Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fasting and Feasting for All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls Day

I originally posted this at Shower of Roses in 2008.

This coming week, on October 31st thru November 2nd, the Church will be celebrating All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls Day (also known as "Days of the Dead"). As we celebrate these feasts, we remember all those who have gone before us, whether they are recognized by the Church as saints or not.

First we have Halloween on October 31st. The name Halloween is shortened from All Hallows' Eve, since it is the eve of All Hallows' Day (also known as All Saints' Day). Next, on November 1st we celebrate the actual feast of All Saints -- this includes all the Saints that have not been canonized and are unknown to us. Then, on November 2nd, we celebrate the feast of All Souls. This day is officially set aside to remember and pray for the poor souls in Purgatory.

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things” (#1475)."

There are many wonderful traditions and recipes to add to the celebration, some we have made in the past, and others I hope to incorporate into future celebrations. Since I will be hosting our next From Thy Bounty Fair over at Catholic Cuisine tomorrow (you can now find the link to this post here), specifically for these upcoming feasts, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of these traditions here as well.

October 31st ~ All Hallows' Eve:

"It is fun to celebrate Hallowe'en -- but only because we are linking it with the Christian reality of All Saints' and All Souls' which follow. The emphasis on ghosts and witches and eerie things-that-go-bump in the night is an attempt to return to old pagan ways. Christians know that old pagan superstitions and fear must give way to the joy of the Resurrection and the reality of eternal life." ~ A Book of Feasts and Seasons by Joanna Bogle

Originally (prior to Vatican II) Catholics were required to pray and fast before great solemnity feast days, including All Saints' Day. This fast included abstinence from meat, so the traditional recipes for celebrating All Hallows' Eve are penitential in nature. Although the "fast before the feast" is no longer required by the Church, it is still a good practice to prepare spiritually for the feast, and one that we try to implement in our home.

(Our local Home School group has a wonderful party on the Eve of All Saints each year -- I recently posted game and costume ideas! I wish that our actual party was on the feast of All Saints, and that we had something along the lines of this awesome All Hallows' Eve Party that Jennifer Miller suggests. Maybe next year!! Nevertheless, in keeping with the penitential nature of of this day, our children always save their bag of treats from the party to enjoy after Mass on the actual feast.)

Some recipes to try for All Hallows' Eve include:
From the Scotch we have the recipe for Salainn Bannock (Hallowmas). In Cooking for Christ, Florence Berger tells us that this cake was "made by Scotch lassies especially for Halloween. They stir about six teaspoons of salt into the dough so it is scarcely edible, eat it, and then, without a word or drink of water, they climb into bed to dream of their future husbands." I had to laugh and agree when she continued on to say, "We, who have good husbands and a lot of little olive plants besides, decided we didn't need any salty cake to make us dream."

All Hallows' Eve was also known as "Nutcrack Night" in England, where families gathered around the hearth to enjoy cider and nuts and apples. We won't be at home for All Hallows' Eve, otherwise it would be so much to light one of our burn piles and gather round the bonfire!! Maybe next year!

My personal favorite foods for All Hallows' Eve are Soul Cakes and Doughnuts, and the stories that go along with them. Did you know that "trick-or-treating" was originally a custom started by Catholic English children who would go about begging their neighbors for a "Soul Cake?"

In her book (which I highly recommend!) The Year & Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every Season, Mary Reed Newland says:
Begging at the door grew from an ancient English custom of knocking at doors to beg for a "soul cake" in return for which the beggars promised to pray for the dead of the household. Soul cakes, a form of shortbread — and sometimes quite fancy, with currants for eyes — became more important for the beggars than prayers for the dead, it is said. Florence Berger tells in her Cooking for Christ a legend of a zealous cook who vowed she would invent soul cakes to remind them of eternity at every bite. So she cut a hole in the middle and dropped it in hot fat, and lo — a doughnut. Circle that it is, it suggests the never-ending of eternity. Truth or legend, it serves a good purpose at Halloween.

The refrains sung at the door varied from "a soul cake, a soul cake, have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake," to the later:

Soul, soul, an apple or two,
If you haven't an apple, a pear will do,
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for the Man Who made us all.

