20 November 2016

Stir Up! Sunday

"Stir up, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people, that they plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded.”

Traditionally, this collect is read at services on this last Sunday in Ordinary Time (also known as the Feast of Christ the King). In Great Britain, it was the signal that it was time to make your Christmas puddings. Toss away your visions of Jello pudding; this is a spicy, dense cake filled with raisins, citron, and nuts which is steamed rather than baked. In days when dessert was few and far between unless you were fairly well-to-do or wealthy, even poor families would scrape together the few extra pennies and shillings it might take to have their Christmas pudding. Since after it is steamed it is soaked in brandy, and the brandy needs some weeks in a cool location to "set" into the mixture, it was made several weeks before Christmas and then warmed up to serve with some hard sauce for the topping.

To thoroughly follow traditions, each person in the household should be allowed to stir the pudding and it should be stirred from "east to west" in honor of the journey of the Magi.

Christmas 2016: Stir Up Sunday – What It Is and How to Celebrate It

Pudding Recipe for Stir Up Sunday

Good To Know: Stir Up Sunday

The Story of Santa Klaus, William S. Walsh
In 1961, Omnigraphics reprinted this charming little Christmas volume from 1909 in which author Walsh takes the threads from many cultures to explain how thin, ascetic Saint Nicholas became the children's friend, chubby and jolly Santa Klaus [sic] and how other legends inspired the modern traditions of items like the Christmas tree and gift giving. He takes us to the ancient Turkey where he discusses all the legends surrounding Nicholas of Potara, later Bishop of Myra, who became St. Nicholas, patron saint of children, pawnbrokers, sailors, Russians, and a good dozen other things. Christmas celebrations go back to the Church's effort to overlay the pagan celebrations of Saturnalia with a layer of Christian respectability and giving old traditions new meaning. While the Christmas tree has certain legends surrounding it—St. Winfred chopping down the oak tree to reveal an evergreen, Martin Luther decorating a small fir in imitation of the beauty he saw walking home one winter's night—Walsh goes even further back to the Scandinavian sacred tree Yggdrasil. Also discussed in charming Edwardian prose is the journey of the Magi, the Christmas tree's journey from the Germanic countries to Great Britain and the United States, the French custom of Twelfth Cake, and the story of La Befana/Baboushka.

This book is well worth finding at a used book store or book sale for its old-fashioned history of Christmas through the "modern times" of 1909. There are many black and white illustrations of famous artwork having to do with the Nativity and newspaper clippings, however, the former are rather muddy. Luckily this is 2016 and you can look up any one of them online to be seen in detail.

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