Lammas isn’t a bonfire holiday properly.
Lammas rituals are made from the beginnings of the harvest with the idea of protecting the rest of the harvest, letting everything proceed well for all’s survival through the coming year. This isn’t Michaelmas’s celebration of bounty – it’s the blessing and the beginning of serious work.
I support the Puck Fair’s elevation of The Goat, but I don’t have any way to incorporate this into my own celebrations.
This is a wonderful puzzle of a festival. On the one hand, we have abundant evidence for its history over many centuries, from the Anglo-Saxon monk who wrote the Menologium to the keen eye of the gardeners looking out for ‘Lammas growth’, from the witty sixteenth-century courtiers joking about ‘latter Lammas’ to the cherished land-rights of medieval villagers. On the other hand, we have very little evidence for the celebration of the festival itself. But however obscure its origins, it’s a day which has had meaning, of many different kinds, to a variety of people and communities for more than a thousand years.
If you’d asked your average Anglo-Saxon monk or medieval villager whether celebrating the harvest was a Christian or pagan thing to do, I wonder whether they would even have understood the question. It’s the harvest; it matters to everyone. No one stole it from anyone, because it belongs to everyone. Of all British festivals, Lammas is perhaps simultaneously the most local and the most universal. Throughout its long history, and in its different forms, it has been a name which honours what we all need (‘peoples everywhere’, as the Menologium says): the fruits of the earth, and our daily bread.