In Irish mythology, the Lughnasadh festival is said to have been begun by the god Lugh, as a funeral feast and games commemorating his foster-mother, Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. The first location of the Áenach Tailteann gathering was at Telltown, located between Navan and Kells. Historically, the Áenach Tailteann was a time for contests of strength and skill, and a favored time for contracting marriages and winter lodgings. A peace was declared at the festival, and religious celebrations were also held. The festival survived as the Taillten Fair, and was revived for a period in the twentieth century as the Telltown Games.
A similar Lughnasadh festival was held at Carmun (whose exact location is under dispute). Carmun is also believed to have been a goddess of the Celts, perhaps one with a similar story as Tailtiu.
In Gaelic Ireland, Lughnasadh was a favored time for handfastings — trial marriages that would generally last a year and a day, with the option of ending the contract before the new year, or later formalizing it as a more permanent marriage.In Modern Irish (Gaeilge), the name for the month of August is Lúnasa, with the festival itself being called Lá Lúnasa (“the day of Lúnasa“).
Modern day celebration
On mainland Europe and in Ireland many people continue to celebrate the holiday with bonfires and dancing. The Christian church has established the ritual of blessing the fields on this day. In the Irish diaspora, survivals of the Lá Lúnasa festivities are often seen by some families still choosing August as the traditional time for family reunions and parties, though due to modern work schedules these events have sometimes been moved to adjacent secular holidays, such as the Fourth of July in the United States.
Lughnasadh is observed by Neopagans in various forms, and by a variety of names. As forms of Neopaganism can be quite different and have very different origins, these representations can vary considerably despite the shared name. Some celebrate in a manner as close as possible to how the Ancient Celts and Living Celtic cultures have maintained the traditions, while others observe the holiday with rituals drawn from numerous other sources, Celtic culture being only one of the sources used.
Like other Polytheistic Reconstructionist traditions, Celtic Reconstructionists place emphasis on historical accuracy, and base their celebrations and rituals on traditional lore from the living Celtic cultures, as well as research into the older beliefs of the polytheistic Celts. Celtic Reconstructionists who follow Gaelic traditions tend to celebrate Lughnasadh at the time of first fruits, or on the full moon that falls closest to this time. In the Northeastern United States, this is often the time of the blueberry harvest, while in the Pacific Northwest the blackberries are often the festival fruit.
In Celtic Reconstructionism , Lá Lúnasa is seen as a time to give thanks to the spirits and deities for the beginning of the harvest season, and to propitiate them with offerings and prayers to not harm the still-ripening crops. The god Lugh is honored by many at this time, as he is a deity of storms and lightning, especially the storms of late summer. Gentle rain on the day of the festival is seen as his presence and his bestowing of blessings. Many CRs also honor the goddess Tailtiu on this day, and may seek to keep the Cailleachan (“Storm Hags”) from damaging the crops, much in the way appeals are made to Lugh.
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