Soul Caking and ale drinking

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So this weekend I’ve been cultural like you wouldn’t believe and followed this group of quirky performers of an ancient Cheshire folk play around the city. It wasn’t just a pub crawl, no Sir! It was culture!

 

The old English custom of “souling” or “soul caking” is thought to date back to the tenth century or even pagan times. Cheshire has enjoyed the tradition since around the 1400’s, and I have enjoyed it now for exactly one year and I intend to enjoy it next year also. This is totally going to be my new Christmas tradition.

 

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So what’s it all about then? Traditionally on or around Halloween, the soul cakers would go from house to house singing either a begging song or a plea for prayers for the dead.  Pubs were also on the agenda. The plays usually consisted of a fight between St George and his adversaries with names like Slasher and Hector, which would result in one of the characters being killed and brought back to life by a comical quack doctor.  The Hooden Horse often accompanied the soul cakers with its head made from the skull of a horse, its eyes from bottoms of glass bottles and a hinged lower jaw that could snap or bite.

 

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But what is a “soul cake”, then? Well, a soul cake is a small round cake which is traditionally made for All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day to commemorate the dead in the Christian tradition. The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, are given out to soulers who go from door to door during the days of Allhallowtide singing and saying prayers “for the souls of the givers and their friends”.

 

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The Jones Ale Soul Cakers, Chester’s own “miscreants and vagabonds who occasionally gravitate in a lemming-like fashion to act and entertain anyone who cares to watch”, have been performing their hilarious play for the past 15 years or so. What I really love about this group though, is that this tradition is being passed down the family, now at least in its third generation if memory serves me right. I was a few beers in so apologies if I got it wrong, but it does warm my cockles to think that this tradition has been passed down the family ranks for such a long time.

 

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Anyway, the guys go from pub to pub performing the play and collecting money for charity, and on Saturday my girlfriend and I followed them around. I cannot believe that neither of us had never heard of this tradition before but now that we have, it’s firmly set on our Christmas agenda for years to come. It’s history but it’s fun, it’s inclusive and you can follow it while drinking beer. And that, ladies and gents, is history of the best kind.

 

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Have you got a Christmas tradition like this in your home town? Tell me all about it. ❤❤

9 Comments

  • Lena January 5, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    My Christmas tradition has been working at the hospital last couple Christmases 🙁 Hoping to change that this next coming Holiday Season. I want to be with family. I love learning about others traditions:)

    Reply
  • Jennifer December 14, 2016 at 12:27 am

    No traditions like that!! Sounds fun ☺️

    Reply
  • Margot Guilbert December 13, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun!!! We don’t have such xmas tradition in france…
    xo, Margot
    http://thepastelproject.com/

    Reply
  • Ashlee December 13, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Ah! I want to visit England so bad. We don’t have too many city traditions where I’m from… loved reading your post 🙂

    Ashlee
    http://www.theivoryfawn.com

    Reply
  • Sonja Josipovic December 13, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Looks like so much fun! Great post!
    http://stylequest.se/

    Reply
  • kaleigh December 13, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    This looks like so much fun!

    Reply
  • Ivana J December 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I really like your tradition, sounds so interesting, and i am glad i learned something new. Unfortunately we do not have any kind of traditions for Xmas at my city, and that makes me feel sad xo

    http://www.theninebyivana.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • Ellie December 13, 2016 at 3:07 am

    Oh my gosh! I from England and I’ve never heard of this lol! It looks so fun! Great evening at the pub for sure!

    Reply
  • Iliyana December 12, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Such a great article! I really enjoyed it 🙂 Unfortunately, I can’t think of an tradition in Bulgaria that reminds the described one, it’s obviously one of a kind 😛

    Reply

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