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Even the animals became involved and were formally informed about the arrival of Christmas.

"They were told that Christ was born, they were officially included," he explains.

"Essentially we are talking about a rural society here. What is important is country people were very conscious of the passage of time within their own landscape." The arrival of the Celtic culture meant that yearly time-keeping adjusted to the Celtic calendar and its associated "quarter days", and this is still the determinant for when the seasons change for many people here.

Spring arrives on February 1st, summer on May 1st, autumn on August 1st and winter on November 1st, according to this calendar.

"What is most striking about it is all the festivals are concerned with agriculture and farming," says Mac Cárthaigh.At Christmastime, we often hear protests about the “real meaning” of the season from people eager to emphasize the Christian elements of Christmas.Others point out that America’s favorite winter holiday owes much to its pagan predecessors.Traditionally there were large bonfires and the ashes from these were spread on crops as a way to boost yields, he explains."Clearly the winter and summer solstices have been overtaken by Christian festivals," he says, but the lighting of bonfires and the spreading of ashes is pre-Christian.

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