Stir Up Sunday—An Anglican Tradition of Puddings and Anticipation

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Stir up Sunday is a term that has been used for years in our Anglican tradition, and it comes from the words of the collect for the Sunday-next-before-Advent from our beloved Book of Common Prayer. Because the prayer starts with the words “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…” people have come to associate this Sunday with the making of the year’s Christmas puddings, to be made now and then reheated on Christmas Day. The British tradition of Christmas pudding was made popular by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as were many of the things that we now think of as essential to Christmas.

In the December issue of Anglican Life, our columnist Ashley Ruby contributed a wonderful article about Christmas puddings, here shared for your Stir up Sunday enjoyment.

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.

Christmas Pudding
by Ashley Ruby
(for the Decemeber issue of Anglican Life)

As this paper goes to print a whole month in advance of its publication, I often struggle to find words that I feel sure will remain relevant from the time I write them down to the time you read them. Our world is changing so very quickly as of late, making it even harder to know what will be true both today and tomorrow. While I was ruminating on this complaint, I thought of something much sweeter—Christmas puddings! 

A traditional part of a Newfoundland Christmas dinner is the Christmas pudding. My grandmother often mentions, when she goes to make the pudding for us, how her father made the pudding when she was small. “He never had a recipe,” she says, “Just made it off the top of his head. A little of this and a little of that.” Many recipes call for a spoonful of cinnamon and a handful of raisins, baked or boiled into a denchy and delicious little pud, that adds a special spicy warmth to the meal. (The Newfoundland word “denchy” refers to something that is still moist and not over cooked). Many recipes, however, require the pudding be made well in advance and re-heated on the day of. 

Traditionally, these puddings are mixed up on “Stir-Up Sunday”—the last Sunday before the season of Advent begins, when the words of the collect for the day begin, “Stir up, we beseech Thee, the wills of Thy faithful people.” After these long months of sitting and waiting out the passage of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with no real end in sight, we all have a need to stir ourselves up. As the days blend into one another, Advent is a beautiful time to take the reins of the season and claim our time back by living liturgically and diligently marking the course time as it passes, with such little pleasures as mixing up the Christmas pudding on a special day. 

These practices offer us several opportunities. Firstly, we are invited to deepen our knowledge of scripture and of the Anglican tradition by drawing our eyes to the passages traditions like Stir-Up Sunday derive from. Secondly, as we connect to the divine through the scripture, we are connected to the daily lives of our ancestors by participating in traditional practices that occur outside of church. And thirdly, we are invited to connect more within our family units (chosen family counts, too!) in little activities such as these in a time when our smallest circles have become integral. This experience illuminates personal and family ritual and devotion, and out of necessity, elevates them to a place of spiritual importance akin to the Eucharist.
We have been sitting in a different kind of darkness for quite some time. Now more than ever we need to clear the gloom from our minds, dust off the mantle of our hearts, and prepare within ourselves a sufficient home where such a mighty guest may come. We should mark these days gracefully and joyfully, and not wish or worry them away. There is a peaceful joy to living in God’s time—especially when there is pudding at the end! 

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