Our ancient Celtic ancestors celebrated this time with a Sabbat they called Lughnasadh. Pronounced LOO-na-sa, this was the first harvest celebration of the year, and marked the time when the first round of crops would be harvested.
Widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man, Lughnasadh was originally observed on July 31 or August 1, half-way between the summer solstice and autumn equinox.
Lughnasadh is one of the four Celtic seasonal festivals, along with
Samhain, Imbolc and Beltane. It corresponds to other European harvest festivals such as the English Lammas.
According to medieval writings, kings attended the games, and a truce was declared for its duration.
Trial marriages were also conducted, and young couples joined hands through a hole in a wooden door. The trial marriage lasted a year and a day, at which time the marriage could be made permanent or broken without consequences.
Lughnasadh customs are still being practiced in Ireland. The Irish climb their mountains in celebration, the most well-known being Reek Sunday—the yearly pilgrimage to the top of Croagh Patrick in late July, which attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims each year. In fact, the Catholic Church in Ireland established the custom of blessing fields at Lughnasadh.
At some gatherings, everyone wears flowers while climbing the hill, and then bury them at the summit as a sign that summer is ending. In other places, the first sheaf of the harvest wheat is buried.
Some Wiccans mark the sabbat by baking a figure of the “corn god” Lugh in bread, and then symbolically sacrificing and eating it. And in Hungary, public tables are set up at crossroads, containing fresh loaves of bread and glasses of wine.
Regardless of the exact ceremony, Lughnasadh is the time to give thanks to the spirits and deities for the beginning of the harvest season, and to welcome them with offerings. It’s the cross-quarter holiday commemorating the miracle of rebirth, remembered with gifts of the harvest—corn, berries, apples, grapes, and summer squashes.
So, as you visit an August county fair or a plentiful farmer’s market, remember that they are all remnants of the ancient celebrations of the prosperity of our beautiful earth.
Eating with focus on the food and hot on the TV or phone, is one way of expressing thanks for the harvest—all year round, but especially at Lughnasadh.