Fall harvest with kids: How to honor traditions without appropriating them

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For many American families, Thanksgiving means spending time together, eating seasonal foods, and expressing gratitude. But Thanksgiving is just one example of how people celebrate the fall harvest season!

Here are 5 fun facts for kids about how different cultures celebrate the fall harvest, along with some ways you can acknowledge these traditions in your own family!

  1. The Omaha tribe of Native Americans celebrates Hede’wachi to honor the fall harvest. This tradition centers around a decorated tree which symbolizes the unity of the tribe.
  2. The Green Corn Ceremony is a tradition shared by many Indigenous tribes of the Southeastern US in which the first green corn of the season is burned as an offering to ensure a bountiful harvest. 
  3. The Zuni Harvest Dance is an annual celebration of the Zuni tribe in New Mexico. The Zuni people celebrate a productive growing season with dancing, music made with gourd shakers, and a large feast.
  4. The Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival, is celebrated by many in East and Southeast Asia. It honors the brightest and fullest moon of the year. People celebrate by eating mooncakes!
  5. First Fruits festivals are a Southern African tradition in which the first crops of the harvest are sacrificed to ensure abundant food later in the season. This tradition shares roots with Kwanzaa, which is named after a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits.”

Here’s how to honor traditions from other cultures in your own family (without appropriating them!)

  • Donate excess non-perishable foods to a food bank or shelter. 
  • Learn about the people who are indigenous to your area and how they celebrate the harvest.
  • Try some harvest celebration foods that are new to your family, like mooncakes or Three Sisters salad.
  • Give something back to the Earth for all it provides us (plant a tree, pick up trash in a local park, etc.).
  • Talk with your kids about where our food comes from and the journey it takes to get to our plates.

Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.