Every year on the Sunday closest to August 1, the Celtic festival Lughnasa kicks off the harvest season. The festival also marks the beginning of autumn and traditionally lasts for one month.
Residents of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man widely observe Lughnasa. The festival is named after Lugh, an Irish god portrayed as a warrior, king, and savior. Some historians call Lugh “The patron of all human skills.” His name translates as “bright” or “shining,” connecting Lugh to the sun.
Through the years, celebrants gathered for religious ceremonies, feasting, and matchmaking. Lughnasa also prominently included ritual athletic contests. One of the most popular Lughnasa athletic contests is the Tailteann Games. These games included various events, such as the long jump, high jump, spear throwing, boxing, sword fighting, and chariot racing.
In recent years, baking bread has become a popular way to celebrate this festival. This tradition is tied directly to the first grains of harvest. Traditionally, bakers make Bannock Bread in a campfire instead of an oven. Some people put the bread on a stick and roast it like a marshmallow. Other traditions surrounding Lughnasa focus on spending time in nature, such as hiking, taking walks, and outdoor photography.
HOW TO OBSERVE #Lughnasa
The Puck Fair in Killorglin, Ireland, hosts one of the largest Lughnasa events in the world. The fair consists of traditional music and dancing, parades, a horse and cattle fair, traditional storytelling, and arts and crafts workshops. In recent years, many other towns in Ireland have established their own Lughnasa festivals and fairs.
You don’t have to travel to Ireland to celebrate Lughnasa, however. Other ways to take part in the Celtic harvest season include:
- Learn more about Lugh and other gods and goddesses in Irish mythology.
- Take walks, go hiking, and spend time in nature.
- Organize or take part in an athletic contest in your community.
- Go to an Irish pub.
- Study your Irish or Scotch ancestry.
- Listen to Celtic music.
- Make your own Bannock bread.
Share this day on social media with #Lughnasa or #CelticHarvestFestival.
No one knows when Celtic people first began celebrating Lughnasa. One of the earliest documents to record festivities relating to this harvest festival dates back to the 15th century. Many other accounts of Lughnasa customs were recorded from the 18th century to the mid 20th century. In 1962, the folklorist Maire MacNeill published The Festival of Lughnasa.