The History of Lammas: A Celebration of Bountiful Harvest
Lammas is an ancient Celtic festival steeped in history and agricultural significance. Celebrated on August 1st in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the first harvest of the year and is a time of thanksgiving for the bountiful gifts of the Earth. The Roots of Lammas can be traced back to ancient Celtic and Gaelic traditions in the British Isles, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales; the homelands of the Celt people.
Feasting & Celebrations
Lammas was a time of joyous celebration and communal gathering. People came together to express gratitude for the successful harvest, seeking blessings for the remaining crops. Festivities included dancing, singing, storytelling, and various competitions, reflecting the interconnectedness of humanity with the cycles of nature. Bountiful feasts were prepared, showcasing the abundance of the harvest season.
The Historical Origins of Lammas
The name "Lammas" derives from the Old English term "hlaf-mas”. Lammas signifies the offering of the first loaves of bread made from the newly harvested grain. This traditional festival has roots that date back to the pagan times, and it continues to be celebrated in various forms around the world today.
The festival of Lammas was dedicated to the Celtic god Lugh, a divine patron of the harvest. It marked the funeral games held by Lugh in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu, who sacrificed herself to clear the land for farming. The festival was a time to gather together, foster community spirit, and give thanks for the bountiful harvest.
Lammas in the Christian Era
As Christianity spread across Europe, many ancient pagan festivals, including Lammas, were incorporated into Christian traditions. In some regions, Lammas became known as the "Feast of Saint Peter in Chains," with elements of Christian worship added to the festivities. Despite these changes, the essence of Lammas, which celebrated the harvest of the land, remained at its core with the blessing of bread and the consecration of the new harvest. It was also known as the Festival of First Fruits, symbolizing the gratitude for nature's abundance.
Modern-Day Lammas Celebrations
Today, Lammas is still celebrated, as a festival of thanksgiving albeit in various forms. In rural areas, particularly in the British Isles, Lammas is observed with county fairs, harvest markets, and agricultural shows. These events often include competitions, traditional dancing, music, and feasting on freshly baked bread, pies, and other seasonal dishes.
In neopagan and Wiccan traditions, Lammas is still revered as one of the eight Sabbats or Wheel of the Year festivals. It is seen as a time of transition when the first fruits of the Earth are harvested and shared in celebration. Many modern practitioners pay homage to the agricultural heritage by performing rituals, offering gratitude to the gods and goddesses associated with fertility and abundance, and creating handmade crafts. If you would like to know more about the ancient celts you can read more here: Who were the Celts?
Recipe: Honey and Walnut Soda Bread
A suitable Lammas dish is one that incorporates the flavours of the harvest season. Honey and walnut soda bread is a delicious creation that combines the sweetness of honey and the nutty crunch of walnuts, making it a perfect addition to a Lammas feast. Here's how to make it:
Honey & Walnut Soda Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
1 ½ cups buttermilk
½ cup chopped walnuts
Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and lightly grease a baking sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt.
Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the honey and buttermilk. Mix until a sticky dough forms.
Fold in the chopped walnuts until evenly distributed throughout the dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently for a minute or two until it comes together.
Shape the dough into a round loaf and place it on the prepared baking sheet.
Using a sharp knife, make a cross-shaped incision on top of the loaf.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
Enjoy this homemade bread with butter or your favorite spreads, and savor the flavors of Lammas while celebrating the bountiful harvest.
Lammas Recipe: Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables
- 4 cups mixed root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes, etc.), peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh thyme sprigs (for garnish)
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine the diced root vegetables with olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, dried thyme, salt, and pepper. Toss the vegetables until they are evenly coated with the mixture.
- Spread the vegetables in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
- Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until they are tender and slightly caramelized, stirring once halfway through the cooking time.
- Remove the vegetables from the oven and transfer them to a serving dish. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs for an added touch of freshness.
- Serve the honey-roasted root vegetables as a delicious and nutritious side dish, paying homage to the bountiful harvest of Lammas.
Lammas, or Lughnasadh, stands as a celebration of the Earth's generosity, the hard work of farmers, and the interconnectedness of humanity with the cycles of nature and reminds us to appreciate the harvest and the importance of community.
As we celebrate Lammas in modern times, we continue to honour the festival's historical roots and the ancient customs of giving thanks for the first harvest. Whether through outdoor rituals or a shared feast of roasted new season vegetables & honey & walnut bread, with family and friends, Lammas offers a special opportunity to express gratitude for the abundant gifts of the Earth.
Wishing you all a bountiful & community-connected Lammas, from the CuriousMinds.co.uk team