Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Thanksgiving isn't the only colorful harvest festival...

By Daisy Carrington, for CNN
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
At the end of the rice harvest, farmers in the West Sumatra race their cows while surfing behind on a wooden plank. The sport -- called Pacu Jawi -- is meant to demonstrate the strength of the herd before they're sold at auction. At the end of the rice harvest, farmers in the West Sumatra race their cows while surfing behind on a wooden plank. The sport -- called Pacu Jawi -- is meant to demonstrate the strength of the herd before they're sold at auction.
HIDE CAPTION
Pacu Jawi, Indonesia
Crop Over in Barbados
Honen Matsuri, Japan
Thanksgiving, USA
Moon Festival, China and Vietnam
Costermonger's Harvest Festival, England
Blessing of the Sea, Greece and Cyprus
Sukkot, Israel
Baisakhi, India and Pakistan
Chuseok, Korea
Pongal, India
The Madeira Flower Festival, Portugal
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In Komaki, Japan, Shinto priests try for a strong harvest by blessing a 600-pound wooden penis
  • London's harvest festival is manned by the Pearly Kings and Queens -- who wear suits embroidered with pearl buttons
  • Barbados celebrates the end of the sugar harvest with a giant party, and Calypso sing-off

(CNN) -- There are all sorts of ways to celebrate a successful harvest. In U.S. of course, people commemorate the season's bounty by giving thanks, overdosing on roast turkey, and turning on the TV to watch an endless parade of cartoon characters float about the streets of New York.

But today's Thanksgiving is not the only harvest festival on the cultural calendar. No matter the time of year, or place, a bounty of vegetables is often all it takes to get people singing, dancing, cow racing -- even parading around giant phalluses. To get in the spirit, we've reaped some of the world's most vibrant harvest festivals.

A team of men -- all aged 42 -- take turns carrying a 600-pound wooden phallus.
A team of men -- all aged 42 -- take turns carrying a 600-pound wooden phallus.

Honen Matsuri, Japan

To some, a procession led by a 600-pound wooden penis may seem a strange way to welcome the Spring, but in the small town of Komaki, it's only natural. Honen Matsuri, or the fertility festival, is held every year on March 15, and while the plethora of phalluses on display have made the event a popular go-to for tittering tourists, it is actually a Shinto ritual meant to ensure a bountiful harvest in the coming months.

Read more: The world's weirdest food festivals

The main phallus is carved from a single cedar tree in the winter and brought to the local Tagata Shrine for purification. During the festival, it is paraded by a troupe of Shinto priests. In the lead-up to the main event, stalls serve up unending cups of saki to the crowd, and vendors hawk penis-shaped candies. The celebration ends with priests throwing out handfuls of mochi, or rice cakes, to anyone gathered in the shrine's courtyard -- a practice meant to bring good luck for the following year.

London\'s second royal family, the Pearly Kings and Queens are the mascots of the Harvest Festival.
London's second royal family, the Pearly Kings and Queens are the mascots of the Harvest Festival.

Costermonger's Harvest Festival, England

For 125 years, the London harvest festival has had a troupe of shimmering mascots. The Pearly Kings and Queens -- deemed Britain's "second royal family" -- are renown for their dark suits emblazoned with hundreds of mother-of-pearl buttons, a tradition started by Henry Croft, an orphan-turned-street sweeper. He first got the idea from costermongers, or street hawkers, who used to line the seams of their pants with pearl buttons found on the street. He took it a step further and coated his whole suit -- top hat and all. Naturally, it wasn't long before he was a popular London fixture; he used his notoriety to raise money for various charities.

Each borough of London has its own Pearly Kind and Queen, and as a whole, the group functions mainly as a charitable organization. According to Doreen Golding, the Pearly Queen of Old Kent Road and Bow Bells, charity and harvest go hand-in-hand.

Read more: Solstice? It's all about sex!

"It doesn't matter what faith you are. At the end of the year, when all the crops are gathered and have been given to people in the community, it's typical to then give them out to all the homeless people who haven't got any food," she says. Like Croft, the "Pearlies" use their fame to fund raise.

No more sugar? In Barbados, that means it\'s time to party.
No more sugar? In Barbados, that means it's time to party.

Crop Over, Barbados

In 1780, Barbados was one of the biggest sugar producers in the world. Today, that honor goes to Brazil, but the Caribbean country still celebrates the sugar harvest with a month-long festival in July, known as Crop Over.

Pic-O-De Crop -- a kind of "American Idol" for Calypso music -- is one of the festival's most popular events, where finalists are judged for their savvy lyrics, content, melody and diction. Like Brazil's Carnival, the costumes help make the event (that, and copious amounts of rum), and prizes are given out for the most outrageous concoctions at the festival's end.

Blessing of the Sea, Greece and Cyprus

In Greek Orthodox communities, the prelude to the harvest coincides with a staple on the religious calendar -- Epiphany Day (January 6). To celebrate the baptism of Christ, and to curry blessing for the coming season, the local bishop leads a procession to the nearest body of water, where he tosses a crucifix into the sea. Volunteers (mainly young men) leap in after it and compete to be the first to catch it. Whoever rescues the cross from the sea will supposedly be granted good luck in the upcoming year. After the waters are blessed, some folks wash their produce in the harbor in hopes of a bountiful Autumn harvest.

Read more: So you think you know Christmas?

