Harvest festivals have been a global event since time immemorial. Virtually all ancient civilizations had elaborate festivals in celebration of bountiful harvests.
The ancient Egyptians had the Festival of Min in the springtime. It involved a parade in which even the Pharaohs took part. There were great feasts complete with music, dancing and sports. The Greeks had their Festival of Thesmosphoria held each autumn in honour of the goddess of corn. Similarly, the Romans celebrated Cerelia which honoured the goddess of corn, Ceres (root word for cereal). The ancient Chinese celebrated their harvest festival, Chung Ch’ui on the 15th day of the 8th month.
These festivals traced their roots to the ancient universal belief by farmers that spirits dwelled in their crops. The spirits were the main determinant for bountiful harvests. Invariably, their generosity gave rise to an equally universal sentiment of thanksgiving expressed through such rituals as great feasts, colourful and exotic dances, songs, music and stories.
Not surprisingly, harvest festivals are still big events in most countries even today, and the underlying beliefs and even the rituals have changed little over the millenniums.
However, like all other cultural practices, the celebration of harvest festivals is facing an onslaught of modern distractions, amusement and skepticism from the younger generations. Particularly vulnerable are the rituals, traditional beliefs, and practices associated with the respective festivals from which the world derives part of its cultural riches. There is a real danger that these cultural treasures will disappear forever unless like-minded scholars, leaders and concerned citizens of the world make concerted effort to study, document, and educate the public of the nature and value of such heritage. In view of this, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), through the joint-efforts of its staff and BLCC, feels compelled to organize an event that will rekindle, embrace and enhance the spirit, knowledge and appreciation of Mother Earth’s contribution among the peoples of the world.
UiTM is the biggest institution of higher learning in South-East Asia with over 80,000 students spread over 14 campuses.
UiTM Sabah Campus is situated in one of the most beautiful locations in the exotic island of Borneo. AND we are proud to host the first International Harvest Conference & Festival of its kind where we aim to gather together people from the academic community, representing countries and cultures of all the continents to celebrate, learn, share and appreciate traditional harvest festivals the world over. This will indeed make this festival a truly global event at an exotic location.
It is hoped that this event will become a springboard for future research and academic discourse on harvest festivals.