The Sunday before Advent is known as ‘Stir Up Sunday’, after the opening words of a Church prayer on that day. Appropriately, it is also the day for stirring up your Christmas plum pudding.
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.
Book of Common Prayer, 1549.
RICH and luxurious plum pudding was banned as “unfit for God-fearing people” by the republican Puritans in 1647, prompting riots in Kent.
Christmas celebrations returned with Charles II in 1660, and in 1714 King George I requested plum pudding for his first Christmas in England, making it fashionable once again.
Traditionally, thirteen ingredients are used, representing Christ and his Apostles. Each family member would take a turn stirring a mixture of beef suet, flour, eggs, spices, spirits, and dried fruit (‘plums’ in old-fashioned English), stirring east to west in honour of the journey of the Wise Men, and making a wish.
A silver sixpence might be tossed in too as a little surprise on Christmas Day.
On the day itself, the pudding is decorated with holly, recalling Christ’s crown of thorns, and as it is brought piping hot to the table it is doused with brandy and set alight, symbolising the fiery power of the Spirit.