Traditions and superstitions, good luck spells and charms have ruled the imagination of the people since the beginning of time. Some of these traditions are present today and we pass them on to our children. One such is the tradition of the Christmas pudding.
Complete the Christmas celebration
We all know that Christmas is not complete without the Christmas pudding. The pudding also signifies the end of the Christmas festivities. According to tradition, it was eaten on the Twelfth Night of Christmas, which is the traditional end of Christmas.
In the beginning, one solitary dried pea or bean was baked into the pudding. The person who got this was the King or Queen for the night. Sometimes, the bean was a silver ring or small coins such as a silver farthing or a penny. Over time, it became a threepenny and then a sixpence.
One could also find favourable tokens placed in the pudding such as a bachelor’s button, a spinster’s thimble, or a ring. The tokens had the usual significance – the bachelor’s button meant that the person would be a bachelor for the year that followed if he was a bachelor already, the thimble meant the woman would remain a spinster if she was one already and the ring the person would get immense wealth or get married the following year.
History of the pudding
The Christmas pudding has been in existence since the 17th century. The earliest form of the pudding was a plum pottage or a mixture of beef, bread crumbs, mutton, dried fruits, liquor, and raisins. They had this as a fasting soup so that they could prepare for the Christmas celebrations that followed. Nowadays, there is less meat and more fruits and bread crumbs in the pudding.
There are two reasons for combining spices and dried fruits in the pudding. One was that the spices would help preserve the pudding for a long time. Spices were expensive and still are. The dried fruits too were expensive and could be used only on special occasions. On Christmas, they mixed both the spices and the dried fruits in the pudding, making it very special.
There is a symbolism behind the lighting of the Christmas pudding. One is that the brandy we pour on the pudding represents the passion and power of Christ. There are 13 ingredients in the pudding, representing the 13 apostles of Christ. Though popular sentiment of the holly on top of the pudding seems to point to Christmas cheer, most people believe it to be the crown of thorns.
Absence of feasting
There was a brief period in history when Christmas underwent a ‘lean’ period. This was during the time of Thomas Cromwell who said that instead of feasting, people should fast during Christmas. However, Charles II came to power and reinstated the celebrations of Christmas.
The alcohol-filled pudding needs to be prepared at least five weeks in advance. Each member of the family takes turns stirring it each Sunday. They make a wish as they stir it and this leads us to the Stir-Sunday which is the last Sunday before Advent.
And be sure to add the coin to the pudding. The person who finds it is considered lucky.