“It was upon a Lammas Night
When corn rigs are bonny,
Beneath the Moon’s unclouded light,
I held awhile to Annie…”
– Robert Burns
There are few things more soul-satisfying than the smell of freshly baked bread. Pair that with an age-old tradition that brings good fortune and protection to all of those who share from that loaf, and you have the festival of Lammas Day.
Nestled between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, Lammastide is the perfect time to celebrate the heralding of Harvest. August 1st marks the first festival of the waning year and is traditionally a time for revering the sacred first grains of harvest in hopes of continued prosperity throughout the season.
“Lammas” itself means “Loaf Mass,” recalling the tradition of bringing a specially crafted loaf of bread to be blessed and then broken (not cut) into four pieces. Each was then buried in four corners of the barn to protect the fruits of the harvest. The loaves were often made in the shape of owls, wheat sheaves, or whimsical people in hopes of pleasing the spirits. A second loaf was also baked and then broken and shared with loved ones in hopes that the bread would bring them blessings and keep them protected from harm during the upcoming harvest.
In these days of abundant grocery markets, we often forget the significance of what Harvest meant to our forefathers. It provided them security for the lean, cold months ahead and it meant the difference between putting supper on the table and hearing growling bellies in their beds. The entire family worked tirelessly during the harvest – young and old alike – because it was essential to their survival. This perspective gives a deeper appreciation for the gratitude as well as the superstitions that lived in the minds of people who were deeply dependent upon the grains needed to sustain them through harsh winters.
This glorious time of year is still essential to farmers around the world. While we are often insulated from their trials and tribulations, weather continues to reign over all of us through droughts, floods, and storms. Even amidst all of our modernisation and progress, we are all still dependent on the raindrops and the sunshine. Lammas Day is the perfect time to appreciate what we have been given in the moment. And in this humility, we find hope for blessings in the days to come.
Curious Superstitions about Bread
Making bread has always been a bit magical. Yeast is a living thing that behaves differently, depending upon variations in conditions. If unhappy or adulterated, the yeast can affect the final product. Since bread has been an integral part of cultures and traditions around the world for millennia, superstitions have evolved along the way. Here are just a few:
- Bread should never be thrown away. Doing so has at times been considered sinful. Wasting bread and throwing crumbs on the floor was believed to bring bad luck. The only proper way to dispose of old bread was to break it up by hand and feed it to the birds.
- Never cut bread with a knife. Bread was considered a gift from God, so some cultures felt that it should be torn with the hands.
- Always cut from the side. Some bread must be cut with a knife. When doing so, this ritual is said to bless a home with wealth and happiness.
- Do not place the bread upside down. The symbolism of placing bread upside down is said to bring poverty or even an omen of death to a household.
- Do not give your own bread to neighbors. This old adage only referred to bread made specifically for the family. It was once believed that by giving it away, the family’s luck was leaving the house. Bread was to be made intentionally for others if it was meant as a gift.
To celebrate this ancient tradition of welcoming the Harvest, we invite you to bake your own whimsical Lammas Loaves this August. Bacchus babies, grapes, braids, wheat sheaves, and owls are some of the best-loved shapes, and we invite you to share your creations with us on our Facebook Page. It is a wonderful way to partake in a tradition of our ancestors based on gratitude for life’s blessings and to share with your friends and family who might not know about this joyful day dedicated to baking and breaking bread with the ones you hold most dear.
In closing, please find a lovely recipe for Lammas Bread that we discovered here.