Lammas Day (Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, "loaf-mass"), also known as Loaf Mass Day, is a Christian holiday celebrated in some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere on 1 August. The name originates from the word "loaf" in reference to bread and "Mass" in reference to the Eucharist.[4] It is a festival in the liturgical calendar to mark the blessing of the First Fruits of harvest, with a loaf of bread being brought to the church for this purpose.[3]

Loaf Mass Day
Lammas loaf Owl with salt eyes.png
Lammas loaf owl with salt eyes
Observed byChristians (Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans)[1]
CelebrationsMass, church processions, First Fruits[1][2][page needed]
ObservancesBringing a loaf of bread made from the new wheat crop to the church for a blessing, making loaves from the grain collected at harvest[3][1]
Date1 August (Northern Hemisphere)
1 February (Southern Hemisphere)
Related toPlough Sunday, Rogation days, Lughnasadh

On Loaf Mass Day, it is customary to bring to a Christian church a loaf made from the new crop, which began to be harvested at Lammastide, which falls at the halfway point between the summer solstice and autumn September equinox.[2][page needed] Christians also have church processions to bakeries, where those working therein are blessed by Christian clergy.[2][page needed]

Lammas has coincided with the feast of St. Peter in Chains, commemorating St. Peter's miraculous deliverance from prison, but in the liturgical reform of 1969 the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori was transferred to this day, the day of St. Alphonsus' death.

While Loaf Mass Day is traditionally a Christian holy day, Lughnasadh is celebrated by Neopagans around the same time.[5]


On Loaf Mass Day, bread is brought into the parish church to be blessed by a Christian cleric

Ann Lewin explains a key practice of the Christian feast of Lammas (Loaf Mass Day) and its importance in the Christian Calendar in relation to other feasts of the Church Year:[1]

August begins with Lammas Day, Loaf Mass Day, the day in the Book of Common Prayer calendar when a loaf baked with flour from newly harvested corn would be brought into church and blessed. It's one of the oldest points of contact between the agricultural world and the Church. The others were Plough Sunday in early January, the Sunday after Epiphany and the day before work would begin again in the fields after Christmas festivities, when ploughs would be brought to church to be blessed; and Rogation days in May, the days before Ascension Day, when God's blessing would be sought on the growing crops.[1]

In the Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Communion, during the celebration of Holy Communion, "The Lammas loaf, or part of it, may be used as the bread of the Eucharist, or the Lammas loaf and the eucharistic bread may be kept separate."[6]

The loaf is blessed and in Anglo-Saxon England it might be employed afterwards in protective rituals:[7] a book of Anglo-Saxon charms directed that the Lammas bread be broken into four parts, which were to be placed at the four corners of the barn, to protect the garnered grain.[8]

In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is referred to frequently, it is called "the feast of first fruits". The blessing of first fruits was performed annually in both the Eastern and Western churches on the 1st or the 6th of August (the latter being the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ).[citation needed]

In medieval times the feast was sometimes known in England and Scotland as the "Gule of August",[9] but the meaning of "gule" is unclear. Ronald Hutton suggests[10] following the 18th-century Welsh clerical antiquary John Pettingall[11] that it is merely an anglicisation of Gŵyl Awst, Welsh for "feast of August". The OED and most etymological dictionaries give it a more circuitous origin similar to gullet; from Old French goulet, a diminutive of goule, "throat, neck," from Latin gula "throat".[citation needed]

Several antiquaries beginning with John Brady[12] offered a back-construction to its being originally known as Lamb-mass, under the undocumented supposition that tenants of the Cathedral of York, dedicated to St. Peter ad Vincula, of which this is the feast, would have been required to bring a live lamb to the church,[13] or, with John Skinner, "because Lambs then grew out of season." This is a folk etymology, of which OED notes that it was "subsequently felt as if from LAMB + MASS".

For many villeins, the wheat must have run low in the days before Lammas, and the new harvest began a season of plenty, of hard work and company in the fields, reaping in teams.[14] Thus there was a spirit of celebratory play.[citation needed]

In the medieval agricultural year, Lammas also marked the end of the hay harvest that had begun after Midsummer. At the end of hay-making a sheep would be loosed in the meadow among the mowers, for him to keep who could catch it.[15]

In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1.3.19) it is observed of Juliet, "Come Lammas Eve at night shall she [Juliet] be fourteen."