Rice Harvest, Indonesia

In West Sumatra, Minangkabau farmers have found a particularly daredevil means of celebrating the end of the rice season; they cow surf. Riding a wooden plank, and grasping the tails of two harnessed bulls, these farmer-turned-jockeys careen through the mud as part of the centuries-old sport of Pacu Jawi. The tradition is meant to show the strength of the bulls, many of which are later sold at auction.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
No matter the time of year, or place, a bounty of vegetables is often all it takes to get people singing, dancing, cow racing -- even parading around giant phalluses.
November 1, 2013 -- Updated 1806 GMT (0206 HKT)
Fireworks boom, bulbs flash, and flames flicker as tens of millions of people across the globe celebrate the beginning of the Festival of Lights.
October 31, 2013 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
halloween costume no eyes
Still think Halloween is just for the kids? You won't -- not when you've seen CNN's gut-twisting, down-right disgusting mob of morbid maniacs.
November 1, 2013 -- Updated 0942 GMT (1742 HKT)
Our list of doomed sites include a haunted school, political prisons and an abandoned hospital. No...we wouldn't go in there either!
October 31, 2013 -- Updated 1046 GMT (1846 HKT)
Catch the best Halloween costumes from tinseltown featuring Heidi Klum, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus and all their A-list friends.
October 21, 2013 -- Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT)
There are still many places in the world that treat magic as serious business. Check out our guide to the world's witchiest hotspots.
October 14, 2013 -- Updated 1407 GMT (2207 HKT)
The best photos of the eighth and annual gathering of geeks in the city that never sleeps. The sold out event allowed fans to mingle with stars.
October 9, 2013 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)
When animals come together en masse, very often so do humans. Here's our guide to the animal migrations that bring people out in flocks.
September 20, 2013 -- Updated 0626 GMT (1426 HKT)
Surviving the all-day drinking sessions of highly potent wheat beer at the (in)famous Oktoberfest in Munich is marathon, not a sprint.
September 13, 2013 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
For one weekend in September more than 155 million people in six neighboring countries across Central America pull out all the stops to honor the birth of their nations.
August 28, 2013 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Some hobbies take genuine talent, others just don't, but the real skill is turning your weird past-time into an international event.
August 9, 2013 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
For Muslims, Eid al-Fitr is one of the most festive periods in the religion's calendar. We asked you to send us your best Eid photos, here are your best shots.
August 8, 2013 -- Updated 1046 GMT (1846 HKT)
Award-winning British chef Aktar Islam shares his best Eid food memories. Find out what culinary delights are on his table.
August 20, 2013 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
Humans have a strange relationship with food. This seems to be a global truth that is perhaps best evidenced by the array of unusual food festivals the world over.
July 2, 2013 -- Updated 1042 GMT (1842 HKT)
Each year, proponents of the healing powers of mud (and those that just like to getting down in the dirt) descend on Daecheon Beach in South Korea for the annual Boryeong Mud Festival. Last year, 2.6 million people participated, many diving in to the mud marathon, mud wrestling, and several other mud-related activities on offer.
There is something innately messy about summer. That must be why some of the world's filthiest festivals bide their time until the warmer months.
August 9, 2013 -- Updated 0914 GMT (1714 HKT)
From Bastille Day and 4th July to Chinese New Year and Disney Land, your shots of the world's greatest fireworks.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
We asked you to send us your best solstice photos. From skinny dipping, fire jumping and dancing like a rocket -- here are your best shots.
June 17, 2013 -- Updated 0953 GMT (1753 HKT)
Linked to fertility -- both of the vegetal and human variety -- the solstice has spawned celebrations meant to fan the flames of love and lust.
June 13, 2013 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
Why did the midsummer maypole cause offense and who celebrates midsummer by running naked through the streets?
December 20, 2012 -- Updated 1807 GMT (0207 HKT)
For some it was an exhilarating holiday to an exotic place, finding new love or conquering their greatest fear. For others, it was witnessing an historic event.
December 17, 2012 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
The champagne is on ice, the fireworks are exploding overhead -- but isn't your New Year's Eve party a bit, well, last year?
December 14, 2012 -- Updated 0354 GMT (1154 HKT)
Edinburgh is cast aglow at its annual New Year's Eve (Hogmanay) festivities with a torchlight procession involving more than 25,000 locals
For many people, New Year's Eve can be disappointing -- there's so much hype in the lead-up to the event, it often falls short of the mark.
December 12, 2012 -- Updated 0145 GMT (0945 HKT)
If your Christmas is too often one of tacky decorations, over-cooked turkey and bitter family feuds, now may be the time to plan yourself a Yuletide getaway.
December 24, 2012 -- Updated 1036 GMT (1836 HKT)
Jen Best from Liberty, Misouri, snapped this adorable picture of her six month old nephew, Grayson, playing with fairy lights after seeing the idea on Pintrest.
Christmas is synonymous with decorations, markets and extravagant quantities of food. But traditions differ greatly depending on where you are in the world.
December 23, 2012 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
For something intended to bring pleasure to loved ones, Christmas shopping in the Internet age can be a peculiarly joyless and atomized activity.
December 7, 2012 -- Updated 2031 GMT (0431 HKT)
For some, Hanukkah is "the potato pancake holiday" -- a holiday that takes the mundane potato and gives it a massive makeover.
How much do you know about Christmas traditions around the world? Find out with our quiz.
November 26, 2013 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
The biennale will attract artists such as Sudarshan Shetty, whose previous works have included this aluminium and wood sculpture known as
The port-city of Kochi, on India's west coast, isn't known for its arts scene but that will change as it's first arts bienale.
ADVERTISEMENT