Your Weekly Dose of Spanish by Spaniology: Semana 4

Published in Dungarvan Leader Page 11 on Tuesday 17th of August 2021

What do Ireland and Spain have in common in the month of August?

Although this year the celebrations are being somewhat discreet, August is normally a month rife with festivities. The Reek Sunday pilgrimage at Croagh Patrick or the Puck Fair are certainly the most popular ones these days, but the most veterans might still remember stories of Bilberry Sunday or Mountain Sunday.

Most of these celebrations are related to the arrival of the harvest season and accordingly they are normally celebrated out in nature, enjoying the young fruits of the land and the outdoors, extolling youthful vigour with physical activities and attempting to ensure a bountiful harvest —in all respects, as matchmaking is also part of these traditions—.

And in Spain we certainly do not shy away from any festive occasion: August is the month with most fiestas and celebrations by far. Having frequently also an origin in the ancient harvest festivals, as in Ireland, they have also been largely merged with the Christian tradition and it is therefore no surprise that two of the most important theological figures in the country are celebrated around these days: the patron saint of Spain Santiago (Saint James) and la Virgen de la Asunción (the Assumption of Mary). In light of that, one can find a curious mixture of religious solemn occasions like the Procesión de la Paloma, historical recreations like the Romería Vikinga de Catoira, gastronomy fairs like the Fiesta del pulpo de O Carballiño, sporting events like the Descenso Internacional del Sella, or absolute havoc like La Tomatina —a town-wide tomato fight—.

The Irish name for August, Lúnasa, stems from the ancient festival of Lughnasadh, in honour of the god Lugh, of the Tuatha Dé Danann. This was one of the most popular deities in Irish mythology; warrior, king and skilled in multiple crafts including the arts, his name is found in place names like Dunlewey in Donegal (from the Irish Dún Lúiche: fort of Lugh) or more directly Louth (Irish ), and the mediæval name Lugaid.

But Lugh was not an exclusively Irish god, and he was worshiped throughout the Celtic world in its forms Lug or Lugus. Curiously, Lug was particularly popular on the Iberian Peninsula before the Roman invasion and numerous Celtiberian inscriptions allude to him, giving also name to the northern tribe of the Luggoni. If you travel around Spain you will also be able to find place names dedicated to him like Lugo in Galicia or Lugones and Lugo de Llanera in Asturias. If that is not bewildering enough, some ancient Irish manuscripts present Lugh's foster mother, Tailtiu, as the daughter of the King of Spain.

Whether from agricultural purposes, Celtic mythology or Catholic fervour, August is indubitably a month that we both cherish and garland with abundant merry-making, revelry and carousing. So whatever your reason to celebrate, you are all welcome to partake of our renowned verbenas, ferias, fiestas and romerías.

* Here is your weekly dose of Spanish is: Que disfrutes de las fiestas [May you enjoy the festivities]

Sergio Fernández Redondo

Sergio hails from Asturias in northern Spain and has recently relocated to Dungarvan, where he is a PR assistant and Spanish Teacher at Spaniology. Having an eclectic background in engineering, translation and linguistics, he is also a keen aficionado of history and languages.

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