Stir-Up Sunday 2022: History, Significance and Celebrations

Stir-Up Sunday is an informal term in Catholic and Anglican churches, it always falls on the last Sunday before the Advent season. This year it falls on 20th November. Today this day is primarily celebrated in United Kingdom. 

The celebrations of this eat usually includes the gathering together of the families and friends and enjoying Christmas pudding! As it’s a Sunday leading up to Christmas, it’s religiously important to Christians, who mark the day with specific Bible readings.  

However, since the Victorian era, it has been a day of family celebration and cooking! Traditionally, family members would stir pudding and make wishes for the new year on this day. It is a great time for a family bonding and enjoying delicious puddings! 

Event Stir-Up Sunday
Date November 20, 2022
Day Sunday
Significance The day is a religious holiday observed by the Catholic and Anglican churches, and it is marked by family reunions and feasts
Observed by United Kingdom

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Stir-Up Sunday History: 

The term of ‘Stir-Up Sunday’ comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. The words were: “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”. Thus, this collect was always read just before Advent – as it in the (pre-reform) Roman Missal whence it came (where the Sunday is called the “24th Sunday after Pentecost”, but the Sundays left out after Epiphany are “caught-up” between the 23rd and the 24th, making it always the last before Advent). 

It is believed that it was in the 1300s,  when the first rudimentary Christmas puddings were cooked up. They were originally a porridge called ‘frumenty,’ and were defined by a soupy mixture of beef, mutton, spices, wine, and various dried fruits, like prunes. In anticipation of Advent activities, many people would fast, and frumenty would be their last meal in preparation. So eating Christmas Pudding has been a part of celebrations for advent from a very long time in Western Christianity. 

Many traditions became attached to the floating date, using it to mark a progression in both the secular and ecclesiastical year. As for culinary traditions attached to the date, it’s probably safe to say that aspect goes back to at least the late 1700s, based on primary evidence CooksInfo has seen in archives of newspapers of the period. The culinary traditions appear, however, to have been originally associated with mincemeat, not Christmas pudding. However since Victorian times it has become associated with the rather lovely family custom of preparing for Christmas together by making the Christmas pudding, an essential part of most British Christmas dinners. 

The Christmas pudding as we know it is said to have been introduced to Britain by Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, however it is thought that a version of the pudding was actually introduced from Germany by George I ( sometimes known as the ‘pudding king’) in 1714. By the start of the 1900s, the association with Christmas pudding has become so strong that only a few remember that the day was also associated with making mincemeat and by the early to mid-1900s, as far as writers are concerned, the “ancient” tradition has always been Christmas pudding. 

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Stir-Up Sunday Significance: 

Stir-up Sunday is an age-old annual tradition, dating back to Victorian times, where families or home-cooks would start prepping Christmas pudding five weeks (or four Sunday’s before) 25 December. This would usually involve everyone in the household taking turns mixing, stirring clockwise, with east to west representing the journey of the Three Wise Men travelling to meet Jesus. Another religious connotation is that it would typically involve 13 ingredients, to represent him and his disciples. 

The timing of the “Stir-up” collect in the Church calendar just happens to coincide with the ideal time for people to make their Christmas puddings and Christmas cakes in order to allow them to age for Christmas Day. It was also an ideal time to buy eggs and dried fruits for the baking before higher winter prices for them set in. Consequently, it became the day (or the week thereafter) on which people “stirred up” the batter for such Christmas delicacies, and cooked them. 

Usually the pudding is prepared well in advance (5 weeks before Christmas) on this day and then reheated (and lit!) on Christmas Day itself. Most puddings will contain some of the following ingredients: dried fruit, prunes and dates (often soaked in brandy), candied peel, mixed spice, treacle, suet, eggs, breadcrumbs and dark brown sugar. Traditionally there would be 13 ingredients in all, to represent Jesus and his disciples. Most families have a favourite recipe or follow one handed down over the generations.  

With Stir-Up Sunday, you don’t have to wait until Christmas dinner to get the whole gang together. While Christmas can be formal and stuffy, gathering in a kitchen to make a pudding certainly isn’t! This day is just an excuse to get people together with their loved ones. But if you can’t pin down the whole family, friends or flatmates down at one time, don’t worry, you can keep feeing the pudding with alcohol or ingredients every now and then in the lead up to Christmas, ready for everyone involved to appreciate what they’ve made. 

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Stir-Up Sunday Celebrations: 

Traditionally, families gather together in the kitchen of their homes to mix and steam Christmas pudding on Stir-up Sunday.  Parents teach their children how to mix ingredients for the pudding. Everyone takes a turn to stir the pudding mix for each person involved is able to make a special wish for the year ahead.  

Sometimes silver coins are added to the mixture; anyone who finds one when eating the pudding is said to receive health, wealth and happiness in the coming year. Whether it is true or not you will only get to know once you try this so do try it on this year and note down your experience that whether it gives you luck or just broken teeth! 

Each member of the family takes a turn in stirring the mixture whilst making a wish. The pudding should be stirred from east to west, in honour of the Magi (Wise Men) who came from the east to visit the baby Jesus. It’s also a good excuse to enjoy a wee dram or a cup of festive mulled wine! 

Most Searched FAQs on Stir-Up Sunday: 

1. When is Stir-Up Sunday celebrated? 

Stir-Up Sunday always falls on the last Sunday before the Advent season. 

2. What is traditionally made on Stir-Up Sunday? 

Traditionally, the Christmas pudding is made on Stir-Up Sunday, and in its modern form as a dried fruit-based dessert, it would have been wrapped in a cloth and boiled. In earlier times it would have contained meat and been eaten at the start of the meal or alongside the meat. 

3. Where is Stir-Up Sunday celebrated? 

Stir-Up Sunday is primarily celebrated in England. 

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