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The Irish Samhain and the modern Halloween

Samhain (pronounced SAW-ween) was the ancient Celtic New Year festival, celebrated about this time of year. The time after the harvest, when the cattle and sheep have been brought in to pasture close to home and the peat cut for the winter fires.

It marked the end of one year and beginning of the next, which makes much more sense than January 1st (which is somewhat arbitrary when you think about it).

During the night before the festival, the ghosts of all who died during the year began their journey to the otherworld. The living lit bonfires, and put food and drink outside their doors, so that the dead could find their way and have something to eat and drink before the long journey.

Sometimes people played out the roles of the dead, dressing as ghosts and roaming door to door demanding treats.

This should sound vaguely familiar, since the Celtic Samhain evolved into the modern Halloween.