In Cooking For Christ, Florence Berger shares recipes for both Soul Cakes and Doughnuts:

  • 1 cake yeast
  • 1/4 cp lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cp sugar
  • 1/2 cp butter
  • 2 cps scalded milk
  • 6 cps flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 beaten egg

Dissolve yeast in water with one tablespoon sugar. Cover and allow to rise until light. Cream butter and remaining sugar. Add scalded milk. When mixture is lukewarm, add yeast and sifted dry ingredients. Knead into a soft dough. Let rise until double in bulk. Shape into small round or oval buns. Brush tops with egg. Bake on greased cookie sheets in a hot oven (400°) for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 350° and bake the cakes until golden brown. (picture credit)

  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 cp milk
  • 5 Tbs melted shortening
  • 4 cps whole wheat flour
  • 1 cp sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
Beat the eggs, milk and shortening. Stir in sifted dry ingredients. Roll the dough on a well-floured board until one-fourth inch thick. Cut with doughnut cutter. Fry the doughnuts in deep fat at 370° until brown. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon while still warm.

**Another simple option (especially for nauseous pregnant mommas) is to pick up some plain cake doughnuts from the bakery! ;)

November 1st ~ All Saints' Day:

After Mass, the first thing that my children usually do is pull out their treat bags from our party the night before... In fact, I think I did the same thing myself when I was a child. :)

Just like all the other major feast days -- including Christmas and Easter -- the feast of All Saints is a great day for a big feast day meal. In Cooking for Christ, Florence Berger says, "Back home we came for a real feat-day brunch with roast chicken and ham baked in red wine and all sorts of trimmings. At the table there were songs for the harvest and stories of our name saints." She goes on to say that, "For the feast we used our finest recipes, all-American choice and family favorites. What they were I will not tell you now. Use your best dishes and make your own All-Saints tradition."

What are your favorite feast day dishes? One of our favorite desserts for this autumn feast day (as well as for Thanksgiving and Christmas!) is the Frosty Pumpkin Dessert in Pampered Chef's cookbook Celebrate! I recently found out that I am intolerant to dairy, so I am determined to try and make this recipe with some Coconut Milk based ice cream instead... Wish me luck!

Frosty Pumpkin Dessert
  • 32 gingersnap cookies, finely chopped (1 1/3 cups crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 (1/2 gallon) container vanilla ice cream, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
  • 2/3 cup toffee bits
  • 1 cup solid pack pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Pantry Cinnamon Plus Spice Blend
  1. Chop cookies with Food Chopper, Place butter in Small Micro-Cooker; microwave on HIGH 30 to 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in crumbs. Firmly press crumb mixture onto bottom of Springform Pan. Place in freezer.
  2. Scoop half of the ice cream into Classic Batter Bowl using Ice Cream Dipper. Place in refrigerator 10 minutes to soften.
  3. Fold 1 cup of the whipped topping and toffee bits into softened ice cream just until blended. Spread evenly over crust using All-Purpose Spreader. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
  4. Place remaining ice cream in refrigerator 10 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, mix pumpkin, brown sugar and spice blend in batter bowl. Scoop softened ice cream into pumpkin mixture. Mix just until blended. Spread evenly over ice cream layer. Freeze until firm, about 8 hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to serve, place dessert in refrigerator 20 minutes for easier slicing. Fill Easy Accent Decorator with remaining whipped topping. Run Utility Knife around outside of dessert; remove collar from Springform pan. Smooth sides with spreader. Cut dessert into wedges. Garnish each serving with whipped topping and sprinkle with additional spice blend, if desired. Yield: 16 servings

In her book The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day, Meredith Gould shares another tradition for this feast, which I had never heard of before. She says:

Usually regarded as a traditional food for Lent, in some eastern European countries, pretzel making is also an All Saints Day ritual. The dough for these pretzels is shaped into a figure eight, to represent saints or martyrs.

She goes on to share easy super easy directions for making pretzels:

Unless you enjoy making bread from scratch, skip this labor-intensive step and use prepared bread dough from the supermarket. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into ropes about 12" long. Twist each rope into an eight. Place these "saints" on a greased baking sheet 1 1/2" apart, then brush with egg white beaten with water. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F.

All Saints in Heaven ~ Pray for us!

November 2 ~ All Souls' Day:

"But our charity and love go out to those who, though dead, still stand and watch at Heaven's gate before they can taste of the Lord's feast. We turn from our gaiety to the sombre thought that we, too, may one day be waiting at the closed lattice because we are not perfect yet. We leave our friends to visit the loneliest spot on earth -- the cemeteries of the dead." ~ Florence Berger, Cooking with Christ

One of our favorite things to do for the Feast of All Souls' is to attend a Mass celebrated by a wonderful priest at a local cemetery and make a poster of souls to remember in our family rosary during the month of November. Since All Souls falls on Sunday this year, we haven't heard whether or not Father will still be having the Mass at the cemetery or not. I hope so!

