begging game while eating. According to Book of Jin• Astronomical Records: “Weaver is the Apsara, mainly in charge of melons and fruits, silk, jewelry……” Therefore there are also fresh fruits and longan, jujube, filbert, peanut and melon seeds among offerings for Cowherd and Weaver on July 7. Thus it can be seen that contents of enjoying the harvest haven been incorporated into “the Begging Festival” of Jin dynasty. In the Mid-Autumn Festival, the family is reunited to enjoy the moon and set altar for sacrifice of the moon. In the north, offerings include pear, apple, grape, pomegranate, fresh jujube, persimmon, and green soy bean, etc. In the south, offerings include grapefruit, dasheen, banana, water caltrop, peanut, and lotus root, etc. The sacrificial offerings are divided into family members for sharing when enjoying the moon after removing. The family is reunited and gets together happily in the Mid-Autumn Festival to share fresh fruits and food in season when enjoying the moon to enjoy the family relationships, which is so happy! Therefore, it is natural that the custom of enjoying the harvest is incorporated into the Mid-Autumn Festival.
In my hometown, Xiaogan, besides holding a memorial ceremony for Weaver in the Begging Festival, the home of Dong Yong, Xiaogan and its surrounding areas also has the custom of worshipping for the seven sisters, and customs of sacrifice of the moon and enjoying the moon in Mid-Autumn Festival. In such customs, offerings include melons and fruits in season, such as water caltrop and lotus root, etc. There is an old saying in Xiaogan that: “Rich people east mooncakes and poor people eat water caltrops.” In Mid-Autumn Festival, the countrymen prefer water caltrops to mooncakes.
Such customs of enjoying the harvest was firstly popular in the country, and spread to the city afterwards. The same as the Begging Festival, in the Mid-Autumn Festival, city people will eat fresh melons fruits, and prefer to have vegetables and fruits in season during all seasons, which are derived from customs of enjoying the harvest of countrymen. Thus it can be seen that customs change people, and it is inevitable for city people. Nowadays, city people are willing to spend money in eating fresh melons, vegetables and fruits in the market, which becomes fashion of city people.