Here in Ireland, there’s nothing we love more than a good pagan ritual. Lughnasa festival is a Gaelic celebration which marks the beginning of the harvest season. The festival gets its name from the Celtic God of Lugh. Lugh was a Celtic God of sun, light and harvest and it was him that had to be appeased in turn for him ensuring a rich and prosperous crop for the coming harvest year. It is one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals along with Samhain, Imbolc and Beltane.
Origins of the festival
In Irish mythology, Lughnasa festival is said to have derived from a celebration, originally held by the God ‘Lugh’ as a funeral feast and athletic competition in commemoration of his mother ‘Taitlin’. Poor Taitlin was said to have died of exhaustion after completing the small task of clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture.
Originally, the festivities consisted of religious ceremonies, feasting, matchmaking, trading and athletic contests. It was typically the time when the first meal of the year’s new crop was eaten. While many of these traditions have sadly died out, some still live on in various forms. Most notably of which is probably the old custom of climbing hills in celebration, this tradition still lives on in a number of areas. Probably the best known of these is “Reek Sunday” a day on which hundreds of people from all across the country make their way to county Mayo to climb (often on their hands and knees) to the summit of steep Croagh Patrick. Reek Sunday takes place on the last Sunday of July. Iconic Croagh Patrick features on section six of our Wild Atlantic Way cycling route from Connemara to Westport. If you are cycling the Great Western Greenway from Westport, Croagh Patrick is very close by.
Aside from the old tradition of climbing hills at this time of year, Lughnasa festival is also celebrated all around the country in various forms and fashions. Most commonly in the form of music, dancing, storytelling, re-enactments and a general celebration of Ireland’s rich culture and heritage. Some of the biggest celebrations take place in Grianán Fort, County Donegal where they will be holding a 21st Century re-imagining of the kind of celebrations that would have taken place at the fort 395 AD. The fort is situated on the Inishowen peninsula, very close to the Wild Atlantic Way route.
For more information about festivals in Ireland or to book a Wild Atlantic Way walking or cycling holiday in Ireland, contact our travel specialists.