Stir Up Sunday 24th November 2019
The term comes from the opening words of the collect 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.
Supposedly, cooks, wives and their servants would go to church, hear the words 'Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord...',
and be reminded, that it was time to start stirring up the puddings for Christmas.
Although Christmas Puddings are eaten at Christmas, some customs associated with the pudding are about Easter!
The decorative sprig of holly on the top of the pudding is a reminder of Jesus' Crown of Thorns that he wore when he was killed.
Brandy or another alcoholic drink is sometimes poured over the pudding and lit at the table to make a spectacular display.
This is said to represent Jesus' love and power.
In the Middle Ages, holly was also thought to bring good luck and to have healing powers. It was often planted near houses in the belief that it protected the inhabitants.
During Victorian times, puddings in big and rich houses were often cooked in fancy moulds (like jelly ones). These were often in the shapes of towers or castles. Normal people just had puddings in the shape of balls. If the pudding was a bit heavy, they were called cannonballs!
Putting a silver coin in the pudding is another age-old custom that is said to bring luck to the person that finds it. In the UK the coin traditionally used was a silver 'six pence'. The closest coin to that now is a five pence piece!
The tradition seems to date back to the Twelfth Night Cake which was eaten during the festivities on the 'Twelfth Night' of Christmas (the official end of the Christmas celebrations). Originally a dried pea or bean was baked in the cake and whoever got it, was 'king or queen' for the night. There are records of this practice going back to the court of Edward II (early 1300s). The bean was also sometimes a silver ring of small crown. The first coins used were a Silver Farthing or penny. After WW1 it became a threepenny bit and then a sixpence.
You might also get other items (sometimes called 'tokens' or 'favours') placed in the Christmas Pudding which also meant to have special meanings:
Bachelor's Button: If a single man found it, they would be stay single for the following year.
Old Maid's Thimble: If a single woman found it, they would be stay single for the following year.
A Ring: If a single person found this, it meant you will get married in the following year! It can also mean you will be rich for the following year
Where does Christmas pudding come from?
Like most food stories there is dispute about the origins of Christmas pudding. It is thought to have been first mentioned in Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne, (1858)although its beginnings go back more than a couple of hundreds of years.
A Christmas porridge called Frumenty was popular, in the In the Middle Ages and was a savoury ancestor of the Christmas pudding.
The recipe has changed and evolved into plum pudding, containing dried fruits, eggs, breadcrumbs, adding beers or spirits increases its shelf life. In the 19th century, it was made fashionable after Prince Albert declared his love for the Christmas pudding.
Why not make your own Christmas pudding for Stir-up Sunday, and make it a family affair?