The ancient world — from the Egyptian and Roman Empires to the Norse lands of Europe — had a whole range of celebrations, holidays, and festivals that are long forgotten in modern times. True, a few of them are still marked, but often they have different names and rituals. And this is probably just as well, since our ancient ancestors had some pretty strange habits when it came to celebrating things.
1. Oatmeal Monday
For this forgotten holiday we’re traveling back in time to 18th-century Scotland. Back then the staple food for Scots was oatmeal, which could be made into porridge or hard biscuits called oatcakes. Englishman Samuel Johnson, the famous 18th-century dictionary compiler, had his own definition of oats. As he put it, oats were, “A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” People still enjoy oats today, but enough to dedicate an annual holiday to them?
A bowl of piping-hot porridge
Scots back in the 1700s just couldn’t get enough of oatmeal, it turns out, and could hardly resist a bowl of piping-hot porridge. Students in particular, with their tight budgets, would have been happy to dine on oatmeal-based dishes. Indeed scholars celebrated their main food with the annual Oatmeal Monday, held on the second Monday of February. So come that February Monday, be sure to sit yourself down with some friends for a portion of porridge and a couple of oatcakes.
Lughnasadh, which was celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man on August 1, dates back to pre-Christian times and is said to have been created by the pagan god Lugh. Lugh founded the festival to commemorate his mother, the goddess Tailtiu, who in legend died from her exertions after preparing all of Irish land for farming. Her efforts came in very handy for the people who had to make their living from farming, so the grateful Irish were happy to celebrate this Earth goddess.
On the day of the festival there were merchants buying and selling, sporting events, and banquets. But it was something else that makes Lughnasadh so intriguing: matchmaking. Young men and women could use the festivities as a time to meet and make marriage contracts, but these weddings were far from orthodox. The deal was that you could agree to partner someone. Yet if things didn’t work out, you could separate without consequence after a year and a day.