The play was set in Ireland but Lughnasa, pronounced Loon'asah, is a pagan festival once celebrated throughout the Celtic world. The Saxons in England called it hlaf-mas; we could call it loaf-mas but instead we refer to it as Lammas. And the First of August is Lammas Day.
Traditionally it was the first day of harvest; the day when the farmer would take his scythe and cut the first sheaves of corn. Hopefully, by nightfall his wife would have baked the first loaves of the season. It was a time to celebrate, and festivals were held to commemorate this vital event. The modern calendar often fails to mark the occasion and it is almost forgotten in England but in some European countries it is still a time for rejoicing and in the United States there has been a revival of interest in this festival.
For botanists it has another significance, for today I went in search of oak trees to photograph examples of lammas growth. This is growth put on by trees at around mid-summer, probably to compensate for the damage caused by insects during the previous three or four months. It is particularly obvious on oaks with the new foliage standing out bright or pale green against the older leaves with their coating of yeasts and sooty moulds often looking almost black.
Pale new Lammas growth on an oak near Staverton Road, Daventry.
1 August, 2017