The Holidays Celebrated In Colonial America

Lughnasadh / Lammas / Gule of August

{ The 1st of August }

  Lughnasadh is the first of the "harvest" festivals. The name for this holiday, Lughnasadh is derived from the Gaelic word "nasadh", which means assembly, connected to the name "Lugh" which is the name of the Celtic sun god to whom the Celtic peoples paid homage on this day, and which was derived from the Celtic word "lugio", meaning "oath". Some researchers have suggested that the name Lugh is ultimately derived from the Akkadian/Sumerian title, Lugal meaning a "sacred king".

  Lughnasadh is variously known as the Gule of August or rather, the Feast of August. The word gule is a variation of the word yule meaning a festival or holiday. It is also believed that the name "Gule of August" might be a derivation of the British phrase Gwyl Awst, meaning the "Feast of August".

  The name, Lammas has been claimed by some to derive from the Anglo-Saxon phrase, hlaef-maesse meaning "loaf" -mass. The grains produced in the first harvest would be ground into flour and baked into loaves of bread which would be offered to God in this festival. (The word mass meant a festival or feast.) It therefore served as a feast of thanksgiving to God for the beginning of the harvest season. The word Laithmas was also used to refer to the offering of grains to God, as the word "ith" meant grains of all types.

  But in the Saxon Chronicle of the year 1009, the word appears as halam-maesse, referring not to "loaf" but to "lamb". The yeomen of the Medieval Ages were required to provide to their lords certain products of their labor. On the first day of August, the yeomen were required to bring a live lamb to the church, where it would be dedicated and sacrificed to St. Peter. And as most sacrifices were handled, the lamb meat would be cooked and distributed among the parishioners.

  The first day of the month that has become known as August was celebrated by the ancient Romans as Ceresalia, a festival they celebrated in honor of their goddess, Ceres.

  The ancient Greeks celebrated the First Harvest with dancing and sacrifices involving bulls, which were thought to embody the spirits of harvest deities. The bull was also a symbol of male fertility. Dancers would "grab the bull by the horns", and leap over the animal in a show of their strength and virility.

  In the Middle East, the goddess, Isis, was celebrated by the Egyptians as the keeper of the harvest. Celebrants would pay homage to Isis in hopes that their harvest would be bountiful. To the northeast of Egypt lay the land of Phoenicia, whose people celebrated this day in honor of Dagon, a god of grain and harvest.

  Amerindians on the North American continent celebrated a day around the time of Lughnasadh which they called the Festival of Green Corn. Their festival honored the Corn Grandmother who was believed to reside in the corn stalks. Feasting on the first produce of the season along with performing religious rituals defined the two or three days which were celebrated as the Festival of Green Corn.

  The Scots-Gaelic name for Lughnasadh is Lughnasair, while on the Isel of Mann it is Lhuany's Day.

  Lughnasadh was celebrated by the early Celts, pagans and practitioners of witchcraft as one of their four primary sabbats, or holidays. Lugh, the "shining one" was worshipped by the Celtic Druids, who considered him to be a god not only of harvests, but of fire and everything associated with it: light, rebirth, metallurgy and so forth. Lugh was the consort of Dana, the Mother Goddess of Ireland.

  Despite the fact that Lugh was a god of fire, the Celts associated Lughnasadh with the elements of earth and water. Therefore, the lighting of bonfires, which would be important in the celebrations of other sabbats is not so for this festival.

  One of the fruits that was sacred to the Celts was the apple. When cut across its midsection, the apple displays a pentacle, the sign of the Earth Goddess. Apples were gathered and eaten for the first time of the year at Lughnasadh. Apples were used in the making of a drink called "Lammas Wool" (from the Gaelic La Mas Nbhal) for the celebration.

  The corn harvest would be bountiful if a sacrifice was dedicated to the god at Lughnasadh. The corn would be dried and then ground into meal, from which cornbread would be baked. In the eating of the cornbread, it was believed that the body of the god of the corn harvest would be ingested, and thereby sacrificed.

  The corn spirit, if captured and bound, could be kept from one harvest to the next, to ensure the success of the next year's harvest. As the corn was cut and stacked in sheafs, the corn spirit would flee ahead of the harvesters. When the final stalks of corn were cut and stacked into a sheaf, the spirit of the corn would be captured in that sheaf. From that last sheaf a number of corn straws would be extracted. They would be folded and bound into figurines known as "corn dollies". The corn dollie would be kept in a place of honor until the following spring, at which time it would be disassembled and the pieces plowed into the field.

