Stir-up Sunday: Observe Feast of Christ the King with plum pudding

“And he hath on his garment and on his thigh written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
Revelation 19:16

Christmas pudding on red plate with white sauce on top

Steamed Christmas pudding, traditionally made on Stir-up Sunday. Photo courtesy of Christmas Stock Images

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 23: Prepare the Christmas pudding and pay tribute to Jesus triumphant on the Feast of Christ the King. During the last Sunday before Advent, Western Christian churches (Roman Catholics and most Protestants) recognize Jesus as the king of the Church and of every nation; throughout the Advent season, Christians await the “coming King.”

For the world’s billion-plus Catholics, an official Feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in response to what he saw as growing secularism around the world. The pontiff emphasized Christ’s royal reign over all nations and peoples. (Wikipedia has details.)

Culturally, the Sunday before Advent had long been associated with the “stir-up” of Christmas puddings—thus earning the nickname, “Stir-up Sunday.”

CHRISTMAS PLUM PUDDING:
A STIR-UP SUNDAY TRADITION

The Book of Common Prayer of 1549 (CE) contained a collect (opening prayer) that was used in Mass on the last Sunday before Advent. Its contents read, in part: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people …” Christmas puddings traditionally had to stand for several weeks, and as such, this reminder to “stir up” was taken literally by cooks, who would begin making puddings after the day’s church services. Though more popular in Britain than the U.S., puddings were and still are a part of the Feast of Christ the King. Families can still gather in the kitchen after Mass, soaking dried fruits and stirring the pudding that will grace the Christmas table. In some households, elders place coins and other trinkets in the pudding, which are believed to bring luck and health to the recipient.

Regional variations of the traditional Christmas pudding are as diverse as the places from which they come, and ingredients can range from dried plums, orange peels and currants to macadamia nuts and dried pineapple. Those looking for a traditional recipe can turn to Catholic Culture and the BBC food blog. Savvy cooks can check out what chefs out of the UK are saying this year. The best part about trying a hand at steaming the Christmas pudding? Reviving a tradition that is in danger of being lost.

ACTIVITIES AND RESOURCES 

In many parts of the Christian Church, congregations organize processions for Christ the King and recite prayers with this intention. Catholic Culture encourages adherents to read the writings from Pope Pius XI and Pope John Paul II on Christ as king (readings and more available here).