Learn about the history of Halloween and All Saints' Day here.
A great prayer for Halloween is St. Patrick's Breastplate.
Some thoughts about God's mercy...
And here is another view of All Saints and the deceased...
Lots of good articles from americancatholic.org
During the Middle Ages in England, on the night before All Saints Day, or Hallowmas, peasants and children called "soulers" would go about town singing and praying for the souls of the dead. They would stop at homes and beg for a "soul cake" and promise in return to pray for the household's deceased family members to be released from purgatory. If homeowners did not give out cakes it was believed their home would be cursed. And this my friends is thought to be the origination of trick or treating.
There are many recipes for soul cakes from a small round cake to a doughnut shaped treat. Some variations include cutting a cross on the top or adding rasins. It seems that the recipes developed over time and region.
Here is the traditional song:
Soul, Soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
three for Him what made us all!
Soul Cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, & three for Him who made us all.
You an listen to Peter, Paul and Mary's version of Soul Cakes.
...and try this traditional recipe from food.com.
1 cup butter
3 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons milk
powdered sugar, to sprinkle on top
1. Using a pastry blender cut 1 c. of butter into 3 3/4 cups of flour. I bought my first pastry blender just for this occasion.
2. Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. Allspice smells like Christmas.
3. In a separate bowl beat eggs, vinegar and milk together. I would like to add a little shout out here to my amazing mother-in-law, who is always gifting me with amazing things for my kitchen, like these awesome Pyrex measuring cups, Thanks!
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix.
5. Kneed thoroughly to form a stiff dough. You really have to work this dough, I thought there was no way it was moist enough, but once I mashed it all up it was just right.
6. Roll out to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out 3 inch circles with a cookie cutter or glass.
7. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm. I use a slotted spoon for this.
Soul cakes and souling customs vary from county to county, but souling practices always flourished best along the Welsh border. Even there, the custom is rapidly dying out. In hamlets of Shropshire and Cheshire, in parts of the Midlands, and Lancashire one sometimes hears the soulers chanting old rhymes such as:
Soul! Soul! for an apple or two! If you have no apples, pears will do. If you have no pears, money will do. If you have no money, God bless you!
In olden times "soul papers," with solicitations of prayers for the deceased, accompanied the cakes which were given to the parish poor. Householders, as well as churches, bestowed soul cakes as a charity in behalf of the departed.
Soul cakes were of different kinds. Formerly, some cakes were flat and oval. Others were plump and bunlike. There was a spiced-sweetened variety, and the sort that resembled a small fruit cake. All were rich with milk and eggs.
Soul cakes as adapted to American tastes from early English recipes, make delicate tea-time or party buns. Instead of the saffron and allspice of the original cakes, use a few drops of yellow vegetable coloring as well as nutmeg and cinnamon.
Main references to ‘souling’ and soul cakes:
1. From, ‘Shropshire: Bye-Gones Relating to Wales & the Border Country’ (1889-1890)
“Soul soul for a souling cake
I pray you, missis, for a souling cake
Apple or pear, plum or cherry
Anything to make us merry …”
The soul cakes mentioned in the song are the remnants of Pre-reformation beliefs concerning the need to help souls out of Purgatory by prayer and alms-giving. It was sung in the Victorian period (or perhaps earlier) on All Souls’ Day by soulers.
2. From John Mirk’s ‘Festial’ (14th Century Manuscript) “… wherefore in olden time good men and women would this day buy bread and deal [give] it for the souls that they loved, hoping with each loaf to get a soul out of purgatory”.
3. From Shakespeare’s ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ (ii.i) “to speak pulling, like a beggar at Hallowmas”.
4. From Denham, ‘Tracts’ (1895) “A few thrifty, elderly housewives still practice the old custom of keeping soul mass-cake for good luck
These recipes were first published in 1962, with local and regional recipes handed down in families and dating from the 1800s.
3/4 lb. flour; 1/2 teaspoonful cinnamon; 1/2 teaspoonful mixed spice; pinch nutmeg; 6 oz. sugar; 6oz butter; 1 egg; 1 1/2 teaspoonfuls vinegar
Mix dry ingredients, rub in fat, drop in egg and vinegar and knead till soft. Roll out 1/4 inch thick, cut into rounds with a big cutter, bake in moderate oven for 15 or 20 minutes, until slightly coloured.