There are many things that say Christmas is on the way – ice skating rinks popping up everywhere, getting the Holidays Are Coming tune stuck in your head and the mad dash for Black Friday bargains – but nothing says the festive season like Stir-up Sunday.
This year it falls on November 25th, which means you’ve not got much time to get your ingredients together. Officially the time of year when you mix up your Christmas pudding or cake, giving it plenty of time to mature before the big day, there are loads of nice traditions that go with it.
If you’ve never had a family Stir-up Sunday before, now’s the time to get in on the action. It’s a great excuse to get everyone together before the craziness of the festive period starts. Traditionally, Christmas pudding is prepared on Stir-up Sunday, but in some households it’s the cake that gets baked on this day and if you’re feeling adventurous you can do both.
Your main preparation for Stir-up Sunday should be deciding what to make and stocking up on all the ingredients. If you’re going to stick with tradition and made a Christmas pudding then you need a good recipe. This one from Baking with Granny has a few more things in it than the original 13 – to represent Jesus and the disciples – but is pretty classic in its approach.
Another tradition is to hide a surprise in the Christmas pudding. This is often a sixpence and whoever finds it on December 25th gets good luck, but some people go even further with a whole heap of charms. The coin is for wealth, a wishbone for luck, a thimble for thrift, a ring for marriage and an anchor for safe harbour.
If you manage to gather all these things together by Sunday, then make sure you give them a good clean before popping them in the mix. Also, remember to tell everyone on Christmas Day that they’re there to avoid broken teeth or someone swallowing their luck by mistake.
Not everyone likes fruit cake, but if you do, then a beautifully decorated creation is likely to take pride of place on your Christmas table. In many families, there’s a tried and tested recipe that’s been passed down through the generations. If you haven’t got one, then pinch this version from the English Mum for a rich and fruity cake.
Once you’ve made your cake, you might want to feed it over the next few weeks in the run up to Christmas. This is a strange way of saying that you’ll poke holes in it and drizzle with rum or brandy to ramp up the Christmas cheer on the big day.
The all-important stirring
Christmas puddings and cakes are made with really stiff mixtures, which makes stirring a tough job. This means it’s passed around everyone in the family to have a go and help out. Nobody knows, but maybe the idea of getting to make a wish as you stir was a way of convincing unwilling family members to do their share of the mixing.
Apparently, the bowl should be passed from east to west to represent the direction the Wise Men travelled in to visit the baby Jesus. You won’t find this instruction on most recipes, but it’s a nice tradition to follow.
Get everyone in the Christmas spirit
Of course, if you’ve got everyone round to do some stirring, then you’ll need to have some refreshments to keep them going. Make up a big batch of mulled wine, like this from The Petite Cook and you’ll find you’ll have lots of willing volunteers for Stir-up Sunday next year too.