We also love reading Father Philip tells a Ghost Story and The Spirit of Tio Fernando: A Day of the Dead Story. (Both of which remind us to pray for the souls of the departed.)

Various countries have different traditions and recipes for this feast. T
he English celebrate once again with Soul Cakes (recipe above), in Mexico one of the traditions for the day is Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead), the Italians make Eggs in Purgatory and Fave dei Morti (Beans of the Dead), and in Switzerland you will find them making Dry Bones Cookies.

Since my mother-in-law is Spanish (which makes my children 1/4 Spanish), I was particularly interested in learning about the Mexican traditions. In Catholic Traditions in Cooking (another great Catholic Cookbook), Ann Ball shares the following:

On November 1 and 2, altars are assembled throughout Mexico in honor of the departed. They are laden with flowers and sugar-candy skulls, skeleton toys, candles, photographs, bread, chocolate, and the favorite food and drink of the returning spirits. The Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) is a family feast that commemorates the dead and at the same time celebrates life. In Europe, the faithful prayed for the souls of the faithful departed and those in Purgatory on All Souls Day. In Spanish-Indian Mexico, this day became the day of the Dead, and the Mexicans celebrated with those who had gone before, feasted with them, and welcomed them home for a visit. On the morning of October 31, the souls of the "los angelitos," the little innocent ones, return. Their parents have made altars in their homes for them, and there the little ones will find their favorite sweets, toys, flowers, and candles. By noon on November 1, the children have left, and the souls of the departed adults begin to return, to feast at altars with their favorite foods.

Ann Ball also recommends a whole number of Mexican dishes that are traditional foods for this feast including: Pan de Yema (a special sweet bread made in the form of a man, woman, or child), Tamales, Chicken Mole, Tinga, and Bone Punch to drink.

This year I am planning on trying out her recipes for Tinga and serving it with Bone Punch. (As we try a few of her recipes, we will also be praying for her soul, since she passed away earlier this year.)

  • 1 pound hamburger meat
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups water
Brown meat in a medium skillet. Drain off excess grease. Add chopped onion and cook over medium heat until onion is clear. Dissolve cornstarch in water and pour over meat, stirring to thicken. Add spices. Serve hot over rice or in taco shells.


  • 1 32-oz. can pineapple juice
  • 1 Bottle Hawaiian Punch concentrate, mixed as directed
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint leaves
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 can sugar cane or slices of peeled fresh cane
Place mint leaves in water and bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes. Cool and strain leaves. In punch bowl, mix pineapple juice, mint tea, and Hawaiian punch. Cut sugar cane pieces in fourths lengthwise. Float on punch. Yield: 2 gallons

I had also hoped to make Sugar-Candy Skulls this year, but unfortunately I never got around to ordering the supplies. Instead, I am planning on trying out Ann Ball's recipe for Ossi dei Morti (Dead Bone Cookies).

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup almonds, chopped fine
  • confectioner's sugar
Cream the sugar, butter and eggs together. Add the flour gradually, beating until smooth. Add the vanilla and nuts, blending well. Form each teaspoon of dough into a bone or crescent shape, placing the cookies an inch apart on greased baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes in a 400-degree oven, or until the cookies are lightly browned. Dust with confectioner's sugar if desired.

O merciful God, take pity on those souls who have no particular friends and intercessors to recommend them to Thee, who, either through the negligence of those who are alive, or through length of time are forgotten by their friends and by all. Spare them, O Lord, and remember Thine own mercy, when others forget to appeal to it. Let not the souls which Thou hast created
be parted from thee, their Creator.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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  1. Thank you Jesscia. My family is from Mexico so it was so nice to see some of the recipes mentioned. We have always had special memories of All Souls Day. Ususally packing many of the dishes you mentioned and spending the day besides the graves of those we are rememering and praying for. My father being one of them. We lost him tragicallly when I was just a child.

    But they are sweet and great recipes. I do hope you try some. We'll be putting up our little altar once again, attending Mass and serving pan de los muertros along with a nice dinner.

    This post has such meaning for me. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Wonderful post! The recipes we'll have to try.

  3. We always had Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve. Apparently it's a tradition among Irish Catholics in the U.S. and reflects abstaining from meat the day before Christmas. Perhaps you could incorporate this food tradition into your blog.