Lammas Day: Grains of Celebration
Harvest. A time to reap that which was sown; gathering in the bounty of a season of hard work and care. While most of us may not cultivate large fields, there is an eagerness to the harvest season. Nearly every country in the world celebrates the culmination of a good harvest. Over the next few months we will be sharing different harvest traditions from around the world.
Grains are among the first crops to be harvested, so we will begin with a few of the traditions of grain harvesting. Wheat and corn are often harvested during the hot days of July. Hay is cut and left drying in bales over the fields. The folk traditions of yore celebrated this day with baking new loafs of bread from the fresh harvest, dancing, feasting, and even bale-jumping sport.
August 1st has long been held by Christians, Celts, and some Germanic tribes as a celebration of the grain harvest. It is a half way point between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. For the Celts this celebration is known as Lughnasadh; a festival with sporting games like archery, swordfighting, long jumping, dancing, story-telling, and even competitions among craftsman such as weavers and armourers.
These days were of great religious and cultural importance to the pagan peoples before the arrival of Christianity. Traditional Christian feast days and liturgical events have always shared a unique and harmonious relationship between divine celebration and the natural world. All of this demonstrates a great natural correspondence between the spiritual and natural world and is also a testament to the perennial reverence and understanding shared between people who live according to the ways of the land and the god they worship.
Lammas Day, on August 1st, marks the end of the grain harvest in England. The period of the grain harvest, known as Lammastide, can last several weeks, and culminates with familial and community celebrations on Lammas Day. The weeks of harvest preceding Lammas Day were long, hot, and tiresome. After such heavy work celebrations were required. In Shakespeares The Tempest the celebrations of harvest are well marked in the Reapers Dance.
“You sunburned sicklemen, of August early,
Come hither from the furrow, and be merry.
Make holiday; your rye-straw hats put on,
And these fresh nymphs encounter every one
In country footing.”
Lammas Day is rooted firmly within the Anglo-Saxon culture of England, with the feast day emerging from the first British Christian communities and the name being translated from ancient Saxon as ‘loaf mass day’. The loaf retains the literal reference to bread while mass refers to the Christian worship service in which one would receive holy communion.
The ceremonial blessing is traditionally performed by bringing a loaf of bread from that particular harvest to the local parish Church. In England, this blessed bread was regularly employed in further rituals including being broken and placed in the four corners of buildings to offer protection and blessing.
To this day some congregations of the Church of England go on to use the blessed Lammas Day bread in their eucharist ceremony. In further reverence and respect for the harvest and its impact on the whole community Church congregations and clergy have been known to form reverent processions to local bakeries in which the workers were blessed for their efforts. After the more reverent celebrations of the church, community celebrations abound. Feasting, dancing, sporting events and more. A day filled with such rich tradition, should not be lost to the history books.
This year we want to celebrate Lammas Day, with a few additions of our own. Will you celebrate with us from your own "home farms"? We want to enjoy some freshly baked bread, even if we didn't plant and harvest the wheat ourselves. I love to make homemade bread in my stone bread baker. I feel like the crust comes out just crusty enough, and there is something truly comforting about warm bread spread with butter.
We also want to learn to make a traditional Peruvian purple maize based drink called chicha morada. It uses Peruvian purple corn and pineapple. And naturally we want to serve it in our wheat pitcher. And then of course the games. We plan to play a few rounds of cornhole (a game using bags filled with corn kernels tossed between two teams) and perhaps even a hay bale jumping competition.
To end our Lammas Day we want to enjoy some farm fresh popcorn made outside by the fire. What other ideas do you have of celebrating? Shop our Lammas Day collection for more ideas of how to celebrate.
By Adam & Chelsey Newbould