A Lesson from the Day of the Dead

Time comes to a halt on All Souls Day (Todos Santos), November 2, a day of ancient ritual. I learned that lesson when I spent the day with a Mexican family in Puebla, Mexico. To miss this celebration of death was simply unheard of. Our place was the cemetery, where the grandparents lay under thick…

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La Toussaint:* The Saints and Souls Who Preserve Us

A novel about an arrogant food critic could only happen in France. Bien sûr! Some time ago, I set myself the challenging and Sisyphean task of reading Muriel Barbery’s first novel, Une gourmandise, in French.  (Barbery’s reputation rests on her extremely philosophical second novel --- The Elegance of the Hedgehog [what a title!], which took…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: More Soul Cakes

About All Souls' Day (November 2), Sir James George Frazer wrote detailed notes in The Golden Bough: a Study in Magic and Religion, a classic in anthropology. Notice the mention of marigolds, also common in Mexico. In Lechrain, a district of Southern Bavaria which All Souls in existence along the valley of the Lech from…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Soul Cakes

Trick-or-treating may well have originated in the old custom of "souling," as people went from house to house, begging ( "mumming") for "soul cakes," actually prayers --- in sweet form.  Sir James George Frazer wrote about this practice in The Golden Bough: a Study in Magic and Religion, a classic in anthropology, first published in…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Cider and Curds

About All Souls' Day (November 2), Sir James George Frazer wrote in The Golden Bough: a Study in Magic and Religion, a classic in anthropology: The day of the dead or of All Souls, and other as we call it, is commonly the second of November. Thus in Lower Brittany the souls of the departed…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Honey Cakes

Some interesting comments from 1845 about All Souls' Day, by Charles Knight in Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (!), Volume 14, p. 441: To do a Tarentella as it ought to be done requires room, and although the palaces of the nobility and gentry be large (in ninety cases…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Here Come the Pumpkins

Some pumpkin-laden advice from Janet McKenzie Hill, sounding like the Martha Stewart of a much earlier generation in her  Practical Cooking and Serving: a Complete Manual of How to Select, Prepare, and Serve Food (1902, p. 566): CENTREPIECE OF FRUIT FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER OR HARVEST FESTIVAL [Halloween] Select a golden-colored, medium-sized, well-shaped pumpkin. With a…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Ghoulish Goodies

Check this out --- a recent cookbook all about Halloween, for kids young and old: Ghoulish Goodies: Creature Feature Cupcakes, Monster Eyeballs, Bat Wings, Funny Bones, Witches' Knuckles, and Much More! (Frightful Cookbook), by Sharon Bowers (2009). Eat, drink, and enjoy the creepy yuckiness of Monster Eyeballs, Chocolate Spider Clusters, Buried Alive Cupcakes, and Screaming…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Still Nuts

Jonkheer L. C. van Panhuys, in Proceedings, Vol. 2 (p. 698, 1904), from the Internationaler Amerikanisten-Kongress held in Stuttgart in 1904, said: In the different names [for Halloween] we find also an explanation. The first of November, still called New-Years day on the island of Man, was the new years day on the beginning of…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Nuts

Nuts, being a delicacy associated with autumn, seem to naturally be part of the Halloween pantry of the past. And Robert Chambers elaborated on this in his 1883 The Book of Days: a Miscellany of Popular Antiquities: Indeed the name of Nutcrack Night, by which Halloween is known in the north of England, indicates the…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Apples

In Rustic Speech and Folk-lore (1911, p. 299-300), Elizabeth Mary Wright describes a Halloween custom we still practice: October 31 is Halloween, the Eve of All Saints' Day, a night specially devoted to love-divination ceremonies, and other superstitious customs such as we have noticed in a previous chapter. The game of hanch-apple is a favourite…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Cabbages and Rings

In Rustic Speech and Folk-lore (1913, p. 300), Elizabeth Mary Wright wrote: In parts of Ireland a dish called colcannon, made of potatoes and cabbage mashed together with butter, used to form part of the Halloween dinner. In it was concealed a ring, the finder whereof would be the first of the company to be…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Eggs

From Memoirs of the American Folk-lore Society, Volume 4, published in 1896, by the American Folklore Society, folk beliefs about Halloween from early America. Most U.S. Halloween practices came from Scotland. 311. On Halloween put an egg to roast before the fire and leave the doors and windows open. When it begins to sweat a…