Stir-up Sunday – An English Christmas Tradition Making Christmas Pudding

Traditional English Christmas pudding with Holly LeavesStir Up Sunday is associated with the custom of making the classic Christmas pudding which is an essential British Christmas tradition made of dried fruits, but if you don’t want to make your own why not add a little bit of luxury to Christmas and buy one here.

A little bit of classic history …

Early versions, originally known as Christmas porridge, appeared in the 14th century, with ingredients including beef, mutton, prunes, spices and wine rather than the modern-day fruit, nuts and suet.

In 1664, Oliver Cromwell banned the pudding. He declared “Eating it was a lewd custom inappropriate for people who followed God”.

The pudding was re-established in 1714, with meat eliminated from the recipe, by King George I and made popular by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria

The classic Christmas pudding is cooked well in advance of Christmas and then reheated on Christmas day, it became associated with the informal term in Anglican churches for the last Sunday before the season of Advent and gets its name from the beginning of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer,

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.

Or in latin

Excita, quaesumus, Domine, tuorum fidelium voluntates: ut divini operis fructum propensius exsequentes, pietatis tuae remedia maiora percipiant: Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Stir Up Sunday - Stirring The Christmas Pudding

The Date

The date for Stir Up Sunday is set to the Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Trinity, as the number of weeks in between varies from year to year the date of Stir Up Sunday will differ from one year to the next.

This year (2019) Stir Up Sunday will fall on 24th November

Classic Christmas Pudding Traditions

13 Ingredients

Classic Christmas pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to symbolise Jesus and the 12 Apostles.
The ingredients are: Sultanas, Raisins, Brown Sugar, Currants, Glace Cherries, Breadcrumbs, Brandy, Suet, Almonds, Orange, Lemon, and Mixed Spice

Stir and Make a Wish

Traditionally, families gather together in the kitchen to mix and steam the classic Christmas pudding. Everyone takes a turn to stir the pudding mix and makes a special wish for the year ahead. As stirring the mixture is hard work, it is useful to have all the family taking part.

Stir East to West

The pudding mixture is stirred from East to West in honour of the three wise men who visited the baby Jesus. They brought with them Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh which were viewed as luxuries of the time.

Adding a sixpence to the Christmas puddingAdd a classic Silver Sixpence

In some households, silver coins are added to the pudding mix. It is believed that finding a coin brings good luck and wealth for the year ahead. Nowadays, the coins are sterilised (i.e. boiled) before being added. (If you wish to follow this tradition do not use new coins as they can be toxic.)

Lighting (Flaming) the Christmas Pudding

Flaming Traditional Christmas Pudding1.Turn out the cooked pudding onto a serving plate with a good-sized rim around the edge to catch any spirit.

2.The important thing is to get the spirit really hot. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of brandy, rum or whisky into a long-handled metal ladle and heat it over a flame until hot.

3.Light the spirit by tilting the ladle slightly over the flame so the fumes ignite, or use a match, then immediately pour it over the pudding.

4.Wait for the flames to go out before serving.

Remember, if you don’t have the time to make your own, you can buy a scrumptious luxury one here – recommended by James Martin

Classic Christmas Pudding Recipe

Ingredients and Requirements

  • Grease proof paper (to line the bottom of the basin and cover the top)
  • Foil to cover the top
  • Piece of string (to tie the top)
  • Silver coins traditionally old sixpences (optional) – Do not use new coins as they can be toxic!
  • 75g (3 oz) suet
  • 450g (1 lb) dried fruit (use a mixture of sultanas, raisins, currants, glace cherries -roughly chopped apricots or dates can be used as a substitute)
  • Roughly chopped peel one lemon
  • Finely grated rind and juice of 1 orange
  • 50ml (2 fl oz) brandy or rum, plus extra for infusing and flaming
  • 100g (4 oz) light muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 level teaspoon ground mixed spice
  • 120g (4½ oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 40g (1½ oz) whole shelled almonds, roughly chopped


Measure the dried fruit and place into a bowl with the orange juice. Add the brandy or rum to marinate over night or at least one hour.

Sterilise the coins (if using) by boiling them in water for 10 mins.

Lightly butter a 1.4 litre (2½ pint) pudding basin. Cut a small square of grease proof paper and press into the base of the basin.

Put the suet, sugar and grated orange rind into a large bowl and cream together with a wooden spoon or hand-held electric whisk until light and fluffy.

Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little flour if the mixture starts to curdle.

Add the mixed spice, then fold into the creamed mixture with the breadcrumbs and the nuts.

Add the dried fruits lemon peel, liquid and sterilised coins (if using) and stir well. Alternatively, the coins can be added on the day by placing one in each portion before serving to save arguments!

Spoon into the pudding basin, pressing the mixture down, level the top with the back of a spoon.

Cover the pudding with a layer of greaseproof paper and foil, both pleated across the middle to allow for expansion. Tie securely with string and trim off excess paper and foil with scissors.

To steam.

Put the pudding in the top of a steamer filled with simmering water, cover with a lid and steam for about eight hours, topping up the water as necessary.


To boil

Put a metal jam-jar lid into the base of a large pan to act as a trivet.

Put the pudding on to this and pour in enough boiling water to come one-third of the way up the bowl.

Cover with a lid, bring the water back to the boil, then simmer for about seven hours, until the pudding is deep brown colour, top up the water as necessary.

Remove the pudding and cool completely. Make holes in the pudding with a fine skewer and pour in a little more brandy or rum to moisten.

Replace the paper and foil.

Store in a cool, dry place.

On Christmas Day

Traditional English Christmas PuddingSteam or boil the pudding for about an hour to reheat.

Turn the pudding on to a serving plate.

To flame, . Pour 2-3 tablespoons of brandy, rum or whisky into a long-handled metal ladle and heat it over a flame until hot.
Set light the spirit by tilting the ladle slightly over the flame so the fumes ignite, or use a match, then immediately pour it over the pudding.