Friday, December 5, 2008

Stir-up Sunday!

What makes a North American Christmas such a rich tapestry are the customs that come from different parts of the world. Canada, like the United States, is a melting pot, and we, as North Americans, seem to like to absorb things from different cultures, especially food. So, it stands to reason that food is one of the 'traditional' things of making Christmas feel traditional.

So, what's stir-up Sunday, you ask? Well, it's that tradition from the British Isles that is centuries old, and in my family, still a yearly tradition. It involves The Christmas Pudding, and Christmas cake.

My family and I always laugh whenever we hear disparaging remarks about the infamous Christmas cake. We love it, and our holiday wouldn't be complete without Christmas pudding and it's equaly famous and historic Syllabub sauce.

So, every year the tradition is, on the Sunday before Advent, which usually falls near the end of November, puddings and cakes must be started or 'stirred up', if they're going to mellow and be ready in time for Christmas. Besides mellowing, the pudding and cakes need time to moisten, and when they're mellow and soft, you can't beat them, especially if there's a generous layering of marzipan on the cake! But I digress...
The making of the pudding is rich with history and tradition. Everyone in the family, even the smallest, was given the pudding and a chance to stir, at the time of stirring they made a wish to bring good luck. Just in case the wish went astray, they tucked silver charms into the mixture; coins for worldly fortune, a ring for marriage and a thimble for life's blesings, (they do this with wedding cakes, too, which in the UK is alot like Christmas cake, and my wedding cake was no exception!)

Stir-up Sunday as been part of the British tradition as far back as medieval times, when the cost of producing such an elegeant, exotic, and thus expensive 'pudding' would have been very lavish. Naturally it held a high place in the celebrations. The tradition carries on even to this day, although, the image of a Dickens type pictorial, with the Christmas goose in the background and the famed pudding on the best plate does come to mind. But who doesn't think Dickens at Christmas!

So, there you have it. Like it or hate it, puddings have been with us and our ancestors for centuries. And yes, I did go to my mum's on Nov 30 and help with the pudding. It's our family tradition as well. We usually listen to the Christmas CD that I bought when I was at Westminster Abbey in London. The Coventry Carol is just so haunting and beautiful, and sets the mood for making the 'hallowed' pudding!

And what is Syllabub sauce, you ask? Oooh, it's good stuff! Syllabub's have as lengthy and nobel role as the pudding1 It's used as a sauce to pour over the cake. It's quite easy to make and involves sugar, orange peel, brandy and some whipping cream!!!!

Now bring out that figgy pudding!!!!


Kristina Cook said...

You're making my mouth water!! I've never made a traditional 'pudding' besides Yorkshire Pudding--but you know, as an Anglophile, I might just have to investigate this tradition.

Anonymous said...

Ah, days of my youth, home from university and meeting the coquettish kitchen maid hired for our traditional open house. She, too, was an expert in culinary delights. Some of my fondest memories are of her teaching me her expertise with this delectable sauce! Indeed, Miss Kristina, it makes my mouth water!

Why is it you ladies have not made me any of this yet?


Caffey said...

Hi Charlotte! I have always wondered what some of the foods were like that were in the historicals I read, especially the regency and medieval among others! I have heard some mentioned several times and just never looked up what the ingredients were so now I'm fascinated and will be looking some up the next I find when reading! I loved reading about these traditions! Love learning this!

There was one tradition in my family when my grandmother made the 'Christmas Pie' As I remember it, it was very creamy, white, fluffy and I do remember coconut too. I sadly don't have the recipe! Now you have me tempted to find someone from the family that might have this! LOL.

Again loved this post and so thrilled I found you all here! I have had the joy of reading many of yours Charlotte (I have written before to you, didn't hear back but I love just to share my thanks for the great reads) and Amanda where I haven't written in a while but have dearly loved her books and miss them! And nice to meet Kristi! Looking forward to visiting often! Cathie
tbranxiety (at) yahoo (dot) com

Caffey said...

Back, just realized I have read Kristi :) Huge hello! Will be great reading you again! The upcoming book is on the wishlist!!

Sorry for my long post before, its a joy to be here!

Amanda McIntyre said...

Cathy, it is so wonderful to hear from you! and so glad you found your way to the Lust in Time Manor!

It has been a long time coming since that last book,hasn't it? LOL Hopefully, you'll find my Spice offereings to your reading tastes! I know you are an avid reader!
Will you have everyone home for the holidays? What other traditions do you have in your home?


Charlotte Featherstone said...

Cathy you definitely must find your Grandmother's recipe!!!
I'm goingto be posting some recipes for the holidays here on the blog that you might have read about in historicals!

Also, about emailing me. I am very sorry to not have responded. The only thing I can think of is that my website addy was bouncing (unknowningly to me~I just thought I didn't have any readers who wanted to get in touch with me! lol!)
I've emailed you off the blog!!!

Caffey said...

Hi Amanda! Yep I do love the Spice books, so glad to see the historicals there! You know how much I enjoy them, especially that anthology that you were in that was set in various centuries. I must pull out for my annual re-read at Christmas time! I just can't read both of yours Spice Briefs since I need them in doc (or text) since I use a EBookWise reader for my ebooks. Same with your Spice Briefs Charlotte, I've been seeing them all. I'm planning to get Your single Spice book Amanda, as soon as I'm able to! I wouldn't miss it! I too saw you having a Spice novel coming too Charlotte! Congrats. Amanda, I too read alot of Traditional Regency too. I just love the historical settings of books. Its just the four of us here, Hubby, me and my daughter and son who are both young adults now. We started with exchanging just one gift with a amount limit, and puting alot of thought into it. But added alot of fun, funny Holiday movies, hubby cheating at Scrabble and of course daughter, who loves to cook, makes all different snacking food for Christmas Eve as well as the Christmas day dinner. Too, each year we put a new angel ornament on the tree in memory of my mom. My daughter asked to pick this year so I'll get to see it on Christmas eve! I really love being in the comfort of my home and my family here.

That's ok Charlotte! Cyper mail does disappear often! Sorry I don't get on each day as I'd love to, but my health doesn't let me, but when I'm not on, I'm so enjoying the reading which is the best medicine! I'm begging sister now for recipe, so I'm waiting to hear back from them! Hopefully I'll have it and share with you all!

My chatting is all over the place here, and disorganized. Hope you understood me, LOL. I'm excited to be chatting with you both! Have a wonderful weekend!! Chat with you here too soon!