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While today we celebrate Stir-Up Sunday on the last Sunday before first Advent Sunday, on November 21 this year, by making delicious Christmas puddings with family, this wasn’t the original meaning of the day! As it’s a Sunday leading up to Christmas, it’s religiously important to Christians, who mark the day with specific Bible readings. However, since the Victorian era, it has been a day of family celebration and cooking! Traditionally, family members would stir pudding and make wishes for the new year on this day. Besides delicious family bonding, the day offers a chance to get ahead and cross off at least one item on your Christmas to-do list — pudding!
History of Stir-Up Sunday
Any Brit can tell you about the delights of a delicious Christmas pudding at the end of the Advent season! However, the traditional dish hasn’t always looked the same over the years. With various different ingredients and surrounding traditions, the Christmas pudding is the whole point of Stir-Up Sunday and carries an interesting history.
In the 1300s, the first rudimentary Christmas puddings were cooked up. They were originally a porridge called ‘frumenty,’ and 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.
Over the next two hundred years, frumenty morphed into more of a plum pudding. Additions of breadcrumbs, eggs, dried fruit, and spirits added to the flavor and texture of the meal. Later, it became the official meal of Christmas dinners, around 1650. This was short-lived, however, as strict Puritans decided it was an evil meal around 1664. The story ends in 1714, when George I of Germany re-introduced pudding for Christmas, since he enjoyed plum pudding. The Christmas pudding was a staple of the Victorian era.
The history of Stir-Up Sunday has few firm dates, but the tradition solidly stretches back to Victorian times, when families would stir the pudding together, a few weeks before Christmas, making a wish for the new year with each turn of the spoon. However, the holiday’s roots stretch back even further — to 1549. The name of the holiday comes from the Book of Common Prayer of 1549, which begins the collect with, “Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord.”
Today, we enjoy Christmas pudding that is most similar to plum pudding, and while Stir-Up Sunday has strong ties to its religious roots, it is often just a festive holiday for families to bake a Christmas meal together!
Stir-Up Sunday timeline
The Christmas porridge that emerges in the 1300s bears little resemblance to the Christmas pudding we know today — it is made with beef, mutton, prunes, raisins, currants, wine, and spices.
The opening words of the collect in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 are “Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord…” — which is where the holiday gets its name.
From its 14th-century roots, Christmas plum pudding takes on a new form with the addition of eggs, breadcrumbs, dried fruit, and spirits.
In 1650, the classic pudding recipe becomes a staple around the holidays, but it is short-lived — it is banned by Puritans in 1664 as an evil custom.
Though many say that Christmas pudding was introduced by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, others speculate that it was actually George I of Germany who brought it back in 1714.
Stir-Up Sunday FAQs
Are there other holidays on November 22?
Yes! November 22 is also Mother Goose Day, Humane Society Anniversary Day, and Crystal Skull World Day.
Are there other national holidays before Christmas?
Yes! There are four religiously-important Sundays during Advent, leading up to Christmas. Each Sunday calls for a specific reading of the Bible.
Where is Stir-Up Sunday celebrated?
How to Observe Stir Up Sunday
Gather with family
While this day is famous for making Christmas pudding, don’t overlook what’s so important about that — doing it with family! Round up your chosen family or friends and have a day in the kitchen celebrating the spirit of the holidays and your bond.
Make some pudding!
Though Christmas may seem a while off, pudding keeps in the refrigerator for a long time, and it’s meant to be made on this day. Today is the best day to dig up Grandma’s old recipe or find one of your own to whip up and impress the family with on Christmas.
Learn the history of Stir-Up Sunday
Interestingly, this day hasn’t always been about pudding. Read up on the history of how Stir-Up Sunday transformed from a religious holiday to a family culinary event!
5 Interesting Facts About Stir-Up Sunday
The lucky stir has a prescribed direction
Traditionally, Stir-Up Sunday families stirred the pudding from east to west, to honor the wise men who journeyed in this direction to meet the baby Jesus.
It’s not called ‘stir-up’ because of cooking
The name ‘stir-up’ comes from the opening words of the collect, from the Book of Common Prayer (1549), which read: “Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord …”
Puddings traditionally include 13 ingredients
Representing Christ and his 12 disciples, a traditional Christmas pudding includes 13 ingredients.
Every family member gets a wish
Traditionally, when a family whips up a Christmas pudding together, each family member will make a wish on their turn to stir.
Puddings once included symbols for good luck
Some traditional puddings in past times included a thimble for a lucky life or a ring for luck in upcoming marriage.
Why We Love Stir-Up Sunday
Who doesn’t love a classic Christmas pudding? Since today is a day to try out recipes, feel free to taste-test the puddings at will. If you’re not full of pudding and excited for the holiday by the end of Stir-Up Sunday, we think you may have done it wrong!
It brings the family together
With Stir-Up Sunday, you don’t have to wait until Christmas dinner to get the whole gang together. While Christmas can be formal and stuffy, gathering in a kitchen to make a pudding certainly isn’t! Enjoy this easy holiday with family ahead of the holiday stress.
Stir-Up Sunday has been around for ages. It actually started in Victorian times, with each family member present stirring the pudding, then making a wish for the new year. Plus, it’s one Christmas to-do item that can be crossed off the checklist!
Stir-Up Sunday dates