August 1 is the day that a Celtic holiday known as Lughnasadh, or Lammas, is traditionally celebrated. It marks the midway point between the summer solstice and the fall equinox, which this year actually falls on August 7 at 3:40 am. Lughnasadh is also a celebration of the harvest season.
Lughnasadh falls directly opposite Imbolc on the Celtic Wheel of the Year. Imbolc marks the halfway point of the dark, or feminine half of the year, and Lughnasadh marks the halfway point of the light, or masculine half of the year. Lughnasadh was traditionally more of a men’s festival and in some parts of Ireland was known as “Men’s Sunday.”
The holiday celebrated both the first fruits of the harvest as well as the accomplishments of human society, especially in athletics, the arts, and debate. Early Lughnasadh gatherings generally took place on hills and mountaintops, lasted up to three weeks, and included competitions, performances, and general revelry. According to Kindling the Celtic Spirit, it was also an occasion for handfasting, trial marriages. In one area, young men and women lined up on either side of a high wall into which a hole large enough for a hand had been carved. One by one, someone on one side of the wall would grasp the hand of someone on the other side without being able to see whose hand it was. People who had grasped hands entered into trial marriages for a year and a day.
In some of the simpler celebrations, people climbed hills and gathered berries, weaving wicker or rush baskets to carry the berries in and making berry bracelets. These berries were then made into cakes, pies, jam, and wine. People played fiddle and flute, wrestled, had foot races, and played games. In some regions a woman representing the earth goddess was crowned with a summer flowers sat with flower garlands at her feet, while people danced around her.
Today, a way to celebrate Lughnasadh would be to organize an outdoor gathering with foods prepared from fruits and vegetables that are in season and have been harvested locally, music, dancing, and sports. Also, making foods with ingredients that have recently been harvested, especially berries, would be a simple way to commemorate the season. It is also recommended to give thanks at this time of year for the fruits of the harvest. Kindling the Celtic Spirit recommends this blessing by Dennis King, “In the presence of my people, back to the beginning of life, in the witness of the gods and ungods, in homage to the immense generosity of the universe, I give thanks before my portion.”
This is also a good time of year to think about the metaphorical seeds you have planted, the hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the future, and decide which are ready to be manifested. It can be useful to celebrate the accomplishments that your hard work has made possible, and also give thanks to the people who have helped you along the way. Recognizing the role of a higher power in the fruits of your labor coming to fruition can also encourage a sense of gratitude and also humility.
Freeman, Mara. Kindling the Celtic Spirit. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.