The Harvesters

Oil on Wood
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, c. 1525-1569)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Peasants harvest wheat with scythes. A group of peasants rest under a tree by eating, drinking and sleeping.

Image provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rogers Fund, 1919


This painting from 1565 by Dutch master Pieter Bruegel captures a moment of community celebration during a grain harvest. Such scenes would have been a common site in England and across Europe for generations.

While the Pilgrims were reverent before God, they also made time for a rich tapestry of community events. Dating back to medieval England, the Harvest Home celebrated the end of the year’s harvest as the last grain was brought in from the fields. Traditionally, the festivities included feasts, local customs, dances, and a number of games. Puritans did not subscribe to many of the traditional church and agricultural celebrations which they believed were pagan; however, the old English tradition of the Harvest Home was still prevalent throughout the 16th and 7th centuries.

Discussion Questions

  • What is happening in this painting? How can you tell?
  • Who are the people in this painting? How do you know?
  • How are the people celebrating?
  • What similarities do you see between the celebration in this painting and the activities at the 1621 harvest celebration?
  • How would this scene look different during harvest time in Plymouth Colony and Patuxet?
  • Harvest was hard work! How do you celebrate after finishing a difficult task?