Another well-known cultural reference is the opening of The Battle of Otterburn: "It fell about the Lammas tide when the muir-men win their hay."[16]

William Hone speaks in The Every-Day Book (1838) of a later festive Lammas Day sport common among Scottish farmers near Edinburgh. He says that they "build towers ... leaving a hole for a flag-pole in the centre so that they may raise their colours." When the flags over the many peat-constructed towers were raised, farmers would go to others' towers and attempt to "level them to the ground." A successful attempt would bring great praise. However, people were allowed to defend their towers, and so everyone was provided with a "tooting-horn" to alert nearby country folk of the impending attack and the battle would turn into a "brawl". According to Hone, more than four people had died at this festival and many more were injured. At the day's end, races were held, with prizes given to the townspeople.[citation needed]

Other usesEdit


Lughnasadh is the name used for one of the eight sabbats in the Neopagan Wheel of the Year. It is the first of the three autumn harvest festivals, the other two being the autumn equinox (also called Mabon) and Samhain. In the Northern Hemisphere it takes place around 1 August, while in the Southern Hemisphere it is celebrated around 1 February.[17][18][page needed][19][20][page needed]

To the members of the Asatru faith, Lammas is known as Freyfaxi, as it refers to a festival held during Old Norse times when a horse is sacrificed as an offering to Freyr. The name comes from the Old Norse words for "Freyr's horse mane", most likely referring to the deity's steed Blóðughófi.

Scottish quarter daysEdit

Lammas Day was one of the traditional Scottish quarter days (before 1886).


Lammas leaves or Lammas growth refers to a second crop of leaves produced in high summer by some species of trees in temperate countries to replace those lost to insect damage.[21] They often differ slightly in shape, texture and/or hairiness from the earlier leaves. [22]

Exeter in Devon is one of the few towns in England that still celebrates its Lammas Fair and has a processional custom which stretches back over 900 years, led by the Lord Mayor. During the fair a white glove on a pole decorated with garlands is raised above the Guildhall. The fair now takes place on the first Thursday in July.[23]

A low-impact development project at Tir y Gafel, Glandwr, Pembrokeshire,[24] Lammas Ecovillage, is a collective initiative for nine self-built homes.[25] It was the first such project to obtain planning permission based on a predecessor of what is now the sixth national planning guidance[26] for sustainable rural communities originally proposed by the One Planet Council.[27]

In popular cultureEdit

The Doctor Who serial The Image of the Fendahl takes place on Lammas Eve.

In the Inspector Morse episode "Day of the Devil", Lammas Day is presented as a Satanic (un)holy day, "the Devil's day".[28]

Katherine Kurtz's alternate World War II fantasy "history" takes its title, Lammas Night, from pagan tradition surrounding the first of August and the Divine Right of Kings.

The English football club Staines Lammas F.C. is named for a local field.

