Traditionalists know to make their Christmas Pudding on Stir Up Sunday. Stir Up Sunday always falls on the last Sunday before advent. In 2020 this means it will be celebrated on Sunday the 22 November 2020. Christmas pudding can be made weeks in advance, if stored in a cool place, away from the light. Add a splash of alcohol each week to keep it moist.
Stir Up Sunday started back in Victorian times, and was a tradition where families would come together to get their fruit puddings stirred up, steamed and stored ahead of Christmas. Each member of the family would take a turn to give all the ingredients a good mix and help tick off the first task of the festive season.
The Christmas pudding recipe is hundreds of years old and sometimes referred to as Figgy Pudding.
One of the loveliest traditions when making Christmas pudding is that everyone in the family should take their turn mixing in the raw ingredients, especially children of all ages! While mixing the pudding every person should make a wish.
The day does not actually get its name from ‘stirring the pudding’: it gets its name from the Book of Common Prayer. The Collect of the Day for the last Sunday before Advent starts, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”. However since Victorian times it has become associated with the rather lovely family custom of preparing for Christmas together by making the Christmas pudding, an essential part of most British Christmas dinners.
The Christmas pudding as we know it is said to have been introduced to Britain by Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, however it is thought that a version of the pudding was actually introduced from Germany by George I ( sometimes known as the ‘pudding king’) in 1714.
Stirring the mixture clockwise might be your natural instinct but it has a special significance too. Stirring from East to West, or clockwise, is a homage to the journey made by the Wise Men.
Some people say that setting light to your Christmas pudding represents the passion of Christ. When you light a pudding, it’s tradition to use brandy but other alcohol will also work. You’re not actually lighting the pudding, but the vapour from heating it up. This is why your pudding doesn’t get a burnt taste after lighting it!
How many ingredients are in Christmas pudding and why?
Christmas pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to symbolise Jesus and the 12 Apostles. The most common ingredients are: sultanas, raisins, demerara sugar, currants, glacé cherries, stout, breadcrumbs, sherry, suet, almonds, orange and lemon peel, cognac and mixed spices. However, there are lots of variations and you can adjust the recipe to fit with your preferences or dietary requirements.
Why do you put a coin in a Christmas pudding?
It is still common for people to hide small silver coins in the pudding mixture. Traditionally it would have been a sixpence and some families have a coin that has been passed down through several generations. It works as a fun game when the pudding is finally served on Christmas Day as everyone hopes to find the coin in their portion. It’s believed to bring whoever has the coin wealth and good luck in the coming year.
If you would like to add coins into your pudding, make sure they are properly sterilised. It’s also important to tell your guests if there is a coin in the pudding so that they can look out for it! Some people wrap the coin/s in small pieces of tin foil to make them more visible.
Other trinkets were also sometimes hidden in the pudding with their own special meaning. Finding a ring represents a prospect of marriage, while a thimble would mean being single for the next year! A wishbone would grant the recipient another wish, a horseshoe represents luck and a button is for bachelors.
Where does Christmas pudding come from?
The dish known today as ‘Christmas pudding’ is thought to have descended from lots of different recipes. It started out as a sort of porridge called Frumenty which is made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. Some sources say that this was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas festivities. Others reveal that it was eaten at the start of a meal rather than at the end like our now much-loved pudding.
Over several years the porridge became more solid and sweeter in taste and it wasn’t until the Victorian era that a pudding that resembles our modern version became fully established.
On Christmas Day the pudding has its own ritual. It is topped with a sprig of holly (plastic holly is best as holly berries are poisonous) to represent Jesus’ crown of thorns.