What Is Lammas?

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by April Foulks (Notes) on Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 8:54pm


In some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, August 1 is Lammas Day (loaf-mass day), the festival of the wheat harvest, and is the first harvest festival of the year.

On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop. 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 new 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). The Sacramentary of Pope Gregory I (died 604) specifies the sixth.

In mediæval times the feast was known as the “Gule of August”, but the meaning of “gule” is unclear.

Ronald Hutton suggests that it may be an Anglicisation of Gŵyl Awst, the Welsh name for August 1 meaning “feast of August”, but this is perhaps an overly-complicated extraction.

Most etymological dictionaries give it an origin similar to gullet; from O.Fr. goulet, dim. of goule “throat, neck,” from L. gula “throat,”.

One can see why Hutton feels differently as this Welsh derivation would point to a pre-Christian origin for Lammas among the Anglo-Saxons and a link to the Gaelic festival of Lughnasadh.

There are several historical references to it being known as Lambess eve, such as ‘Publications of the Scottish Historical Society’ 1964 and this alternative name is the origin of the Lambess surname, just as Hallowmass and Christmas were also adopted as familial titles.

You can read more about Lammas at the following link 🙂



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