Last weekend in November - Stir up Sunday

Written by Anne Newman 18th November 2019 updated 2022 & 2023

Stir-up Sunday, which falls on Sunday the 20th of November 2022, is an opportunity for a traditional get-together.

Stir Up Sunday is a tradition that harks back to Victorian times when the family would gather together to stir the Christmas pudding five weeks before Christmas.

I never knew it as Stir it Up Sunday yet the Plum pudding, as we called it, the Christmas Cake and the Mincemeat were always made five weeks before Christmas to give them time to mature.

We had the same tradition of the stirring of the Christmas pudding by each member of the family. We each made a wish and stirred the pudding mix three times. Everyone had to stir the pudding before it was steamed.

How did Stir it Up Sunday get its name?

The opening words of the Book Of Common Prayer, used on the last Sunday before Advent, reads:

"Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people,"

so the tradition stands that this is the day to get stirring!

Stir it up traditions

Christmas pudding would traditionally contain 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples.

It is traditionally stirred (while making a wish) by each member of the family from East to West, to remember the Wise Men that visited Jesus in the Nativity story.

The customary garnish of holly represented the crown of thorns. Be warned: the holly berry is very toxic, so instead adorn your Christmas pud with fake foliage!

click here for archive story

Christmas pudding is a sort of cake, here is how it is made. There is a big dish on the table, as well as all the materials for making it. The bread is grated and the suet is chopped up very finely, the raisins are stoned when bought and we also get currants, spice, sultanas, candied peel, baking powder and a bottle of ale. Then all these are put in the dish and mixed together; every person who stirs the pudding has his chance to wish for any thing he likes.
Why is a lazy boy like a Christmas pudding? Because he needs a good stirring up.


Easy Christmas Pudding, Chocolate and Cherry Pudding - BBC has lots of suggestions

Classic Christmas pudding

For Christmas pudding traditionalists, this lighly spiced, fruity sponge will provide the perfect finish to your festive meal. The zesty fruit and nut mixture is soaked in brandy and orange liqueur ovenight, making it plump, juicy and full of flavour, before combining with the dry ingredients. You can then either steam the pudding in a pan or oven for several hours – trust us, it's worth the wait! After turning out, it can be kept for up to a year, before finally serving with our luxurious orange custard cream or vanilla custard or double cream.

From Chapter 3, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up, and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose: a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered: flushed, but smiling proudly: with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

Bob Cratchit's Christmas Dinner, after a drawing by Edwin Austin Abbey for A Christmas Carol.

Plum Pudding or Figgy Pudding

Figgy pudding dates back to the 14th century. It was a moist, sticky, thick porridge consisting of boiled figs, water, wine, ground almonds, raisins and honey. It later included ground meat and grains, finally becoming the more familiar steamed pudding, made with dried fruit, that we eat today.

Where does the term “plum” pudding come from? Plums were what the pre-Victorians called raisins, and dried fruits in general, and the name stuck.

It wasn’t until 1845 when it first came to be called “Christmas Pudding” in Eliza Acton’s bestselling cookbook, Modern Cookery for Private Families.

"Figgy Pudding Song"

We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer.
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some,
so bring some out here.

We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year.


Anne is sharing a series of events throughout the year - you can find them listed by clicking to the link Feast Days & Festivals