The last Sunday of the Church Year, the Sunday before Advent, is often called 'Stir-up Sunday'. (Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas.)
Stir-up Sunday is the traditional day for everyone in the family to take a turn at stirring the Christmas pudding, whilst making a wish.
Before Christmas puddings were sold ready-made in foil containers, they were always made at home. They were made a month before Christmas day so the flavours had plenty of time to develop before Christmas.
On Stir-up Sunday families returned from Church to give the pudding its traditional lucky stir. The pudding mixture was always stirred from East to West in honour of the three Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus. Whilst stirring the pudding mixture, each family member would make a secret wish.
On their way back from church, children were often heard chanting the following rhyme:
Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot;
And when we get home we'll eat the lot.
These words were an adaptation of what they had heard in church on this day.
The name 'Stir Up Sunday' comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and later (The collect is the prayer of the day that “collects” up the themes of the readings during a church service).
The originally collect (prayer) has today been adapted into more modern language and is now the Church of England's prayer after communion for Stir Up Sunday:
"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."
A Christmas pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His Disciples.
A proper Christmas pudding is always stirred from East to West in honour of the three Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus.
Every member of the family must give the pudding a stir and make a secret wish.
A coin was traditionally added to the ingredients and cooked in the pudding. It was supposedly to bring wealth to whoever found it on their plate on Christmas Day. The traditional coin was an old silver sixpence or threepenny bit.
Other traditional additions to the pudding included a ring, to foretell a marriage, and a thimble for a lucky life.
225g/8oz golden caster sugar
225g/8oz vegetarian suet
120g/4oz chopped candied peel
120g/4oz plain flour
120g/4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
60g/2oz flaked almonds
Zest of 1 lemon
5 eggs, beaten
1level tsp ground cinnamon
1level tsp mixed spice
1 level tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
150ml/5fl oz brandy or rum
- Mix together all the dry ingredients.
- Stir in the eggs and brandy and mix through well.
- Turn the mix into 4x1pint or 2x2 pint lightly-greased pudding basins.
- Put a circle of baking parchment and foil over the top of each basin and tie securely with string.
- Make a string handle from one side of the basin to the other so it's easier to pick the basin out of the pan after cooking.
- Put the basins in a large steamer of boiling water and cover with a lid.
- Boil for 5-6 hours, topping the boiling water up from time to time if necessary.
If you don't have a steamer, put the basins in a large pan on inverted saucers on the base. Pour in boiling water to come a third of the way up the sides of the pudding bowls. Cover and steam as before.
- Change the baking parchment and foil covers for fresh ones and tie up as before. Store in a cool cupboard until Christmas Day.
To serve the pudding on Christmas Day, steam for 2 hours and serve with brandy butter, rum sauce, cream or home-made custard.