November -All Saints & All Souls

Nov. 1st – All Saints Day

Every year on November 1, many Christians around the world observe All Saints Day, to honour all of the saints who have reached heaven.

In the British Isles they began to celebrate All Saints Day on November 1st, hundreds of years ago, as early as the eighth century, to coincide with the Celtic festival known in Ireland and Scotland as Samhain. It is believed that November 1st was chosen because Samhain (October 31st, Hallowe’en) was the date of the Celtic festival of the dead.

 All Saints Day is not only to remember Saints, but all those who have died who were members of the local church congregation. In some congregations, a candle is lit and each person’s name is called out by the minister or priest. In some churches the names of those who have died in the past year are etched on a memorial plaque, or listed on a church memorial bulletin.

Nov. 2nd – All Souls Day

On Nov 2nd, known as ‘All Souls Day’, the Irish believed that the souls of the dead would return to their families and speak to their descendants, passing down two gifts:

  • The ability to recall the olden days and traditions

  • The ability to have a deeper understanding of the links to their bloodlines.

Sweep the Floor!

Light the Fire!

In preparation for the return of the dead, Irish families would sweep their floors, and light a strong fire. A bowl of spring water was placed on the table, and a place setting was laid out for each deceased family member.


In some parts of Ireland the young children would go “soul-caking,”. They knocked on their neighbor’s doors, and asked for cakes in exchange for prayers to be recited for the dead.

Soul Cakes are a cross between a scone and a biscuit, and are easy to make The little cakes are marked with a cross before being baked.

Soul Cake Recipe

  • butter ¾ c
  • sugar ¾ c
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 c white flour
  • 2 teaspoons allspice or cinnamon
  • ½ c currants or raisins
  • a little milk to mix (2 Tbps)

Cream the butter and sugar together and then add beaten egg yolks   Add flour and spice, then mix with butter, sugar and egg yolk mixture.
Stir in the currants and add enough milk to make a soft dough, similar to scones.
Roll dough, cut out little cakes with a biscuit cutter. Mark each cake with a cross and place them on a greased baking sheet.
Bake the cakes for 10 to 15 minutes, at 375,or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack and the store in an airtight tin for up to 5 days.

Candles at the Grave

The Irish would also visit the graves of deceased family members, clean the graves and the area around them, light a candle, and leave it burning alongside the tombstone.


The traditions and customs of All Saints Day and All Souls Day continue today, passed down through the generations, and on through the next generations.

“Soul, Soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
three for Him who 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.”


Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

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