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The word 'bonfire', or 'bonefire' is a direct translation of the Gaelic .

Many scholars believe that it was the beginning of the Celtic year.

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 the pre-Christian Gaelic world, cattle were the primary unit of currency and the center of agricultural and pastoral life.