The famous Tailteann Games of ancient Ireland had many purposes. Older even than the ancient Greek Olympic Games, the Tailteann Games took place every three years or so in the summertime from about 1600 BC until about the 9th Century AD. Their first purpose was religious. The games honored Celtic gods and goddesses, and the field in which they were played was said to be the burying place of the god Tailtiu. Gathering and playing there was a way to honor the deities.
It was also an opportunity to honor the human dead. Funeral pyres were built, and druids prayed over the dead. After that, bards would share news of new laws that had been decided by the judicial leaders and thinkers. As the ancient people of Ireland lived spread throughout the country, this would have been one of the only opportunities for them to all meet together in order to hear about news, such as changes to the laws.
The Tailteann Games, like all major sporting events, brought a huge crowd. Different political groups could come together and enjoy friendly competition. It was also an opportunity to meet up, arrange marriages, and conduct business. All these activities are essential to maintaining independence and cultural identity. Most of all, though, they were a way to enjoy and celebrate Irish culture and community.