What is Stir Up Sunday?
Stir Up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent in the Christian calendar. In 2021, it falls on November 21st. Stir Up Sunday is also the day that people in the UK make Christmas puddings, our traditional Christmas Day dessert but it’s also a great time to make your Christmas Cake.
Stir Up Sunday History
Originally, Stir Up Sunday had nothing to do with dessert, it was all to do with religion.
‘’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’’.
This prayer is said in many Christian churches on the last Sunday before Advent. It’s meant to prepare the congregation for Advent and to ‘stir them up’ to be mindful of the season and all it means. It is also a call to do good works and share the message of Jesus Christ and Christmas.
At some point in the 1700’s, people also realised this was also a good day to make a their Christmas puddings. A good Christmas pud needs time to mellow and age to improve the flavours, and four weeks is about perfect for this process.
Stir Up Sunday Today
Of course, you don’t have to make your Christmas Pudding on Stir Up Sunday, it’s just a fun tradition. A Sunday may be a good choice though, as Christmas Pudding does take several hours to make.
Equally, if you don’t have time to make a Christmas Pudding until after Stir Up Sunday, the pudding will still taste good. I’ve aged Christmas Puddings for as little as two weeks with good results.
Many Christmas Pudding recipes have been in families for generations, just like our family recipe. Charles Dickens writes about this historic dessert in A Christmas Carol. Unlike a North American pudding, a traditional Christmas Pudding is more like a heavy cake, full of dried fruit and flavoured with brandy or stout (a very dark beer).
Nowadays lighter recipes are becoming more popular and and there are even Christmas pudding recipes with chocolate and other non-traditional ingredients in them. Traditionalists may frown, but they really are yummy!
Stir Up Sunday Traditions
Making a Christmas pudding involves a great deal of stirring. The ingredients in Christmas pudding need to be mixed by hand as they are quite heavy and the mixture is often very stiff. Traditionally, the whole family takes part. Each member of the family takes a turn to stir the pudding mixture. Generally the youngest child stirs the pudding first, and the turns then move on in order of age. When it’s your turn, you make a wish. The wish is to be kept secret, a bit like the one you make when you blow out your birthday candles.
In years gone by, charms were hidden in Christmas puddings before they were steamed. From sixpences to thimbles, everything has a meaning, and each charm was reputed to tell the fortune of the finder. If you found a sixpence in your serving of pudding you were said to be going be rich, a thimble indicated you would always be a spinster or bachelor, and a ring meant you would be married within the year. This is done less frequently nowadays due to health and safely concerns, but many of us still wrap a single pound coin in waxed or greaseproof paper and tuck it in. The person who finds the pound coin is meant to be lucky all year.
The pudding is steamed first on Stir Up Sunday – usually for between 6 and 12 hours, depending on the recipe. After the pudding is steamed it is then cooled, wrapped in cheesecloth or grease proof paper and then foil and stored in a cool place (not the fridge). Christmas puddings taste much better if they are allowed to mellow for a few weeks in a cool place. On Christmas Day the pudding is then steamed again, but generally only for a couple of hours.
How Do You Make Old Fashioned Christmas Pudding?
I have an old family recipe for Christmas pudding, passed down from my husband’s late Grandmother. An authentic Victorian Christmas Pudding, we still make this recipe today and it is served every Christmas in our family. Find our Victorian Christmas Pudding Recipe here.
As long as there’s a couple of weeks before the big day, there’s still time to gather your ingredients and make a traditional Christmas pudding to enjoy this Christmas, whether you do it on Stir Up Sunday or not!