Gather your family and get ready for Stir Up Sunday on Nov. 20. While American cooks are planning their Thanksgiving meal on the 24th, the Brits have a wonderful tradition of gathering the family to prepare Christmas dishes.
Stir Up Sunday is a great way for cooks to remember when to prepare their traditional holiday treats, which need time to mature before Christmas. Much like when North American families gather to make Christmas cookies for friends and family for the season, British families put on the holiday music, bring out the cider and get to work in the kitchen, passing on family recipes to the next generation.
The tradition dates back to the Victorian era when families would gather together to stir the Christmas pudding five weeks before Christmas. The opening words of the Book Of Common Prayer, used on the last Sunday before Advent, read: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”.
What to Prepare
Christmas Pudding takes the main stage on Stir-up Sunday, but mincemeat and fruitcake also benefit from time to mature.
Christmas Pudding Traditions
- Christmas pudding traditionally contained 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples.
- Take a turn stirring: families gather together to mix the pudding. Each family member takes a turn in stirring the mixture whilst making a wish. The pudding should be stirred from east to west in honour of the Magi (Wise Men) who came from the east to visit the baby Jesus. It’s also a good excuse to enjoy a wee dram or a cup of festive mulled wine!
- The customary garnish of holly represented the crown of thorns, but the holly berries are toxic, so you may wish to pass on that tradition.
- Adding coins, originally charms, to the pudding was said to bring luck if you found them in your portion on Christmas Day. The traditional lucky charms were a silver coin for wealth, a wishbone for luck, a thimble for thrift, a ring for marriage, and an anchor for safe harbour. This tradition is similar to Irish Barmbrack which is served at Halloween.
Mincemeat is so versatile as you can make various holiday treats from just one recipe.
Fruitcake actually benefits from an even longer time to mature. I typically will start marinating my dried fruit in late summer and bake my fruitcakes right after Halloween and start brushing the tops with Port every week before the holidays.
Even if you start your fruitcake on Stir up Sunday, it will still be infinitely better than store-bought.
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