  Some of the food dishes and drinks that have been traditionally enjoyed by celebrants of Lughnasadh are included in the recipes that follow.

1-1/2 cups corn meal
1 large egg
3/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt


Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Mix all of the ingredients together. Stir briskly with a wire whisk to remove any lumps.
Grease a 9" x 9" baking pan, and then place it in the oven for a couple minutes to warm it slightly.
Remove the warmed baking pan from the oven and pour into it the mixed ingredients.
Bake for about twenty minutes, or until it starts to brown around the edges.

Bannocks   (Oat Cakes)                    
4 ounces of medium oatmeal
1 pinch salt
2 pinches baking soda
2 teaspoons melted fat (preferably bacon drippings)
3/4 tablespoons hot water


Mix most of the oatmeal, salt and baking soda in a bowl.
Pour the melted fat into the center of the mixture, then using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir the mixture thoroughly.
Continue stirring and add the water, a little at a time, until a stiff paste forms.
Spread additional oatmeal onto a work surface, and turn the mixture onto it.
Working quickly before the paste becomes unmanageable, divide the dough into two parts
Roll one half of the dough into a ball and knead it, adding loose oatmeal as necessary to keep it from sticking to your hands.
Using a roller, roll the dough ball out to about 1/4 inch thick.
Choose a plate or other round object that is slightly smaller than a frying pan that will be used, and place it over the rolled out dough. Cut around the object, and then cut the circle of dough into quarters.
Into the frying pan that is lightly greased, place the four quarters of the dough, and place on the stove at medium heat.
Fry the quartered oatcake for a few minutes - until the edges begin to curl. Then turn the pieces and fry on the other side for a few minutes.
If you wish to bake the oat cakes in the oven, place the pieces on a baking sheet and with the oven set at 375 degrees F, bake for approximately 30 minutes (until the edges start to brown).

2 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
2 leeks or scallions, chopped
1 pound cabbage (or kale), chopped
3 ounces butter, melted
pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper
7 fluid ounces milk (or cream)


Bring a pot of water to a boil and place the cabbage (or kale) into it. Cook until tender. Then drain and set aside.
Heat the milk (or cream) in a saucepan. Bring just to a boil
To the milk, add the leeks (or scallions) and turn the heat down to simmer.
In another pot add the potatoes and water and boil until the potatoes are tender.
Drain the water off the boiled potatoes and mash the potatoes.
When the potatoes are mashed completely, add all the other ingredients ecept the melted butter.
Mixed thoroughly, turn the colcannon into a serving bowl, and drizzle the melted butter over the top.

Lughnasadh Salad                     
8 ounces corn
2 ounces peas
2 ounces black olive
1 large apple, diced
1 small cucumber, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of black pepper
fresh herbs (basil, fennel, borage leaves) all chopped finely
Borage and Nasturtium flowers


Cook the corn and, if using fresh on the cob, cut the kernels off.
Pit the black olives, if necessary, and dice.
Core and peel the apple, and dice.
In a large bowl, toss all of the ingredients with the exception of the flowers.
When ready to be served, sprinkle the flowers over the salad.

Yellowman Toffee                     
1 pound corn syrup
8 ounce brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoon vinegar
2 ounces butter


In a large saucepan, add the corn syrup, brown sugar vinegar and butter.
At a low heat, melt the ingredients together. Heat the mixture until a drop hardens in cold water. If you have a sugar thermometer, heat to 240 degrees F / 190 degrees C.
Stir in the baking soda. (The baking soda will react with the vinegar and begin to foam.)
Grease a cookie sheet with butter.
Into the cookie sheet pour the toffee mixture.
When the toffee mixture become cool enough to handle, begin to fold the edges or corners in to the center. Then stretch the toffee mixture back out to the edges of the cookie sheet.
Repeatedly fold the toffee mixture over on itself and then stretch it out to the edges of the coookie sheet.
The folding and stretching should be continued until the toffee becomes a pale yellow color.
Allow the toffee to cool and harden overnight. Then break the sheet into small pieces.

Lammas Wool                     
4 large baking apples
4 pints ale
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon nutmeg


If desired, peel the apples. Cut them in two and core them. Then place the apple halves in a baking dish.
Sprinkle the nutmeg and pour the honey over the apples.
Bake in an oven at 350 degrees for about forty minutes.
Remove the apples from the oven and place on the stove top on a low heat.
Pour the ale over the apples, and let to simmer for a few minutes.
When the ale is thoroughly heated with the apples, strain off the liquid (the Lammas Wool) and serve warm.
The (baked) apples can also be eaten along with the Lammas Wool.