Christmas pudding

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For the atomic model, see Plum pudding model.

Christmas pudding is the dessert traditionally served on Christmas day in Britain and Ireland, as well as in some Commonwealth countries. It has its origins in England, and is sometimes known as plum pudding, though this can also refer to other kinds of boiled pudding involving a lot of dried fruit.



Every household has its own recipe for Christmas pudding, preferably handed down the family; it is probable that there were also regional variations.

Christmas pudding is a boiled, or rather steamed, pudding, massively heavy with dried fruit and nuts, and usually made with suet. It should be very dark in appearance - effectively black - and moist with brandy and other alcohol (some recipes call for dark beers such as mild, stout or porter).

Traditionally, Christmas puddings were boiled in a pudding cloth, and they are often represented as round, but at least since the beginning of the twentieth century they have usually been prepared in basins.

The wish and other traditions

Traditionally puddings were made on or immediately after the Sunday "next before Advent", i.e. five weeks before Christmas. The Collect for that Sunday in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, as it was used from the sixteenth to the mid twentieth centuries, reads:

"Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"

The association of stirring and fruit was irresistible and the day became known as "Stir-up Sunday". Everyone in the household, or at least every child, was required to give the mixture a stir, and to make a wish while doing so.

It was common practice to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The usual choice was a silver 3d piece (see History of the threepence), or a sixpence. However this practice fell away once real silver coins were not available, as it was believed that alloy coins would taint the pudding.

Once turned out of its basin, the Christmas pudding is traditionally decorated with a spray of holly, then, in some parts of the country, doused in brandy, flamed (or 'fired'), and brought to the table ceremonially - where it should be greeted with a round of applause. In some houses the lights are turned out as the pudding is brought in amid a halo of purple brandy flames. It can be eaten with brandy butter, rum butter, cream (lemon cream is excellent) or custard and is often sprinkled with caster sugar (the fall of the sugar on triangular slices resembling the fall of snow on a pitched roof, or snowy mountain tops).

After Christmas

Christmas puddings have very good keeping properties and many families keep one back from Christmas to be eaten at another celebration later in the year, often at Easter. Some take the practice so far as to make each year's pudding the previous Christmas. Others claim that this impairs the flavour, but admit that a well-made pudding will keep at least adequately for a year.

Christmas puddings can be bought ready made and cooked, but unless they come from a luxury store these are likely to be a poor substitute for a home-cooked pudding. Nowadays, many people find the Christmas pudding too rich and heavy, but most families have at least one member who will demand that a "proper" Christmas pudding be cooked.

Uncooked pudding in its basin After hours of steaming it's ready

The above images are drawn with permission from the Paul's Traditional Christmas Pudding ( web site.

See also


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