History Undusted: Lammas Day

Did any of you celebrate Lammas Day this past Thursday, 1 August?  The original Thanksgiving day, Lammas has a centuries-old tradition in some English-speaking countries.  “Lammas” comes from the Old English hlafmæsse, meaning “loaf mass”, and was a celebration to give thanks for the harvest.  Everyone would bring a loaf of bread to the church on that day, made from freshly-harvested wheat; it would then be blessed by the minister as a symbol of giving thanks for the entire harvest.  Perhaps this is the Eucharistic overtone admitted by J.R.R. Tolkien* in a private letter concerning the Lembas Bread of the Elves; this bread might have been based on Hardtack texture-wise, but the name itself is a  clear nod to Lammas. 

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, it’s mentioned several times, where it is referred to as the feast of the first fruits. To read more about this celebration, click on the image below.

And before I close, I will also say, “Happy Birthday, Switzerland!”  Thursday was also our Founding Day, the first being in 1291.  It was perfect weather for fireworks, and we enjoyed the displays of towns and villages from our flat!

Breads, Harvest, Lammas Day

*Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-31555-7

 

 

Originally posted on 1

12 Comments

Filed under Articles, Etymology, History, History Undusted

12 responses to “History Undusted: Lammas Day

  1. Heck! I missed Lammas day! It was interesting to read about, though.

    • Is it celebrated in your area? Or did you just miss an excuse to celebrate? 😉

      • I never heard of Lammas Day, but if it has to do with fresh bread and church, I’m in. Is it really still celebrated? I thought it was something way back in the past. Ignorance is widespread, and I’m on that wagon.

      • It is still celebrated in English-speaking countries, especially in rural communities, but it’s no longer wide-spread; thanksgiving took over that role in America for the most part, and in Britain, the Harvest festival is probably more prominent (harvest festivals vary from region to region, but it’s celebrated on the nearest Sunday to the harvest moon, end-summer/early autumn).

      • We lived south of London for two years in the early 80’s. I remember a harvest festival where the church was decorated with fruits and vegetables. The service was lovely. If people mentioned Lammas Day, I didn’t pick up on it.

      • When I lived in Scotland, neither were at my local church, or any church I visited in my travels (with YWAM).

  2. I made some hardtack once–the taste left a lot to be desired.

    • Perhaps it depends on how much salt you used; it’s not for flavour necessarily, but for preservation. It was often a staple on ships of sail that were at sea for long periods – it survived far longer than yeast bread did.

  3. Yes, Husband and I celebrated Lammas not with bread but with wine and gave thanks for all we have.We try to celebrate the seasonal holidays. I have seen Lammas mentioned in three other blogs that I follow. Happy birthday to Switzerland!

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