- Holidays and Celebrations
Stir Up Sunday Christmas Puddings Day
Stir-up Sunday is a very special Christmas tradition
Stir-up Sunday, or Christmas Pudding Day is a very special English Christmas Tradition. It's a time for all the family to get together and start the run-up to the big day. the Christmas pudding is a rich fruit pudding made in the months before Christmas day, and not only is making and stirring the pudding wreathed in tradition, but there are many other Christmas traditions that have grown up around the Christmas pudding over time.
Here are a few of our family's fun traditions that make Christmas just that little bit more special.
English Christmas pudding traditions
Christmas time is full of traditions. Some go back a long way in history, and others are new traditions that spring up in the family. In our family we follow several Christmas cake traditions, but my Mother always bought the Christmas pudding from the supermarket.
When we did have home-made Christmas pudding, it was at my Great Aunts. My ‘Aunty Jenny’ would make a pudding every year and serve it with sickly sweet brandy butter. We would eat it eagerly as children, not only because we loved the pud, but because scattered throughout the pudding, wrapped in little twists of grease-proof paper, my Aunt had hidden silver sixpences and threepenny bits (that was the English currency before we went decimal).
I use the term English advisedly. Having lived in Scotland for many years, I know that they have their own rich traditions, some the same as England and others very different. In Aberdeen, for instance, they have a pudding not dissimilar from the English Christmas pudding, called a Cluty (or Cloutie) Dumpling. I certainly can’t vouch for customs in Wales, Ireland. Even in southern England has different customs from the north and we were a family that, in recent memory, came from Northumberland and Tyneside.
I'll bet my Aunt didn't wait to make the pudding on Stir-up Sunday, but here is a bit of the history and traditions surrounding the English Christmas Pudding.
Traditional English Christmas pudding recipes (and more) from times gone by
If you've watched the wildly popular Downton Abbey TV series, you'll have seen all that gorgeous, traditional English food. Now it's your turn to try some of these wonderful recipes, including a recipe for Christmas pudding
My own Christmas cake using my great aunt Jenny's Christmas cake recipe
Make your own traditional English Christmas cake
- Traditional English Christmas Cake Recipe
This is a real, traditional English Christmas cake recipe passed down to me from my Great Aunt. It is a wonderfully moist, heavy fruit cake that we used to cover in marzipan and ice. We also gave it to first footers at New Year.
When is Stir-up Sunday?
Stir-up Sunday is an Anglican term for the last Sunday of the church year, the Sunday before Advent. 24 November in 2013.
It’s interesting, though, amongst my family and friends, the Christmas pudding, like the Christmas cake, was made during October. One friend even said that she wasn’t making a pudding this year because she had one left over from the year before! Our ancestors knew about storage!
Where does the name 'stir-up Sunday' come from?
The term comes from the opening words of the collect, a prayer that sums up the themes of the service, for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549.
“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
In England, it’s used now in relation to the Christmas pudding through association only: ‘Stir up faith’ is only one step away from ‘Stir up Pudding’ if you’re a busy housewife planning Christmas.
A wicked children’s alternative to the above went a bit like this:
“Stir up we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot,
We’ll get home afore ye and we’ll eat the lot.”
Buy your pudding on line
Buy your Christmas pudding on-line
We don't all have time to make our own Christmas pud, so if you have to cheat a little at Christmas, buy a pudding. There are many excellent puddings available and, unlike some of the other christmas treats, Christmas cake or mince pies, so why not go ahead and buy one now. They keep for years!
The folklore of the Christmas pudding
There are several religious traditions, rituals or magical aspects to making the pudding, and here are just a few:
The mixture was always stirred East to West in memory of the trip the three wise men made to worship the baby Jesus. Whilst mixing, each member of the family would make a wish. In our family, though, it was when you found the hidden coins that you made the wish.
Some accounts maintain that there were 13 ingredients in Christmas pudding, to represent Jesus and the 12 disciples, but I’ve had a quick look at the many recipes I have dating back from the 1930’s and, although they are all similar, there are variation and all have between 11 and 15 ingredients. These ingredients are roughly the same as for Christmas cake do I suppose the main difference is that one is baked in the oven and the other boiled or steamed.
The History of Christmas pudding
Christmas was a festival of feasting and the many dishes were of the hearty variety, designed to fight cold and provide energy. As food grew scarce, animals were slaughtered and the meat preserved smoking, pickling and laying down in snow or root cellars along with cheeses.
As early as the Middle Ages, Mince Pie was quite popular during the Christmas festivities and this is perhaps the oldest traditional Christmas dish. Originally it was a savoury dish made from meat; finely chopped poultry, pheasant, partridge and rabbit were mixed together well to make the Mince Pie but later sweet ingredients were added to it such as sugar, apples, raisins and candied oranges and lemons. Gradually, traditional Christmas pudding came into being by eliminating meat and putting together only the sweet ingredients in the 17th century. English called this pudding as 'Hackin' as so many ingredients were put into it. Later, even more sweets were added to it to make the Plum Pudding that was often prepared on Christmas morning.
While serving this dish, it was sprinkled with brandy and flamed. This caught on very well and soon replaced the original traditional Christmas pudding. With time, traditional Christmas fruit cake evolved from the Christmas pudding excluding the brandy or rum and including raisins, dates, nuts and candied fruit in its recipe. This dark Christmas fruit Cake became popular all over the world, where kids especially love it. Christmas cakes and puddings have become an essential Christmas ritual today. People gift each other Christmas cakes to symbolize sharing happiness and cheer during the holiday season.
Christmas pudding at Les Trois Chenes
How to Serve Christmas pudding
The pudding should be put onto a plate and brandy or similar spirits, poured over it and lit. Do this in a darkened or candle-lit room for full effect. The pudding is then served out and topped with cream, custard, brandy or rum butter or rum sauce.
Here’s wishing you a very Merry Christmas!
Do you make your own Christmas Pudding?
Do you DIY or just go buy your Christmas pud?
Sources for this article and other useful links
- Christmas Cake Traditions
Or rather my great aunt, for she was my mother's aunt. Never-the-less we children called her Aunty and she was much beloved by all of us. She was also known as 'Jinny fer Jarra', (translated as Jenny from Jarrow) or that was how it sounded to me beca
- Stir-up Sunday
Customs and traditions about Stir-up Sunday, the tradiional day to make (not buy) the family Christmas Pudding.
- Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding - Traditional Christmas Puddings - Traditions for Festive Chr
- Wikipedia Stir-up Sunday
© 2010 Les Trois Chenes