Lughnasadh: Celebrating the Harvest
One thing (among many) that I’ve been trying to do more in the past few years is to pay closer attention to the modern Wheel of the Year, which follows solar events: solstices and equinoxes that happen around the same time each year.
It’s exciting for me to learn about holidays of old, and how such ancient festivals can be adapted to and celebrated in modern times. If I’m ever feeling bored with a particular season, I can remind myself of what the next holiday or festival is, and plan something interesting for the day, just to liven things up a bit.
Today’s event on the Wheel is neither a solstice nor an equinox, but has been celebrated for centuries as the start of the harvest. Lughnasadh (also called Lammas) is the festival of Lugh, the sun god, and it usually falls, in the northern hemisphere, on August 1st, marking the beginning of a season of harvest (especially for grains).
As someone who’s interested in taking a more hands-on approach in following the pagan calendar, I thought it only fitting that I should write about several ways I’m planning on celebrating this festival, including some ways you might enjoy celebrating it as well!
I love the idea of gathering yellow grasses to create a Lughnasadh-inspired centerpiece for your dining room table. Gather the grasses a week or so before Lughnasadh, dry them (in the sun, if possible), cut them down to the same height, and wrap the bundle in a brown satin ribbon or pop into a vase for a beautiful display of bounty. Alternatively, you could pick or buy a bouquet of sunflowers for your centerpiece; it seems only fitting that the flowers be sunflowers, seeing as the festival honors the god of the sun as well as the start of the harvest.
I’ve found recently that I thoroughly enjoy making bread! It can be a tricky process at times, and sometimes requires more intermediate-level baking skills, but I work around this by using recipes that have already been perfected by other bakers, so it’s actually quite a relaxing and fun process for me. Check out my favorite easy white bread recipe here.
Since Lughnasadh marks the beginning of the grain harvest, when barley and wheat would’ve been harvested and ground into flour, baking bread is a perfect way to celebrate the harvest season. Nowadays, of course, we have access to flour all year, but it’s still a lovely reminder of traditional celebrations, and is a tangible way to connect with the earth. Moreover, bread makes a great gift and is a nice way to share the harvest season with a friend. I especially love the idea of using a bread lame (if you have one) to score wheat stalk shapes into your loaf before popping it into the oven!
When I was growing up, my mom and grandma regularly preserved fruits and vegetables. I don’t think we ever had store-bought jelly or jam in the pantry, because it was all homemade. My grandma also made dill pickles (the smell of dill is so summery to me now!) and canned cabbage into sauerkraut (but this was deeper into the fall when cabbages were ready).
You don’t have to go crazy, but if you have extra berries or fruit lying around, making a jam or compote for a dessert might be a soothing way to celebrate the harvest.
Go to a Farmers Market.
This is one that I plan to do to celebrate Lammas. If you don’t have your own harvest to gather in (as, ahem, us city dwellers often don’t), celebrate the harvests that have been made by strolling through the farmers market and purchasing some local seasonal produce – whatever looks delicious to you! This is also a great way to support your nearby artisans and farmers and limit the use of wasteful packaging – as long as you remember to bring your own bags!
Gather with Friends.
I can’t even think the word “harvest” without also thinking of groups of people. The harvest was a time when everyone worked together to bring in the fruits of their labors from the previous seasons. I can imagine plenty of ale and bread and fruit was present during the harvest, and that it was a festive time all around, even if the work was grueling and hot.
The end of summer is an ideal time to gather together with friends and family; it’s the last of the hot season when we can get together and eat, swim, play games, enjoy the outdoors, and maybe light a bonfire. Speaking of which…
Host a Bonfire.
Since Lughnasadh is, at its heart, the celebration of the last season of the sun, it would only make sense to celebrate with fire. Hosting a bonfire is a fun and affordable way to celebrate this festival.
Leave an Offering.
Traditionally, offerings of food, drink (milk, wine, ale), or other small tokens were left outdoors as an expression of gratitude to the earth for a bountiful harvest and the gifts of the year up until now. Consider splashing an offering of homemade sun tea on the soil in your front garden, or leaving out a few berries or a handful of loose grains.
I must admit that, to me, the appeal of leaving offerings lies more in the act of expressing thanks and less in the idea that Lugh himself will swoop down from the heavens to partake of them. And if the whole idea of leaving an offering outside is way too much for you, just think of ways you can offer the bounty of the season to others, perhaps using one of the other suggestions on this list.
I like to think of Lughnasadh as a way to reconnect with oneself, or as an opportunity to renew the resolutions made at the New Year. For myself, I will use this festival to remind myself to connect to gratitude, or a grateful mindset, and to really consider what will make me feel that gratitude and excitement in the month of August and through the rest of the year.
Have you ever celebrated Lughnasadh? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Even if you haven’t, what are some of your favorite harvest-season activities or traditions?