Lammas Day at Willow Creek Winery
Lammas Day Blog Post
August 1st marks the holiday of Lammas Day at the midpoint between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox. Lammas Day in our modern times is known as “Bread Day” or “Loaf Day” and is a day of celebration for many Christians in the British Isles. The modern holiday in its current form derives from the ancient Lughnasadh, a Celtic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season.
The New Jersey Farmers Cooperative will be following in the footsteps of the ancient Celts as we pay homage to the many incredible NJ farmers at our First Annual Lammas Day Celebration at Willow Creek Winery in West Cape May. Join us the weekend of July 29-31, 2022 for this beautiful and historic celebration of old ways. The event will feature local craftsmen, live music, a pig roast, and a special release of Willow Creek Winery’s first batch of Cape May Mead.
If you can't make it out for this special event, we’ve provided a recipe for a beautiful dipping oil that you can enjoy at home with your own Lammas Day bread.
In days of yore, the ancient Celts celebrated Lughnasadh, the first Festival of Autumn and a day dedicated to the god Lugh. These peoples, like many ancient cultures, followed an agrarian calendar, with much of their cultural practices and religious rituals being guided by the state of their farm fields.
The mythology of Lughnasadh’s origin remains divided. Some records hold that the celebration recognizes Lugh leading the Tuatha de Danaan to victory against the enemy Fomori. Others hold that Lugh himself declared the day a celebration in memory of his foster mother, Tailltu. This second origin story is deeply tied to the history of the Taillteann Fair, one of the famous festivals celebrating Lughnasadh that attracted people from all of Ireland, Scotland, and the Western Isles. Legend says that Lugh himself declared that a festival would be held annually in the town of Taillteann in Tailltu’s honor. During the celebrations, horses were driven or ridden into the seas to rid the common people of evil spirits, and there were numerous activities with running games being the most prominent. The Lughnasadh feast consisted of fresh butter, cream, cheese, and of course bread.
The Taillteann Fair was also the site of many handfasting ceremonies, which resulted in one-year trial marriages. If, at the end of the trial year, the couple was happy, then they could choose to make the marriage permanent. If not, the couple would enter the Rath Dhu, stand back-to-back with one person facing north and the other facing south, and they would walk away from each other, ending the marriage.
This fair is still ongoing in Ireland, though the town of Taillteann is now known as Teltown on the Blackwater in between Navan and Kells. The customs have changed along with the games, but this special day is still celebrated.
On the Orkney Islands this day is also celebrated as the end of the white fishing season. Large beautiful spreads of food would be the focus along with singing, dancing, and games. Rowan wood would be set ablaze the day before, and the fire was known as the great Tannel. In the Scottish Highlands, the cattle were brought down into the fields, and Scottish mothers would make a special treat called Crowdie or Cruddy Butter–a little bit similar to cottage cheese.
Like many other ancient holidays, Lughnasadh was adopted into Christianity and has since become known as Lammas Day. Connections were drawn between Christ and Lugh as well as Tailltu and the Virgin Mary. The dedication of bread moved to from August 1st to August 15th to align with the Feast of the Assumption. In one reading, it is said that the bread is offered for blessing while another says the bread is left at the Church to be used in the Eucharist throughout the year.
The bread at the time was made of sun-dried grain that had been husked by hand and kneaded on sheep skin before being toasted over a fire of rowan wood, better known as Mountain Ash. When the bread was broken in a household, the husband gave a bit to his wife and children, and they sang the “Iolach Mhoire Mhathar.” As they sang, they circled around the fire with the father leading the mother and children sunwise.
On the feast day of Mary, the fragrant,
Mother of the Shepherd of the Flocks
I cut me a handful of the new corn,
I dried it gently in the sun
I rubbed it sharply from the husk
With mine own palms.
I ground it in a quern of Friday
I baked it on a fan of Sheepskin
I toasted it to a fire of Rowan,
I went sunwise round my dwelling
In the name of the Mary Mother
Who promised to preserve me
Who did preserve me
and who will preserve me
In peace, in flocks
In righteousness of heart,
In labour, in love,
in wisdom, in mercy,
for the sake of Thy Passion
Herbed Dipping Oil Recipe
1 Quart Olive Oil
3 6" Branches of Rosemary
3 Sprigs of Thyme
2 Cloves of Garlic
12 Whole Peppercorns
1 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
6 Chili Peppers
If all of your herbs are fresh, it will take about two weeks to permeate the oil. If the herbs are dried, allow four weeks.