The last Sunday before Advent is Stir-up Sunday, a day when traditionally families gather together to prepare the Christmas pudding.
Historically a day of religious importance to Christians, marked with specific Bible readings, Stir-up Sunday gets its name from the Book of Common Prayer. The Collect for the Day for the last Sunday before Advent starts, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”.
In the 1300s, the first rudimentary Christmas puddings were created. Originally a porridge called frumenty, they were defined by a soupy mixture of beef, mutton, spices, wine, and various dried fruits, like prunes. In anticipation of Advent activities, many people would fast, and frumenty would be their last meal in preparation.
Since the Victorian era, Stir-up Sunday has been a day of family celebration and cooking. On this day, family members would each take it in turn to stir the pudding and make wishes for the new year. Traditionally the pudding was stirred from east to west, in honour of the Wise Men who came from the East to visit the baby Jesus.
Most modern puddings contain some of the following ingredients: dried fruit, prunes and dates, candied peel, mixed spice, treacle, suet, eggs, breadcrumbs and dark brown sugar. However, traditionally there would have been 13 ingredients in all, to represent Jesus and his disciples.
On Christmas Day the pudding has a more well-known traditional ritual. It is topped with a sprig of holly to represent the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross. A little warm brandy is then poured over it, set alight and carried to the table to be served with brandy butter and cream or lashings of hot custard.
Sadly, the tradition of Stir-Up Sunday is dying out. However, if you would like to take part in this custom, this year Stir-Up Sunday is on 26 November 2023.