Remembering the History of Funeral Cookies

By: John Moles
Thursday, February 9, 2017

Are you familiar with the old concept of funeral cookies? If you aren’t, that’s probably because they haven’t been used in many years. The use of funeral cookies was huge during the colonial age but they were basically out of existence by the time World War I happened.

While they may not be used at our funeral homes in Bellingham & Ferndale, they’re a very interesting part of history that deserves to be revisited. In case you haven’t heard of them by this name they were also called “dead cakes” in Great Britain.

Despite the relatively dark name, they were actually a bit of a blessing during those times. Since it could often be difficult to find food and especially treats, they provided a source of nourishment as well as some comfort for those who knew the deceased.

All funeral cookies weren’t the same and you could find a number of different varieties. They ranged from a sponge cake like batter to a traditional molasses cookie as well as ones with a dark chocolate batter. Generally, they varied depending on what country or part of the world you were in.

Another unique thing about them is that they were often made with images that symbolized death such as winged cherubs, skulls, and hourglasses.

It wasn’t all about the cookie but also the wrapper the cookie came in. They were printed with poetry, bible verses and even the death notice of the person. Finally, they were sealed with black wax. So, you see it was a very well thought out item with every detail carefully planned out.

How did people end up receiving them? There were a few different ways people would receive them. If someone was expected to be attending the deceased funeral they acted as a funeral notice. They were delivered to those people by family or sometimes people who were hired to drop them off to the individuals. As well as acting as a funeral notice they also could be handed out during the funeral as guests walked from the church to the burial site.

What do you think about this concept? They seem like something certain people may enjoy and could be worth considering as an option for our clients at our funeral homes in Bellingham & Ferndale. It’s not something we’re seriously thinking about right now but we’re always curious to hear everyone’s thoughts and remembering past traditions.

Have you ever heard of them in the past? Maybe you have family who has even received one. If you’re familiar or have a family history with them we would love to hear your input!

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