Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Traditions and festivals in November in the West include All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Mischief Night, Bonfire Night, Rememberence Day and Stir Up Sunday The name comes from the Roman word 'novem' meaning nine, because it was the ninth month in their Roman calendar. Few people find November pleasant. The Anglo-Saxons called November 'Wind monath', because it was the time when the cold winds began to blow. They also called it 'Blod monath', because it was the time when cattle were slaughtered for winter food. The poet T.S. Elliot called it 'Sombre November'.
Sir Walter Scott, in his long poem Marmion, wrote in 1808:
November's sky is chill and drear, November's leaf is red and sear (withered)'
The first week of November has always been a time of festivals and celebrations marking the end of the harvest and beginning of Winter.
In the year 835 AD the Roman Catholic Church made 1st November a church holiday to honour all the saints. This feast day is called All Saints' Day.
All Saints' Day used to be known as All Hallows (Hallow being an old word meaning Saint or Holy Person). The feast day actually started the previous evening, the Eve of All Hallows or Hallowe'en.
Christians remember all the saints
On Saints' Day, Christians remember all 'men of good will' (saints), great ones and forgotten ones, who have died through the ages.
Saints are men and women from all ages and all walks of life, who were outstanding Christians. Some - the martyrs - died for their faith. All of them are honoured by the church.
All Saints' Day, together with All Souls' Day are know collectively as Hallowtide.
All Souls' Day - 2 November
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.
What is a Soul Cake?
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.
All Souls' Day Superstition
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.
The 4th November is called Mischief Night in some parts of the country. This was the night when all sorts of naughty things were done - the main idea being to put things in the wrong place.
In north-east Derbyshire and south Yorkshire villages, children would engage in a bout of Jolly Minering. A local variant on Penny for a Guy traditions, the aim was to raise money for sweets and fireworks. Their alms song started like this:
We're three Jolly Miners, and we're not worth a pin,
So give us a piece of coal and we'll make the kettle sing.
The song itself comes from an earlier time when the aim of the activity was to gather coal, either for the 'bonfire hole', or simply to light fire to cook and 'make the kettle sing'.
Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night) (5 th)
Bonfire Night is the most widespread and flourishing of all British customs. The day was declared a holiday by decree of Parliament after Parliament was saved from being blown up by Guy Fawkes in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Until 1859, all parish churches were required to hold services this day. Unlike today, celebrations were heard throughout the day, with bells ringing, cannons firing and beer flowing.
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