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Traditionally, Samhain was time to take stock of the herds and grain supplies, and decide which animals would need to be slaughtered in order for the people and livestock to survive the winter.
This custom is still observed by many who farm and raise livestock because it is when meat will keep since the freeze has come and also since summer grass is gone and free foraging is no longer possible.
In Ireland and Scotland, the Féile na Marbh, the 'festival of the dead' took place on Samhain.
Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together.
Often two bonfires would be built side by side, and the people would walk between the fires as a ritual of purification.
In medieval Ireland, Samhain became the principal festival, celebrated with a great assembly at the royal court in Tara, lasting for three days.
After being ritually started on the Hill of Tlachtga, a bonfire was set alight on the Hill of Tara, which served as a beacon, signaling to people gathered atop hills all across Ireland to light their ritual bonfires.
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Bonfires played a large part in the festivities celebrated down through the last several centuries, and up through the present day in some rural areas of the Celtic nations and the diaspora.