For all civilizations, fire is at the heart of our lives. And for the Celtic people, time was actually marked by fire festivals that they celebrated throughout the year, including the feast of Samhain, which took place on October 31st and November 1st.
Before the feast of Samhain, the Celts would gather together and drive their cattle off the cliffs of Ireland. After this, the cattle were harvested. The flesh was preserved for food and the skin for clothing, so that every part of the animal was put to good use. All that remained after harvesting were the bones, which they gathered into a large pile and set on fire to release the spirits of the cattle back into the air and to give thanks for the food.
These “bone fires” were always associated with feast of Samhain, and they live on today in our Halloween bonfire. That’s right; the bone fire is the origin of our Halloween bonfire.
Julianne Stanz is a nationally known speaker, retreat leader, storyteller, and the Director of New Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay and a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Catechesis and Evangelization.