Nacula villagers and Reverend Savirio Vuata, left, with their yams the offered up in prayer
In western countries they usually call it Harvest Festival but in Fiji it is very special as offering the first fruits to the chief and to the church. There's a story in today's Fiji Times about this Fijian custom in Labasa. The reason given in the story is to do this to gain blessing, but it is also to show respect for those with status in the community. I'm not sure about the talatala's words about this though, that the vanua turns on you if you neglect traditional procedures. Though the First Fruits ceremony does date back to Biblical/Hebrew times, it also has been traditional in Fijian culture in pre-contact times, so it is not an introduced custom but acculturated now to fit in with the lotu as well as the vanua. One question though - where do the vegetables and fruits go to, after the blessing? Are they shared out to give to the poor and needy in the Labasa community? I think that such prayers need to be followed up with practical action, don't you?
Offering the first crop
Monday, March 08, 2010
YAMS of all shapes and sizes filled churches around the country yesterday offered by farmers in return for a fruitful farming season - a practice that dates back to biblical times.
At Nacula Village outside Labasa and in hundreds of villages around the country, Saturday was taken up by farmers harvesting their prized crop. From midday Saturday, the menfolk began carrying their yams to church in anticipation of the prayers for divine blessings - or lotu ni sevu.
Reverend Savirio Vuata reminded the Nacula church congregation the life of a farmer was the most blessed of all because of the fruits of his harvest. "It may be a humble life but the farmer always has food for his family, a bank of money in his fields and always working with nature," he said. "That's a life that God always blesses."
Reverend Vuata said the three stages of a farmer's joy begin with the first seed planted in the ground, plants bursting from the ground and the harvest. "For eight months to a year yams are grown with special care - for a farmer it's just like raising a child because the yam farm is always kept clean and cared for," he said.
Reverend Vuata said the fruits of the harvest were offered to secure blessings. However, he warned that the traditional sevu - the first harvest of all kinds of crops that should be given to traditional leaders - was not commonly practised these days. "The Christian sevu church is happening but the other traditional sevu seems to have been forgotten," he said. "That is a cultural practice in Fiji and indigenous farmers must remember that if they do not perform that too, then they are attracting the curse of the land."