Today is All Souls’ Day.
In parts of England it used to be customary, on this day, for children to go from door to door begging for pastries called soul-cakes. Sometimes they were given fruit or coins instead. Just like Halloween and The Day of the Dead, symbolically these were treats put out for the dead to appease their souls when they came back to earth for a day. But it seems it’s also a promise from the person receiving the soul-cakes to pray for the dead relatives of the giver of the soul-cakes to help their relatives’ souls go from purgatory to heaven.
Here’s a song kids would sing for All Souls Day when they were begging for treats…
A Souling Song
A soul, a soul, for a 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.
Here’s a link to more lyrics and sheet music for A Souling Song
Here’s a midi of the Souling Song
I’ve read that some children still go out begging on All Souls Day. Nowadays, they go out in disguise. It’s similar to trick-or-treating on Halloween.
I welcome comments from anyone from England about how common it is to go out soul-caking in the 21st century. Please comment below to let me know!
And meanwhile, Happy All Souls Day!
This article was posted on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005 at 3:43 pm and is filed under A Souling Song, British Folk Songs, English, Folk Songs, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, Songs by Theme, Souls Day, Souls Day Songs, United Kingdom. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
3 Responses to “All Souls Day – Begging for Soul-cakes and A Souling Song”
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April 27th, 2007 at 9:11 pm
A beautiful song and triste. Thank you for the words.
September 30th, 2012 at 2:45 pm
I remember going “Souling” when I was a boy, I grew up in small village called Utkinton, Nr Tarporley, Cheshire.
I’m now a 54 living in Burbank Ca, it sometimes feels like I grew up on a different planet, because even other fellow ex pats have never heard of this old English custom that I understand still goes on as we speak.
I can just about still remember the old songs we used to sing as we dressed up in old clothes carrying an hollowed out turnip and a hole cut in the sides to make a scary face with a candle burning in the center letting the light out, we also went around the village from house to house along dark lanes without our parents.
It seemed a more innocent time with much less social pressure, here in Burbank I find it amazing the elaborate costumes kids have and the social pressure they put on themselves and the parents to upstage each other, sometimes change is not always better.
All the best to you, and keep smiling.
September 30th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
Hi Derek – Thanks for writing! We would love to learn the songs you sang when you went souling.
Here in NY where I live there’s not so much pressure over costumes. But more and more parents send their kids to organized events. There’s still trick-or-treating but less people do it with their kids.