Stir-Up Sunday

Celebrate Stir-Up Sunday with friends and family

Stir-Up Sunday is fast approaching; a wonderfully festive tradition filled with friends and family, making wishes and mixing up your very own Christmas pudding – what could be better? Here, TOAST explores the history of this brilliant British tradition, and a few top tips for hosting your very own; it’s time to roll up those sleeves and get stirring!

There are many festive traditions and nostalgic rituals surrounding Christmas that give us the warm and fuzzies, but one of TOAST’s all time faves takes place this Sunday 20th November. Not only is Stir-Up Sunday brilliant because it involves pudding (cue spoon and bowl licking), it’s also a day with a rather magical and longstanding history. 

The tradition of Stir-Up Sunday itself stretches all the way back to Victorian times, when the Sunday in late November was THE day when every self-respecting cook or housewife would pop on their pinnies and prepare the all-important plum pudding. Today, we know it as Christmas pudding, but essentially the ingredients are still the same; dried fruit, spices, flour or breadcrumbs, eggs, butter or suet and a generous splash of booze for good measure. Traditionally, it is said that any Christmas pudding should contain a total of 13 individual ingredients, representing Jesus and his disciples.

Such a luxurious and rich pudding needed time to rest and mature but in the days before iPhone reminders and Google calendars, there was often the danger of forgetting to actually make the pudding in time and so it was in fact the church acted as a reminder back then, albeit inadvertently. 

The tradition of Stir-Up Sunday goes back many years and is said to in fact be linked to the collect prayer read out in churches on the last Sunday before Advent, ” explains Sara Ward, who runs an annual Stir-Up Sunday workshop at her urban farm and cookery and craft school Hen Corner.

The opening line of this prayer is ‘Stir-Up, we beseech thee, O Lord’ - upon hearing these words church-goers would be reminded to ‘stir up’ their puddings, and before long they had invented their own culinary-inspired version of the prayer;

‘Stir-Up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot,

Stir-Up, we beseech thee, and keep it all hot!’ 

“Hearing the collect prayer would prompt many in the congregation to rush home thinking ‘Stir-up, fruit, it’s Christmas Pudding time!” laughs Sara.

“I like to think of all the women running home, clutching their skirts, ready to raid the larder! So I always ensure that I have the date firmly fixed in my diary each year.”

Once back at home, entire families would gather in the kitchen to mix up a cracking Christmas pudding together. Tradition states that each and every member of the family should take a turn to stir the pudding mix, and whilst doing so they should make a special wish for the year ahead. The pudding mixture would be stirred from east to west, referring to of the famous three wise men from the east who came to visit baby Jesus, and sometimes silver coins or trinkets were also added to the mix, and were said to bring luck if you found one in your piece of pudding on Christmas Day (as much as we love upholding tradition TOAST does not necessarily recommend the addition of silver coins or trinkets to your Christmas pudding– choking hazards should be avoided on Christmas day, as should costly trips to emergency dentist!).

Once the pud was fully stirred up it would be placed in a pudding basin (a pudding shaped bowl) and boiled for several hours before being left to mature. The traditional rounded shape of a Christmas pudding is also a throwback to Victorian times, when puddings were often cooked in fancy moulds; the most popular (and accessible) mould was one in the shape of a ball, hence the Christmas pudding shape that we are still familiar with today.

When the big day finally arrived the pudding would be boiled again and then garnished with holly to represent the crown of thorns (be warned though that holly berry is very toxic, so perhaps adorn your Christmas pud with fake foliage instead!), before being brought to the table in traditional flaming style, and then gleefully devoured!

A survey in 2007 found that two thirds of British children had never stirred a Christmas pudding mix, and it is now thought that more than 90 per cent of families buy shop-bought puddings. This year, why not embrace the charming tradition of Stir Up Sunday and make your very own pudding with friends and family? Not only will it be a day of festive fun but you can also tick ‘pudding’ off your Christmas shopping list, and you’ll feel incredibly satisfied when you light your homemade pud and make your triumphant entrance into the dining room on Christmas Day!

So roll up those sleeves and celebrate this treasured festive tradition – here are TOAST’s top tips for hosting your very own Stir-Up Sunday;

TOAST'S Stir-Up Sunday Tips 


You’ll need a large bowl for your pudding mix, a small saucepan for the fruit and booze, and a good quality wooden spoon that everyone can have a good stir with! You will also need some greaseproof paper, tinfoil and a large deep pan for steaming your pud. 


Hop over to The Edit for a versatile (and absolutely scrumptious) Christmas pudding recipe from Sara at Hen Corner. Measure out all of your ingredients before your guests arrive so that all you need to do is tip them all into one big bowl, and get stirring!  Do note that the fruit and booze will need to stand for around 1 hour before mixing, so you might want to do that in advance too.


Ask your guests to stir the bowl of pudding mix one by one; whilst doing so remind them to make a wish for the New Year ahead. Traditionally, the pudding mixture should be stirred from east to west, referring to the famous three wise men that came to visit baby Jesus from the east.


Once you’ve stirred up your pudding you’ll need a pudding basin to pop it in. If you’ve already got one, great! If not then have a look at Emma Bridgewater’s new Christmas Joy collection over on TheEdit, which includes a beautiful ceramic pudding basin, complete with a handsome hand-painted robin redbreast hiding at the bottom! 


As it’s a festive occasion why have some warm mince pies ready for friends and family to nibble on, as well as some traditional tipples? Nkuku’s Madi chai set is a really fun way of serving up mulled wine or warm spiced cider Finally, stick on some traditional carols to set the mood and light some festive candles; check out TOAST’s top picks of Home Fragrances to Set the Scene over on The Edit, featuring some gorgeous festive scents! 

Hen Corner is an urban farm and cookery school in Brentford, West London. Their annual Stir Up Sunday workshop is this Sunday 20th November.


Posted in Inspire Me

by Sophie Farrah
on on 15 November 2016

  christmas , entertaining, family, family gathering

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