Facts & Folkore:
The early harvest and the threshing of grain has been celebrated for thousands of years. One of the first of three Celtic harvest festivals, Lammas (Lughnasadh), marks the beginning of the grain harvests. Historically, it has been widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man on August 1st or about halfway between the summer solstice and autumn equinox. Lughnasadh is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and has pagan origins. The festival itself is named after the god Lugh. It involved great gatherings that included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic contests (most notably the Tailteann Games), feasting, matchmaking and trading. There were also visits to holy wells. According to folklorist Máire MacNeill, evidence shows that the religious rites included an offering of the 'first fruits', a feast of the new food and of bilberries, the sacrifice of a bull and a ritual dance-play in which Lugh seizes the harvest for mankind and defeats the powers of blight.
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