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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 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.Sometimes the cattle and other livestock would be driven between the fires, as well.Divination is a common folkloric practice that has also survived in rural areas.

The Gaelic festival became associated with the Catholic All Souls' Day, and appears to have influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween.

The most common uses were to determine the identity of one's future spouse, the location of one's future home, and how many children a person might have.

Seasonal foods such as apples and nuts were often employed in these rituals.

The custom has survived to some extent, and recent years have seen a resurgence in participation in the festival.

Samhain was identified in Celtic literature as the beginning of the Celtic year and its description as "Celtic New Year" was popularised in 18th century literature From this usage in the Romanticist Celtic Revival, Samhain is still popularly regarded as the "Celtic New Year" in the contemporary Celtic cultures, both in the Six Celtic Nations and the diaspora.

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