RTE Television

Lughnasa Live

RTÉ invites you to celebrate the ancient festival of Lughnasa on Sunday July 31st with a live entertainment special broadcast for the from Craggaunowen in County Clare. The show will be a combination of live chat, music and food where well known celebrities will celebrate the ancient festival of Lughnasa and reconnect the audience with one of the, until recently, most important dates in the Irish calendar.

The live show will be informative and entertaining and broadcast from a very evocative location - an Iron Age fort - with an audience of 200. Craggaunowen is an award winning Pre-Historic Park owned and operated by Shannon Heritage, situated on 50 acres of wooded grounds.

Presented by Grainne Seioge the programme will see guests John Creedon, Mary McEvoy, Sinead Kennedy, Colm Hayes and Paul Flynn on a mission to find out more on a different aspect of Lughnas folklore. In addition there will be food from that period with Paul Flynn cooking for the audience of 200 and live music Moya Brennan and Sharon Corr.

Background Information on Lughnasa

Most people know the term Lughnasa from Brian Friel, playwright and short story writer, who used the name of the festival in the title of one of his most successful plays, Dancing At Lughnasa (1990). Lughnasa marks the beginning of Autumn. The Celtic feast days were Imbolc (1 February, Spring festival), Bealtaine (May Day, 1st May, marks start of summer), Lughnasa (August 1st, Harvest festival) and Samhain (November 1st, marks start of winter). These were the four major festivals or cardinal points of the Celtic year at times of seasonal transition. Each festival was to mark the beginning of the new season.

The name for the festival of Lughnasa comes from the name of the god Lugh and can be called "the feast of Lugh". The modern Irish name Lúnasa is used to refer to the month of August and had its origins in the Old Irish language for the festival name. A large amount of custom and lore is attached to this festival. The celebration marks the ripening of grain, specifically corn, and also the weaning of calves and lambs. Later in history, this harvest also includes the maturing of potatoes.

It is celebrated on August 1st or else the first Sunday of August or the last Sunday of July. We know from mythology and early Irish literature that Lughnasa was significant in pre-Christian times. It was a Celtic festival and several great fairs or aonach coincided with it. Part of the festivities included the lighting of fires and communal feasting. Many weddings resulted as a result of these mountain-top meetings and flirtations.

People would pick fruit, more specifically berries and most commonly bilberries (colloquially called "blaeberries"). Sometimes they would wear the fruit on their person (almost like people wear a bunch of shamrock nowadays in celebration of St. Patrick's Day).The most common feature of Lughnasa is that people would go on outdoor excursions and gather together at traditional sites. Most commonly they would visit high places, especially hills and mountains, travelling on foot or by horseback or carriage. There were many hill and mountain gatherings. Examples of mountain pilgrimages include Croagh Patrick, site of one of the biggest pilgrimages; people from all around Ireland would travel to this.

The celebration of Lughnasa was characterised by dancing, picnics, singing and playing music for the day and on into the evening. Bonfires were often lit in the evening. Another common feature was the feast - sometimes in harvest time the corn was reaped, the grain dried and ground into meal, and the bread kneaded, baked and eaten all on the same day. Bread and porridge (as it's made from oats) were popular dishes on this day. The newly gathered crop (at this time in history this would be new potatoes) provided the main dish at a festive meal in honour of the day. In many districts the first new potatoes were dug on the first Sunday in August. Everybody hoped to have the first crops ready for gathering at the traditional date, which began the harvest.

RTÉ will also broadcast the movie Dancing at Lunghasa following the live show.

Lughnasa Live
  • RTÉ One, Sunday, 9.30pm