Friday, December 5, 2008
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!!!!