August 1st marks the midway point between the summer solstice and autumnal equinox and is known as Lammas, Loaf-Mass, Lughnasadh, Grain Harvest or First Harvest. Both Christians and pagans have celebrated this day for centuries by baking bread from the first wheat harvest, eating freshly picked corn and berries, making corn dolls and in general celebrating the fruits of our labor.
In pagan religions, the Sun God surrenders his life with the cutting of the corn while the Goddess is ripe and full, heavily pregnant she carries the seed of the new year's Sun God within her. The Sun God is also referred to as Lugh, the God of the Harvest, the Green Man, or John Barleycorn. The Goddess is often referred to as Grain Mother, Harvest Mother, Harvest Queen, Earth Mother, Ceres and Demeter.*
For Christians living in Anglo-Saxon England, it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop to be blessed. In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is referred to regularly, it is called "the feast of first fruits". The blessing of first fruits was performed annually in both the Eastern and Western Churches on the first or the sixth of August (the latter being the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ).*
For me, Lammas takes place just before my birth day and around the time that I am tired of the summer heat. This week we have been granted a reprieve from the extreme heat and it actually feels like the first twinges of Autumn are around the corner. But since I live on the southern tip of NC's coast, I won't get to experience actual Autumn temps until around Halloween, possibly even Thanksgiving (US Thanksgiving that is). My garden has long passed it's first harvest with some of my tomato plants seemingly done for the year. Lammas isn't just about reaping what you sow, it's also a reminder of shorter days to come, something I tend to crave this time of year. I crave cooler evenings that start around 6 instead of 8, driving to pick up dinner without worrying that the food will melt in the insufferable heat, and cool mornings drinking coffee while listening to the birds. Lammas reminds me that those days are right around the corner (and temporarily here).
Because today is First Harvest and (again) close to my birthday, I also like to reflect on what I have manifested in life during the past year. This year has brought many blessings and hardships in my life. I am grateful to wake up every morning and give my thanks to anyone willing to listen to pre-coffee rambling prayers. I have been working on creating this blog for ages, even though I have only taking a true active interest over the last few months. Currently, I am working a 100 day goal that will end on Halloween, or the Third Harvest. I find it fitting that I will (hopefully) see the fruits of my labor and my goal met on the day used to celebrate the final harvest of the year.
As it is a holiday, I typically like to make a meal to celebrate. Traditionally people will make bread, corn and from what I have seen in many recipes, chicken fried in butter. Well, I am not super traditional and I am not the greatest at making bread. Instead, I plan on making fried pork chops (fried in oil not butter), maybe scratch-made mashed potatoes, maybe green beans, I don't know. It's Tuesday. It really depends on what I am feeling like when I hit the store after work. I do know that I have some fresh herbs that I would like to incorporate into my meal. But now I am rambling a bit...
Many people celebrate the day with candles, incense, baking, cooking, wine, singing, dancing and of course, offerings. Others go about their day without even knowing that we are halfway through summer. While other acknowledge the day briefly then move on. However you choose to celebrate the day is up to you. Whether you take a loaf of bread to your pastor, set it out for the birds to enjoy or simply do nothing, I wish you a happy and safe Lammas!
Celebrate Lammas in a traditional or non-traditional way? Tell me in the comments!