If you are a fan of Christmas pudding, you might have heard of Stir up Sunday, the traditional day to make this festive dessert. But what is the origin of this custom, and why is it still celebrated today?
Here, the Christmas.co.uk team explore the history, meaning and some tips for Stir up Sunday, and how you can join in the fun.
When is Stir up Sunday?
Stir up Sunday is a traditional day for making Christmas puddings in the UK. It falls on the last Sunday before Advent, which is the season of preparation for the celebration of Christmas – we explain more about this below.
But for those who want to add the date to their calendar, then the date – which changes every year depending on when Advent starts – for this event over the coming years are:
- 2023: Sunday 26 November
- 2024: Sunday 24 November
- 2025: Sunday 23 November
- 2026: Sunday 21 November
- 2027: Sunday 27 November
- 2028: Sunday 26 November.
Read on to learn more about Stir Up Sunday, why it is celebrated and some great recipes to make at home. Happy stirring!
The history of Stir up Sunday
The Sunday before Advent, which is five weeks before Christmas, is called Stir up Sunday. The name comes from a prayer that Anglicans say, which is: ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people’. This is a way of reminding Christians to get ready for the arrival of Christ at Christmas.
However, over time, the phrase also became linked with the preparation of Christmas pudding, a rich and fruity dessert that was traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his 12 apostles.
The modern interpretation of Stir up Sunday comes from the Victorians when families would stir a pudding mixture five weeks before the festivities.
The pudding is meant to be stirred to recognise the three wise men who travelled from east to west to meet Jesus after he was born – everyone taking part takes a turn to stir and make a wish.
Some people also added coins, rings or other tokens to the mixture, which are believed to bring good luck or fortune to whoever found them.
The reason why Stir up Sunday was chosen as the day to make Christmas pudding was because it gave enough time for the pudding to mature and develop its flavour before Christmas Day.
The pudding was wrapped in a cloth and boiled for several hours, then stored in a cool and dry place until it was ready to be reheated and served.
Christmas Pudding Recipe – Stir Up Sunday
This is a rather jolly video from the people at Hobbs House Bakery with an easy-to-follow Christmas pudding recipe.
Basically, everything is placed into a big bowl, the water is added and mixed, and then the zest and alcohol are added in stages.
This recipe uses beaten eggs for the final pudding mix before being added to pudding bowls and gently pressed into them.
Greaseproof paper and foil are added to seal in the tasty pudding before it is placed in simmering water to cook for 3.5 hours.
Ensure the pan is covered, and the water topped up regularly. Your pudding will cook and, after cooling, place it in an airtight container so it can be stored for the big day!
If you are looking for a simple and quick Christmas pudding recipe, we recommend you give this one a try on Stir up Sunday (there’s a lot of stirring for everyone taking part and the result is excellent!).
Why is Stir up Sunday still celebrated?
Stir up Sunday is still celebrated today by many people who enjoy making their own Christmas pudding or other festive treats.
It is a fun and creative way to get into the festive spirit and involve the whole family in a tradition that dates back centuries.
It is also a chance to personalise your pudding with your favourite ingredients, spices and flavours.
Some people also use Stir up Sunday as an opportunity to make other Christmas goodies, such as mince pies, fruit cake or gingerbread.
These can be stored for later use or given as gifts to friends and family. Stir up Sunday can also be a time to start planning your Christmas menu, decorations and activities.
If you are short of ideas and want some inspiration to take part in Stir up Sunday, Christmas.co.uk’s favourite chef Jamie Oliver has some excellent Xmas pudding recipes to enjoy.
He also makes reference to Stir up Sunday in some of his festive videos.
Along with a classic Christmas pudding recipe, Jamie also offers a gluten-free creation and Christmas pudding spoons (they fit into a spoon!).
He also offers great recipe ideas for leftover Xmas pud including Christmas pudding scones and leftover Christmas pudding and ice cream sundae (this one is, we are happy to reveal, a fantastic creation!).
Tips for Stir up Sunday
If you want to join in the Stir up Sunday tradition, here are some tips to help you:
Choose a recipe that suits your taste and budget. There are many variations of Christmas pudding, from classic to modern, vegan to gluten-free.
Gather your ingredients and equipment beforehand. You will need a large mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, a pudding basin or mould, a cloth or lid, some string or foil, and a large pot or steamer. You will also need some brandy, rum or whisky to soak your dried fruits and to pour over your finished pudding.
Involve your family and friends. Stir up Sunday is more fun when you have company. You can invite your loved ones to help you stir the pudding mix, make a wish and add their own tokens. You can also play some festive music, light some candles and enjoy some mulled wine or hot chocolate.
- Store your pudding properly. Once your pudding is cooked, let it cool completely before wrapping it tightly in foil or greaseproof paper. Then store it in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. You can also feed your pudding with more alcohol every week or so to keep it moist and flavoursome.
- Reheat your pudding on Christmas Day. To reheat your pudding, you can either steam it again for an hour or two or microwave it for a few minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate, decorate it with some holly or icing sugar, and set it alight with some warmed brandy. Serve it with custard, cream or ice cream.
Stir up Sunday – Aldi
This video from Aldi is a few years old now but it’s still a goodie.
And rather than make a Christmas pud, the creatives have gone for a tasty vegan Christmas cake recipe instead.
It’s informative and fun and underlines that Stir up Sunday is about making all of your festive cakes and puddings, so the tastes mature in time for the big day.
Here’s the recipe for Aldi’s vegan Christmas cake – because the video is only 15 seconds long!
Everything you need to do is explained in that time and there’s plenty of work for little helpers too!