The pagan holiday of Lughnasa traces its roots back to old festivals that celebrated the first fruits of the harvest. In northern Europe, early August was the time when agriculturalists would begin to know what kind of grain crop they’d harvest this year. And they’d begin to have fresh grains again, instead of having to rely on what was left from the previous year’s harvest.

When I’ve lived in New England, as I am once again, Lughnasa becomes a bitter-sweet celebration. More and more fresh vegetables make their appearance at farm stands and farmer’s markets. Raspberries are at their peak, and it won’t be long until we start getting the first summer apples.

Yet at the same time, this is the time of year when you first begin to sense that the days are growing shorter. Some birds begin to drop out of the morning chorus; when I went out for a walk early this morning, I didn’t hear any more Willow Flycatchers. In a drought year like this year, you even begin to see red leaves in early August; we took a long walk on Sunday and here and there were Poison Ivy vines with brilliant red leaves.

It’s both the peak of summer, and the beginning of the turn towards winter.

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