British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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AUG. I.]                            LAMMAS DAY.                                             347
In the accounts of the Vintner's Company (Egorton MS-1143, fol. 2,) is the following entry :—
August i/|                LAMMAS DAY.
Gule of August, or Lammas Day, is variously explained. Gule, from the Celtic or British Wyl or Gule, signifies a festival or holiday, and explains Gule of August to mean the holiday of St. Peter ad vincula in this month, when the people of England, in Roman Catholic times, paid their Peter-pence. Lammas is, by some, derived from lamb-masse, because on that day the tenants who held lands of the cathedral church in York, which is dedicated to St. Peter ad vincula, were bound by their tenure to bring a live lamb into the church at high mass. Others derive it from the Saxon word Hlafmaesse, signifying loaf-mass or bread-mass, because on this day our forefathers made an offering of bread from new wheat. Blount says, " Lammas Day, the 1st of August, otherwise called the Gule or Yule of August, which may be a corruption of the British word Gwul Awst, signify­ing the 1st of August." Blount further says, " that Lammas is called Alaf-Mass, that is, loaf or bread mass, which signifies a feast of thanksgiving for the first fruits of tha corn. It was observed with bread of new wheat; and in some places tenants were bound to bring new wheat to their lord on or before the 1st of August, New wheat is called Lammas wheat." Vallancey further affirms that this day was dedicated to the fruits of the soil; that Laeith was the day of the obligation of grain, particularly of wheat, and that Mas signifies fruits of all kinds, especially the acorn, whence the word " mast."
Lammas is one of the four cross-quarter days of the year, as they are now denominated. Whitsuntide was formerly the first, Lammas the second, Martinmas the third, and Candlemas the last. Some rents are yet payable at these;
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