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Features // Blog

Your Ultimate Guide to Stir-Up Sunday

Publisher - Great British Food Awards
published by

Dani R

Nov 17, 2021
7 minutes to read

​According to this British tradition, it’s time to start making your Christmas pud this weekend!

Festive tunes? Check! Enough candied peel and sultanas to feed an army. Check! It’s time to roll up your sleeves and join us for Stir Up Sunday.

What is stir sup Sunday?

Stir Up Sunday is a British tradition that always takes place on the last Sunday before Christian advent, and the start of the festive season . It takes its name from a prayer said in the Anglican Church on this particular religious day, which reads: “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.”

This prayer led to a centuries-old annual tradition of coming together to stir up the traditional Christmas pudding.

Stir up Sunday became a popular tradition in Victorian times, but traditional Christmas pudding has been around for much longer than that! According to historians, it was George I who first requested that plum pudding be served up to his dinner guests for the Christmas meal.

According to food historian Regula Ysewijn, the classic pudding hasn’t changed much through the years.

“Figgy pudding just means ‘Christmas Pudding’ as figs were just another word for raisins in the past. Plums were also used to describe raisins,” she explains.

What traditions take place on Stir-Up Sunday?

As the name suggests, this is a time when the family get together to stir up the pudding mixture. Common ingredients include candied peel, raisins, brown sugar, breadcrumbs, cooking apple and mixed spices (suet would have been a traditional ingredient, but is sometimes replaced with vegetable shortening in modern recipes).

Back in Victorian times, 13 ingredients were used. This number has religious significance, representing Jesus and his disciples.

Each member of the family would stir the pudding from east to west with a wooden spoon, in honour of the wise men who came from the east to meet Jesus. While doing so, they would make a wish.

Sometimes, a silver coin or two would be dropped into the pudding mix. Whoever found one while eating was said to receive good luck or wealth over the next year.

Finally, the customary garnish of Holly placed on top of the pudding represented Jesus’ crown of thorns.

The pudding mixture, once stirred, would be packed into a pudding basin and steamed for hours. It can be made weeks in advance of Christmas Day as it keeps so well - in fact, the flavours only intensify over time.

These days, Stir Up Sunday is no longer considered a religious occasion. Instead it’s an excuse to put on some festive tunes, make some mulled wine and start your festive meal preparation with plenty of time to spare!

The Stir Up Sunday Recipe Collection

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Traditional Christmas Pudding

Matthew Jones, founder of Bread Ahead Bakery and Cookery School, has provided this old family recipe for Christmas pudding. It contains mixed peel, additional spices and the all-important brandy. We recommend serving it with brandy butter or thick double cream.

See Recipe

Homemade Mincemeat

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Mincemeat requires many of the same ingredients as Christmas pudding - candied peel, sugar, and citrus zest. The dry ingredients are stewed in a generous quantity of brandy and rum to make a rich, sticky mixture that can be placed in buttery shortcrust cases at a later date

See Recipe

Mulled Gin

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A lighter, more refreshing alternative to traditional mulled wine, this cocktail is a real winter warmer. One to enjoy while the kitchen slowly fills with the scent of cinnamon and citrus from your Christmas cooking!

See Recipe

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