Stir Up Sunday and Christmas Pudding Traditions

Christmas pudding

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Reports are that the traditional Christmas pudding has fallen out of favor for lighter, healthier, desserts. Not so. It is still as essential to a British Christmas as it ever was. The pudding comes at the end of the largest dinner of the year and demands a huge appetite and a staunch constitution but is still very much loved (don't listen to the marketers trying to get you to buy yogurt).

Early British Christmas Puddings

Early Christmas puddings contained meat usually mutton or beef as well as onions, wine, spices and dried fruit. The tradition of Christmas pudding did not appear in England until introduced to the Victorians by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. By this time the pudding looked and tasted much as it does today and the point of difference between a traditional Christmas Cake and a Christmas Pudding is the pudding contains suet and ​is steamed rather than baked.

When and What is Stir Up Sunday?

This is the day the Christmas pudding is made and is about five weeks before Christmas; the last Sunday before the Christian season of Advent. The delicious aromas which float through the house as the pudding steams on the stove are the start of the festivities.

The customs surrounding making pudding brings the whole family together as each takes a turn to stir the mixture and make a wish and add coins; the finding of them on Christmas day purportedly bringing wealth, health, happiness, and ensuring everyone at least eats some to find one!

How to Make the Perfect Christmas Pudding

The perfect pudding should be dense, moist and oozing decadence of rich fruits and brandy. Making one does take time with at least 13 ingredients (to represent Christ and his disciples) to weigh, time to marinate and steaming which takes at least seven hours. But once made and put away in a cool, dry place, it needs only a further hour steaming on the day itself.

Christmas Pudding Recipes

There are many, many recipes for Christmas pudding, some dark and rich others lighter. Some use beef suet and others vegetarian suet for a lighter pudding. Whichever you decide on, you will only need a small slice after dinner and the beauty of the pudding is it reheats well–perfect for Boxing Day.

Why Do We Flame the Christmas Pudding?

Flaming the pudding is another tradition, believed to represent the passion of Christ, and again is an essential part of the theater of Christmas day. Eating Christmas pudding was banned by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century because he believed the ritual of flaming the pudding harked back to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.

The Easy and Safest Way to Flame the Christmas Pudding

The flaming of the pudding needs a steady hand and for safety reasons, not be someone who has enjoyed too much wine.

  • Half-fill a metal ladle, or similar, with brandy and carefully heat over a gas flame or lit candle.
  • When the flame is hot enough, the brandy will light.
  • Pour the flaming brandy over the pudding. Make sure the lights are out when taking to the table for a grand entrance.
  • Once the flames have subsided, serve with a brandy butter, brandy sauce, cream or home-made custard.

Drinks for Christmas Pudding

The favorite is a Vintage Port, the fruitcake flavors and chocolaty richness works very well with the pudding but good matches are also a Muscat liqueur or rich Madeira.

Alternative Christmas Puddings

If you really must, or you have guests who don't like the traditional pud then there are some tasty Christmas Pudding alternatives out there.