07 September 2011
Harvest Festival: Honor the Fallen
WoW’s take on a Harvest Festival is an interesting departure from most other versions. It is for the residents of Azeroth to “set aside time to honor the memories of the fallen and to pay tribute to those whose memories are most dear.” In keeping with the name, celebrants eat many foods associated with the harvest in the west. There is a short quest to honor said memories of the fallen.
The Harvest Festival in WoW, spanning a week in September, coincides with the Mid Autumn Festival (also called the Moon Festival or Zhongqiu Festival) in China and Vietnam, and Chuseok in Korea. Although harvest festivals are celebrated in the west, none appear to be as big an event as those in China, Vietnam, and Korea. The point of the celebration, as suggested by the name, is to recognize the autumnal equinox, the harvest moon, a successful crop harvest, and the coming change in seasons. In Azeroth, however, we honor Uther Lightbringer for his many and varied contributions to defending justice and the Light, and Grom Hellscream for his bravery in confronting and defeating Mannoroth, thus relieving the orcs of their blood curse. The Harvest Festival in WoW, although timed to coincide with seasonal and agricultural events, makes zero reference to them. It is a memorial holiday.
The Mid Autumn Festival features many elements that recognize the moon, namely with the folktale of Chang’e and Houyi. In one version, they are immortals living in heaven who are banished to Earth. Houyi, wanting to return to heaven, commissions a pill that will restore their immortality. Although only half is needed to regain immortality, Chang'e becomes curious about it and accidentally swallows the whole thing. She then floats to heaven and lands in the moon, where she found companions in the resident jade rabbit and woodcutter. Vietnam has a similar story about a man who is whisked away to the moon, so children on Earth light lanterns to guide him back. Lanterns are also common decorations in China, and moon-viewing is a popular activity. Mooncakes and pomelos are typical fare, and Dragon or Lion Dances are performed. Chuseok focuses less on the moon and more on the harvest, along with ancestor worship. Many people return to their hometowns and feast on special dishes. They also visit family graves to offer food, drink, and the year’s crops. The origin for Chuseok has been attributed to either the harvest moon or a military victory, which could possibly tie in to the Azerothian version, however thinly. At least Azeroth's version focuses on ancestors and making offerings. Western celebrations of the harvest differ by country. Canada and the US celebrate thanksgiving festivals later in the year which have religious origins but are celebrated nationally as a secular holiday, whereas the British harvest celebration remains religious. Western harvest festivals feature feasting and worship.
Azeroth's Harvest Festival feast table draws from the western version, in that the foods mimic typical fare one might find on a Thanksgiving table. Players can partake of Harvest Boar, Harvest Fish, Harvest Bread, and Harvest Nectar while seated at a feast table outside of a major city, and upon completing the one holiday quest Honoring a Hero, they receive a cornucopia that conjures food similar to that of the feast. Players are very much encouraged to give thanks; the only disconnect is that they are giving thanks to one of their faction's major heroes rather than the farmers who produced the meal they are enjoying. The items that players leave behind reflect their race: orcs - bottles, troll - white candle, tauren - totem, forsaken - black candle, blood elf - vase; human - roses, dwarf - stein, gnome - gadget, night elf - purple candle, draenei - relic.
This holiday has no repeatable or achievement components, so it's a very relaxed way to get into the swing of the later months, which are chock-full of busy holidays in Azeroth. If you're looking to buff up your food and drink achievements, be sure to drop by and sample from the feast table outside of Orgrimmar and Ironforge, and don't forget to do your faction quest and receive your required reading! (BONUS: the Horde book is written entirely in haiku!)