In England, the last Sunday before Advent is known as Stir-Up Sunday in the Christian Calendar. Traditionally, this is the day when families gather together to give Christmas puddings a customary stir before storing the cake in a dark cupboard where it ages for several weeks.
While Christmas puddings are widely available commercially and recipes now allow for making last minute puddings, conventionally this process takes a full month so flavours can fully develop and deepen. In fact, some believe that you should allow the pudding to sit for a full year in order to achieve optimal results. So if you’re feeling nostalgic for the culinary past, why not start making 2010’s pudding! (Click here for some recipe ideas).
The history of Christmas pudding is quite colourful, with records dating back to 14 th century England indicating that Christmas Porridge (as it was originally called) was typically made by incorporating beef and mutton, prunes, various spices and wine. In 1664 the pudding was banned by Oliver Cromwell, an English military and political leader who believed its consumption was “a lewd custom inappropriate for people who followed God.” However, this resilient pudding was reintroduced into society by King George I in 1714, with its more familiar incarnation of dried fruit and nuts being popularized Prince Albert in the 19th century.
The name Stir-Up Sunday originates from a 16th century prayer, which today has been adapted by the Church of England and is used as the prayer after that day’s communion:
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.
After Church services, families would return home where each member would take a turn stirring the pudding. This was always done in an East to West direction in honour of the Three Kings. While stirring, everyone would make a wish and then deposit various trinkets into the batter. Each item held significance for the finder, with a coin indicating wealth, a mini horseshoe for good luck, and a ring representing marriage in the coming year.
Today, many people still believe nothing signifies the start of the holiday season better than a traditional Christmas pudding, steaming and covered in a decadent brandy sauce. If you plan on making this desert, be sure to start now so that you have several weeks to feed it with rum or brandy to plump the fruit and heighten the spices. Good luck!