Most big harvest celebrations take place in the fall, after the last harvest of the season -- around the time of the Harvest Moon. But in the British Isles, another celebration took place at the time of the first harvest. People baked bread from the first grain of the season, and ate it as they offered prayers of thanksgiving.
The celebration was known as Lammas, and it was held on the first of August.
That's near a cross-quarter day -- a day that's roughly half-way between a solstice and an equinox. Other cross-quarter days are marked by Groundhog Day, May Day, and Halloween. In some cultures, these days marked not the mid-points of the seasons, as they do now, but their beginnings.
Lammas probably held less significance for the calendar, though, because the weather had already been warm for a couple of months by the time August rolled around.
Lammas evolved from a celebration known as "loaf-mass." But it also had an even older ancestor: the Celtic celebration of Lugh, whose name means "the Shining One." In Celtic mythology, he was a great warrior, a sorcerer, and a master of arts and crafts. This combination earned him a spot among the gods. And his association with light and the Sun earned him an annual festival, which was also celebrated on August 1st.
While the traditions of the other cross-quarter days are still observed, the summer one is not. So like Lugh himself, the celebration of Lammas has passed into history.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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