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Autumn Holidays Series: Lughnasadh

Falling on August 1st, this holiday marks the beginning of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Lughnasadh started from July 31st to August 1st and was the first of the four seasonal holidays. The other four holidays are Samhain, Imbolc, and Beltane. Celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, it inspired significant gatherings such as religious ceremonies, athletic contests, feasts, trades, and matchmaking. It was similar to the Ancient Olympic Games held in Greece. According to medieval writings, kings attended this Oenach and would make a truce during this time. Religious rites included offering the first fruits, a feast of the new food and bilberries, a bull's sacrifice, and a ritual dance in which Lugh seizes the harvest for mankind and conquers the powers of blight. Many of the festivities would take place on top of hills and mountains.

In Irish mythology, the Lughnasadh festival was started by the god Lugh as a funeral feast and athletic competition commemorating his mother, Tailtiu. She supposedly died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland. The funeral games in her honor were called the Óenach Tailten or Áenach Tailten and held in what is now County Meath. At Tailtin, trial marriages were born, where couples joined hands through a hole in a wooden door. The trial marriage lasted a year and a day; during this time, the marriage could be made permanent or broken with no consequence. To some, The God of the harvest is the Green Man, also known as John Barleycorn. He sacrifices himself each year for human life on Earth to excel. Sometimes, his death is acknowledged with wreaths decorated with poppies or cornflowers.

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