The Song "Corn Rigs" by Paul Giovanni, from the soundtrack to the 1973 film The Wicker Man, takes place "upon a Lammas Night".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Lewin, Ann (2011). Seasons of Grace: Inspirational Resources for the Christian Year. Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. p. 222. ISBN 978-1-84825-090-1. August begins with Lammas Day, Loaf Mass Day, the day in the Book of Common Prayer calendar when a loaf baked with flour from newly harvested corn would be brought into church and blessed. It's one of the oldest points of contact between the agricultural world and the Church. The others were Plough Sunday in early January, the Sunday after Epiphany and the day before work would begin again in the fields after Christmas festivities, when ploughs would be brought to church to be blessed; and Rogation days in May, the days before Ascension Day, when God's blessing would be sought on the growing crops.
  2. ^ a b c Gellatly, Justin; Gellatly, Louise; Jones, Matthew (2017). Baking School. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-241-97878-8.
  3. ^ a b Irvine, Theodora Ursula (1919). How to Pronounce the Names in Shakespeare: The Pronunciation of the Names in the Dramatis Personae of Each of Shakespeare's Plays, Also the Pronunciation and Explanation of Place Names and the Names of All Persons, Mythological Characters, Etc., Found in the Text, with Forewords by E.H. Sothern and Thomas W. Churchill and with a List of the Dramas Arranged Alphabetically Indicating the Pronunciation of the Names of the Characters in the Plays. Hinds, Hayden & Eldredge. p. 177. Lammas or Lammas Day (August 1st) means the loaf-mass day. The day of first fruit offerings, when a loaf was given to the priests in lieu of the first-fruits.
  4. ^ Gandolphy, Peter (1815). An Exposition of Liturgy. p. 51. Thus Christ-Mass implies that season when the incarnation and birth of Christ, are commemorated in the Mass. In the same manner are formed Candle-Mass, Michaelmas, Lammas, &c. Lammas-day for instance, which falls on the 1st of August, is derived from the Saxon word Laf, a Loaf and Mæse, or Mass: It having been customary on that day to make an offering to the Church, of a loaf made of new corn.
  5. ^ "You say Lammas, I say Lughnasadh: Christians, Pagans embrace harvest". David Crumm Media. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 14 May 2020. For Christians, Lammas has been a time for blessing loaves made of fresh wheat. In time, Christians also created a version of the Scottish Highland Quarter Cake for Lammas, which bore Christian symbols on the top. (Catholic Culture has a recipe.) In the Neopagan and Wiccan faiths, Lughnasadh is one of eight sabbaths and is the first of three harvest festivals.
  6. ^ "The Agricultural Year". The Church of England. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  7. ^ T.C. Cokayne, ed. Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft (Rolls Series) vol. III:291, noted by George C. Homans, English Villagers of the Thirteenth Century, 2nd ed. 1991:371.
  8. ^ Oxford, Clerk Of (1 August 2017). "A Clerk of Oxford: A Little History of Lammas". A Clerk of Oxford. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  9. ^ J. P. Bacon Phillips, inquiring the significance of "gule", "Lammas-Day and the Gule of August", Notes and Queries, 2 August 1930:83.
  10. ^ Hutton, The Stations of the Sun, Oxford 1996.
  11. ^ Pettingall, in Archaeologia or, Miscellaneous tracts, relating to antiquity... (Society of Antiquaries of London), 2:67.
  12. ^ Brady, Clavis Calendaris, 1812, etc. s.v. "Lammas-Day".
  13. ^ Reported without comment in John Brand, Henry Ellis, J.O. Halliwell-Phillips, Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, new ed. 1899: vol. I, s.v. "Lammas".
  14. ^ Noted by Homans 1991:371.
  15. ^ Homans 1991:371.
  16. ^ Child, Francis James (1889). The Battle of Otterburn. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Houghton Mifflin. p. 293.
  17. ^ Nevill Drury (2009). "The Modern Magical Revival: Esbats and Sabbats". In Pizza, Murphy; Lewis, James R (eds.). Handbook of Contemporary Paganism. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Publishers. pp. 63–67. ISBN 9789004163737.
  18. ^ Hume, Lynne (1997). Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 9780522847826.
  19. ^ Vos, Donna (2002). Dancing Under an African Moon: Paganism and Wicca in South Africa. Cape Town: Zebra Press. pp. 79–86. ISBN 9781868726530.
  20. ^ Bodsworth, Roxanne T (2003). Sunwyse: Celebrating the Sacred Wheel of the Year in Australia. Victoria, Australia: Hihorse Publishing. ISBN 9780909223038.
  21. ^ Jones, Eustace W. (1959). "Quercus L." Journal of Ecology. 47 (1): 169–222. doi:10.2307/2257253. ISSN 0022-0477. JSTOR 2257253.
  22. ^ Guinness, Bunny (16 Aug 2006). "Late summer growth". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
  23. ^ Parkman, Chloe (2 July 2020). "Bizarre Devon glove event cancelled for only third time in 900 years". DevonLive. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  24. ^ "Project homepage".
  25. ^ "Self build central images".
  26. ^ "Annual Monitoring Report (PDF)" (PDF).
  27. ^ "Image Archive | One Planet Council". Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  28. ^ 'Inspector Morse' The Day of the Devil (1993) Reviews & Ratings, retrieved 18 September 2017

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