Stir up Sunday – a family tradition

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The FRA's culinary expert SARA GYNGELL tells the story behind a day, which for her and many others, brings back those festive childhood memories.

“Stir Up Sunday” is the last Sunday of the church year before Advent.  Christmas Puddings were traditionally made then so they could develop a full flavour before Christmas.

The pudding would be stirred from East to West in honour of the Three Wise Men and each family member would make a wish.

On “Stir up Sunday”, which this year falls on 22nd November, children would sing on their way back from church.

“Stir up we beseech thee the pudding in the pot

And when we get home we’ll eat the lot”

Traditionally, a Christmas pudding would contain thirteen ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples, and the holly garnish represented the crown of thorns.  Although these days it’s best to opt for fake holly as holly berries are poisonous.

When I was a child the delight of finding a silver sixpence in your portion of pudding made Christmas.  A variety of charms were added, each signifying something different. A silver coin for wealth, a ring for marriage, an anchor for safe harbour and a wishbone for luck.

For our family it’s also the day we start the Christmas cake and mincemeat for the mince pies.

Homemade mincemeat is far superior to the shop bought variety and it’s lovely to give away a few jars to family and friends. All the mixtures are worthy of stirring and wish making.

If you’ve never tried making any of these traditional Christmas treats before, then I can’t think of a better year to begin this wonderful tradition and brighten up the dark November days of lockdown!

Your whole kitchen will be filled with the evocative aroma of spices and orange as the dried fruit plumps up in its bath of brandy and juices.   Children especially will love measuring, stirring and making a wish.

It’s such a tradition in my family that even after my children left home for University I came up with the idea that they could still make a wish by proxy. I would ring each of them and say “OK, I’m stirring for you, now make a wish”. It connected them with home.

The process is easy and so very therapeutic I urge you to give it a go!

This is a classic Christmas pudding recipe from Good Housekeeping and one of my favourites

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