On All Souls' Day the Roman Catholic Church remembers all those who have died - not just the great and the good, but ordinary man-in-the-street. Families visit graves with bunches of flowers and in church the names of the dead may be read out on request. In some parts of the country, All Souls' Day ends with a play or some songs.
All Souls Day Tradition
According to tradition, a pilgrim returning from the Holy Land took refuge on a rocky island during a storm. There he met a hermit, who told him that among the cliffs was an opening to the infernal regions through which flames ascended, and where the groans of the tormented were distinctly audible. The pilgrim told Odilo, Abbot of Cluny, who appointed the following day (2 November 998) to be set apart for 'all the dead who have existed from the beginning of the world to the end of time'. The day purposely follows All Saints' Day in order to shift the focus from those in heaven to those in purgatory.
Before the Reformation, it was customary for poor Christians to offer prayers for the dead, in return for money or food (soul cakes), from their wealthier neighbours.
During the 19th and 20th centuries children would go 'souling' - rather like carol singing - requesting alms or soul cakes:
A soul, a soul, a soul cake.
Please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.
Up with your kettles and down with your pans
Give us an answer and we'll be gone
Little Jack, Jack sat on his gate
Crying for butter to butter his cake
One for St. Peter, two for St. Paul,
Three for the man who made us all.
The 'Soulers' would go around the houses singing this song and often joined by their old friend, the hobby horse - only at this time of the year, he is called the Hooden Horse.
A Soul Cake is like a hot cross bun but without the currants or the cross on top
Soul Cake Recipe
175 Gram Butter, softened (6 oz)
175 Gram Caster sugar (6 oz)
3 Egg yolks
450 Gram Plain flour (1 lb)
1 Teaspoon Ground mixed spice, or ground allspice
Oven: 180 °C / 350 °F / Gas 4. bake 20-25 minutes.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks. Sift flour and spices, add and mix to a stiff dough. Knead thoroughly and roll out, 1/4 inch thick; cut into 3 inch rounds and set on greased baking sheets. Prick cakes with a fork and bake; sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar while still warm.
It was believed that All Souls' night when the dead revisited their homes, so lit candles were left out to guide them and meals and wine were left as refreshment.