Grains are essential in our lives because many foods are made from it. It is one of the important ingredients for cooking and is also nutritional for our body. To give appreciation to the great harvest of grains, a feast is created and it is called Lammas Day.
Lammas Day or “loaf-mass day” is a custom where local people bring loaves made from the new crop to the church. The new crops are being harvested during the halfway point between the Summer Solstice and autumn September equinox which is called the Lammastide. The tenants were required to give the freshly harvested wheat to their landlords in many parts of England.
This celebration used to be held on August 1. However, the holiday has been recently moved to the Sunday closest to the first of August, which is considered as the first grain harvest of the year. Some of the grains harvested during Lammas time includes wheat, barley, oats, rye and other plants like meadowsweet, mint, sunflower, and Calendula.
It is celebrated by many English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and other countries in the Northern hemisphere. The Lammas day has coincided with the feast of St. Peter in Chains. It commemorates St. Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison on the same day.
In the medieval times in England and Scotland, the feast was known as the “Gule of August”. The meaning of “gule” was unclear but some suggest that it means “feast” completing the phrase as “feast of August.”
Lammas Day marks the end of hay harvest that had begun after midsummer in the medieval agricultural year. At the end of the hay harvesting season, a sheep would be loosened in the meadow among the mowers by the landlord and whoever catches it is allowed to keep it.
It is traditionally celebrated by baking Lammas bread which is shaped in wheat, owl, figures of the “corn god” and others. Other traditions are making corn dollies, bundling twigs, and enjoying the feast with friends and families. On this day, the loaf will be blessed and this process was directed by the book of Anglo-Saxon charms. Anglo-Saxon England believes that the blessed Lammas bread broken into four pieces and placed at the four corners of the barn would work like magic to protect the garnered grain.
In the past, tenants in many parts of England were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the day is called “the feast of first fruit.” The blessing of first fruits was performed yearly in both western and eastern churches on the first or the sixth of August where the latter is the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ.
In line with the celebration of the Lammas Day, the Auld Lammas Fair is being organized every year on the last Monday and Tuesday of August. It is a traditional fair held in Ballycastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It has been running for nearly 400 years since the 17th century.
In the Auld Lammas Fair, many various goods are traditionally sold. These include livestock and traditional foods such as the local variant of honeycomb, dulse or sea lettuce flakes which is a well-known seaweed snack food, and yellowman or yellaman which is a chewy and toffee-textured honeycomb made in Northern Ireland.
Eating is one of human’s basic needs to survive, therefore, it is important that we appreciate the food we have and give thanks to the prosperous harvest that we are receiving.