WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 1: We might even say Lughnasa and forget the “dh” at the end, as Meryl Streep’s movie producers did in 1998. Yes, we have to include our annual recommendation of Dancing At Lughnasa, because every year readers email us to say they appreciate the movie reference. Sometimes somber and sometimes funny, Dancing is about the only major feature film about this holiday.
Of course, most men and women who still mark Lughnasadh and Lammas aren’t focusing on films. They’re celebrating the bounty of nature and agriculture. They bake fresh loaves of bread, pick summer berries—and may invite friends for a festive tea party featuring such goodies along with the tea.
The Gaelic-Celtic festival originally marked the beginning of the wheat harvest; and Christians began celebrating what they termed “Lammas” with the presentation of wheat loaves to local churches. In a blend of Christianity and myth, Anglo-Saxon charms were placed upon the Lammas loaves. Bread then was broken up, placed into the four corners of a barn, and believed to protect the grain of the season. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers to Lammas as the feast of first fruits.
Look into the sky for the celestial markings of Lughnasadh: The sun is midway in Leo in the tropical zodiac. (Wikipedia has details.) Some modern Wiccan covens are precise in marking Lughnassadh, and select an alternative date of Aug. 5, when the sun reaches 15 degrees Leo. (Wicca.com has the Wiccan perspective.)
Looking to celebrate this joyful day of fresh foods, family and love? Pick local berries or check out a farmer’s market for ripe produce; organize a family reunion with a festive barbecue; or decorate your home, Lughnasadh-style, with leaf garlands, cornstalks and flowers. Grains should be front-and-center in your Lughnasadh party with fresh breads made of wheat, millet or even quinoa. Get back to the roots of this harvest festival by digging out a Celtic CD, renting the Meryl Streep film and cuddling up with a loved one by the light of a bonfire. (Get more ideas from Yahoo!.)
SO, WHAT’S THAT ROMEO AND JULIET LUGHNASADH BIT?
It’s a minor reference, but any holiday reference in the Bard’s plays tends to pop up as each particular festival rolls around—especially when the holiday has ethnic roots in what is today the UK. Lammas comes up in Act I, Scene III, in the Capulet household as Lady Capulet (Juliet’s Mom) contemplates the age of her daughter. She asks Juliet’s beloved Nurse to confirm the girl’s age.
Nurse: She is not 14. How long is it now to Lammas-tide?
Lady Capulet: A fortnight and odd days.
Nurse: Even or odd, of all days in the year, come Lammas-eve at night shall she be 14.
As the play has been interpreted in countless ways, one might imagine the many ideas suggesting that Juliet’s looming birthday is associated with a festival of fruitfulness and harvest.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.