Stir it up! November 25 2013

Yesterday was Stir-Up Sunday.  "What?" I hear you ask.  "What's Stir-Up Sunday?"

Stir-Up Sunday is the last Sunday before the season of advent.  It was a traditional day for everyone in the family to take a turn at stirring the Christmas pudding whilst making a wish.  It is a British tradition that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert said to have introduced.

Before Christmas puddings were sold ready-made, they were always made at home. They were made a month before Christmas day so the flavours had plenty of time to develop before Christmas.

On Stir-Up Sunday families returned from Church to give the pudding its traditional lucky stir.  The pudding mixture was always stirred from East to West in honour of the three Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus.  Whilst stirring the pudding mixture, each family member would have an opportunity to make a wish.

On their way back from church, children were often heard chanting the following rhyme:

"Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot;
And when we get home we'll eat the lot."
These words were an adaptation of what they had heard in church on this day.


Why is it called Stir-Up Sunday?

The name 'Stir-Up Sunday' comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and later.  (The collect is the prayer of the day that “collects” up the themes of the readings during a church service). 

The original collect (prayer) has today been adapted into more modern language and is now the Church of England's prayer after communion for Stir-Up Sunday:

"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. Amen."

These days, most children have never experienced the stirring experience of a Christmas pudding but that is probably because most Christmas pudding are now bought ready made And so the tradition is not widely known as it once was.

Christmas Pudding Traditions

  • A Christmas pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His Disciples.
  • A proper Christmas pudding is always stirred from East to West in honour of the three Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus.
  • Every member of the family must give the pudding a stir and make a wish.
  • A coin was traditionally added to the ingredients and cooked in the pudding.  It was supposedly to bring health, wealth and happiness to whoever found it on their plate on Christmas Day.  The first coins used were a Silver Farthing or penny.  After WW1, it became a threepenny bit and then a sixpence.  In today's money, that would be a five pence piece.
  • Other traditional additions to the pudding were "tokens" or "favours".  These included a ring, to foretell a marriage or a lucky charm.