Yesterday we celebrated the feast of All Saints, moved from Saturday. All Souls, therefore moves to today.
While researching All Saints and All Souls with my daughter, I came across the tradition of Soul Cakes. These were given as alms to the poor on behalf of the soul of a loved one. Some sites suggested this became a tradition of children praying for the souls of the dead and getting a soul cake in return.
This post, on the Medieval Histories blog, investigates what souls cakes were. It seems that Italian biscotti and English shortbread had their origins in the practice of Souling. With this little bit of history it meant that soul cakes, biscotti and shortbread all made an appearance yesterday, after mass.
I was struck by the hospitality and care of these original traditions. Providing for the poor and praying for those we love, who have gone before us is at the root of ‘Souling.’ There is a generosity about it, even if the original soul cakes were made from left over bread.
It is interesting to see how our faith influenced the culture of Europe and of Britain. Things that are believed find an expression in acts of kindness that become practical traditions.
The Medieval Histories post suggests listening to a version of a traditional soul cake song. Sting’s version can be found here, (although it has maybe a more Christmas feel about it than All Saints and All Souls.)