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The term derives from the name of a month in the ancient Celtic calendar, in particular the first three nights of this month, with the festival marking the end of the summer season and the end of the harvest.
The Gaelic festival became associated with the Catholic All Souls' Day, and appears to have influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween.
The night of Samhain, in Irish, , is one of the principal festivals of the Celtic calendar, and falls on the 31st of October. In modern Ireland and Scotland, the name by which Halloween is known in the Gaelic language is still .
Seasonal foods such as apples and nuts were often employed in these rituals.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.For instance, the contemporary calendars produced by the Celtic League begin and end at Samhain.It is important to remember that all of the written documents in places like Ireland and Wales date to a time after the arrival of Christianity in the 5th century.
The Samhain celebrations have survived in several guises as a festival dedicated to the harvest and the dead.