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Garland Sunday

Garland Sunday is held on the last Sunday in the month of July. The history of Garland Sunday – or Bilberry Sunday as it is known in some areas – goes back to pagan times. One story has it that it was considered the end of the ‘hungry season’ when people could enjoy a good meal of new potatoes at this time of year.



Pagan Beliefs

Many pagans believe the traditions surrounding Garland Sunday grew out of the older Mabon tradition of making pilgrimages to burial grounds to honour the dead. Garlands were constructed of native vines and apples by a village's unmarried women and taken by them, along with all unmarried men, to a churchyard. If an apple fell during a procession it was a bad omen since apples often stood as symbols for the human soul and for the Goddess. At the churchyard the garland was then broken apart and strewn over the graves amidst loud keening. Feasting and dancing near the cemetery followed, and it was obligatory to show hospitality to strangers on this evening.


 - Extract from "The Sabbats - A New Approach to Living the Old Ways"

by Edain Mc Coy



In the days before Christianity came to Ireland, August 1st was called "Lá Lughnasa", the feast day of the Celtic god of the harvest "Lugh". It is believed that the pagan feast of  Lughnasa was turned into a Christian feast by Patrick and re-named Garland Sunday.



Garland Sunday is also sometimes referred to as "Domhnach Chrom Dubh" (Black Crom Sunday). Crom Dubh is often translated as the Dark Stooped One. In pre-Roman times, Crom Dubh seems to have been considered a despotic deity with evil powers. On the other hand, Lugh was personified as both young and strong. It is believed that he grasped harvest riches from the hands of fate each year by defeating the older god Crom Dubh. Each year the ritual involved cutting the first of the harvest and taking the head of Crom Dubh from its sanctuary and temporarily burying it in a high place. Locally in County Mayo the celebration is known as Domhnach Crom Dubh, but it is also known as Garland Sunday, Garlic Sunday, the last Sunday of Summer, and Domhnach na Cruaiche -- Reek Sunday. This is the Sunday on which traditionally many pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick in Murrisk near Westport, Co. Mayo.