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Stir Up Sunday Christmas Puddings Day

Updated on December 15, 2015
Ingredients for your Christmas Pudding
Ingredients for your Christmas Pudding | Source

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

The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary's Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore's Christmas Pudding - More Than 150 Recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs (Unofficial Cookbook)
The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary's Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore's Christmas Pudding - More Than 150 Recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs (Unofficial Cookbook)

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

My Christmas Cake
My Christmas Cake | Source

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 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

We serve our Christmas Pudding with brandy butter, rum sauce or cream.
We serve our Christmas Pudding with brandy butter, rum sauce or cream. | Source

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?

See results

© 2010 Les Trois Chenes

Are you ready to stir up your Christmas pudding?

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    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 7 years ago from France

      No, unfortunately I haven't got the time to make it this year. I am getting my husband to bring us a couple from Cumbria so I can share it with friends. You know, the French are always curious about what the English eat.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 7 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Princessa, Thanks for your comments. I love Christmas pudding, but a little does go a long way, especially after Christmas Dinner. Are going to make your own?

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 7 years ago from France

      Very interesting, all the folklore involved in the Christmas pudding. In Peru I grew up eating Panettone (an Italian cake traditional for Christmas) I had never heard about the Christmas pudding until I moved to Scotland. I admit that the first year I wasn't expecting it to be such a rich cake, it takes time getting used to the strong flavours and texture.

      I am looking forwards to my piece this Christmas!

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 7 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      oceansnsunsets, thank you so much for your detailed comment, and the great idea of doing 'historical cooking'!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      This is such an interesting hub! I learned a lot about Stir up Sunday, the pudding, and even mince pie. Great history shared and family traditions. It would be great to taste the different variations of these dishes to see how they changed over time. The folklore involved was interesting as well, like the direction of the stirring to represent the travels of the 3 wise men. Great hub!