A Celebration to Mark the End of the Growing Year
Traditionally held on the 1st of August, Lammas Day is also known as the Feast of St Peter and Lughnasadh. It marks the end of the growing season and is also recognized nowadays, as a Christian holy day. Lammas is actually a medieval Christian name used for this special holiday and the word means "loaf-mass". This is because loaves of bread would be baked using the first grain of the harvest. Once baked they would then be laid on the church altar as an offering. The loaf would be blessed and would then be used to work magic. The magic would require the bread to be broken into four bits, with each bit being placed in one of the four corners of the barn. This would mean the stored grain would be protected.
Before this Christian celebration, there was an earlier Pagan celebration that was usually held on the last day of July. It also marked the harvesting of the first grain. How success a harvest had been would determine how good life was going to be through the winter months. For the Celts their harvest season would happen a quarter of a year after Beltane. The first crops would be harvested at Lughnasadh. This was named after the Celtic sun god Lugh. Part of the folklore would also include the making of corn dollies. These would be made using straw from the first harvest. The dollies had to be kept safe all through the winter, ready to be buried in the spring when the new crops were sown in the fields.
Lammas is also one of the Scottish quarter days
As is often the case, there are more than one folklore tales and legends associated with Lammas. It is also celebrated in Scotland as one of the quarter days, which together with term days make up the four divisions of the legal year. In history, these would be days when leases and contracts would start and end, servants would be dismissed or hired, ministers stipends would have to be paid along with rent and interest on loans. The other days are Whitsunday, Martimas and Candlemas.
There is also a festival held in Ballcastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland that's held every year on the last Monday and Tuesday of August. It's known as the Auld Lammas Fair and is traditionally associated with the Lammas harvest festival. The fair has been running for almost 4 centuries.