Stir-Up Sunday falls on the last Sunday before Advent, which is the twenty-second of November this year. The name is derived from a quote from the Bible: ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord!’ This may have been part of a stirring Sunday morning sermon and a timely reminder to make the pudding so that it would have matured by the twenty-fifth of December.
I love the festive traditions and, when I was a child, helping my mother to make the Christmas pudding on Stir-Up Sunday was one of my favourites. There was something very comforting about chatting together as we sat at the kitchen table picking stalks out of the currants and raisins. The fruit was then washed and dried on a clean tea towel in a low oven while we weighed out the remaining ingredients. The scent of drying currants mixed with nutmeg, cinnamon and brandy always smells like the essence of Christmas to me.
Once the pudding was mixed, silver sixpenny pieces were added and all the family gave the pudding a stir and made a wish.
Whoever found a silver sixpenny piece in their pudding would have good luck in the coming year. I was delighted to discover that the Royal Mint has recently announced plans to give away over two thousand sixpenny coins in an attempt to revive the tradition. Sixpenny bits were first minted in the rein of Edward VI in 1551.
The Christmas pudding, often known as a plum or figgy pudding since it sometimes contained dried plums or figs, was an important part of the Georgian and Regency Christmas dinner. The pudding included thirteen ingredients to represent Jesus and the twelve apostles and it was garnished with a sprig of holly to remind us of Christ’s crown of thorns.
Once the pudding has been steamed for several hours it is doused with brandy and set alight. Flickering with blue flames and carried with ceremony to the table in a temporarily darkened room, the Christmas pudding makes a theatrical grand finale to the festive dinner.
Here is a recipe for Christmas pudding reputedly used for the Royal Family.
1 1/4 lb. Suet
1 lb. Demerara (cane) sugar
1 lb. raisins
1 lb. sultanas
4 oz. citron peel
4 oz. candied peel
1 tsp. mixed spice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 lb. breadcrumbs
1/2 lb. sifted flour
1 lb. eggs (weighed in their shells)
1 wineglassful brandy
1/2 pint milk
Prepare all ingredients, well whip the eggs, add to milk, and thoroughly mix. Let stand for 12 hours in a cool place, add brandy and put into well-greased basins and boil 8 hours or longer. Sufficient for twenty to twenty-eight people.
If you would like to discover more about a Regency Christmas you can read my festive short story, Christmas at Quill Court available from Amazon at 99p.