Lughnasadh marks the start of autumn in the Celtic calendar, and the start of the harvest season for grain.
It’s an ancient Celtic celebration that was held in Ireland and other Celtic countries.
The festival actually started on the evening before.
There would be singing, dancing, eating, horse racing, leaping over fires and marriage proposals.
Couples could engage in temporary marriages that would last one year. Then they had to come back next year and say whether they were making it permanent, or whether they would divorce each other by walking away from each other. The Church put an end to this.
Fairs were held that would last several days, attended by all classes of people. Most Lughnasadh fairs in Scotland had died out by the 1900s.
The date of Lughnasadh had effectively floated to what was in reality the 13th of August by the mid-1700s when the calendar in Ireland was finally changed from Julian to Gregorian, putting it back on the actual 1st.
The holiday was moved by the Bank Holidays Act of 1871 (Ireland) to the first Monday in August to always ensure a long weekend. It is called the August Holiday — Lá Saoire i mí Lúnasa — with Lá Saoire meaning “the holiday” and ‘Lúnasa” meaning ‘August’.
It provides a welcome extra long weekend in summer, and perhaps also serves as a reminder of how fast the summer is passing.
It is now observed in a changed secular form, though some people still celebrate with some of the old traditions.
The following day is Lammas.
Literature & Lore
“Lugh” was the celtic Sun God. The festival, though, mostly honours his mother, Taillitu, Goddess of the Land.
Pronounced “Loo – na – sa.” It was also spelt Lunasa or Lughnasa.
Called Lughnasadh in Ireland, Lunasdál or lunastain in Scotland, and “Laa Luanys” in the Isle of Man.
The word is also used now as the modern Irish word for the month of August.
In English, it got called “Loaf mas”, after the bannock that was made from the first grains.