The clocks have gone back; the evenings are getting darker by the day so it must be time to make the Christmas pudding. There is nothing worse than a pudding that hasn't had time to 'mature', a Christmas cake that hasn't been fed enough booze, a plum bread that hasn't had five weeks to 'settle'. These are all crimes against Christmas food and my ancestors wait ready to disapprove should I commit any of them. A good thing, then, that I've got a reminder set into my iPhone calendar so I know when I've got to get onto it. Others of my acquaintance make their cakes in October, because it's how their family remember, others make big batches of puddings two years at a time when the kids go back to school and leave them to 'mature' hidden at the back of cupboards.
I did wonder how people remembered stuff like this before the days of calendars, diaries, paper or sync'd Google and iPhone and it turns out the ladies of the past had a secret weapon.
Stir Up Sunday. The day when mothers teach their kids the family recipes for the puddings and cakes, when everyone gets a go with the wooden spoon and there is much bowl licking to be done! It turns out that the rigid structure of the Church has some uses beyond spiritual. Every Sunday there is a set collect or prayer. It's been the same prayers on the same days for centuries and one week before Advent, five weeks before Christmas it could almost have been written to remind cooks to make the pudding.
'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...'
Those clever ladies and gents remembered when to make their puddings, cakes and plum bread thanks to a prayer they knew they would hear year in year out, because let's face it, back in history everyone went to church. It's kind of like knowing to make your puddings because the Strictly Come Dancing semi-final is on TV or the John Lewis Christmas advert has been shown, except none of these things are as reliable! Who knows when the BBC may be forced by politicians to only produce news and 'educational' shows or John Lewis don't have enough cash for an advertising extravaganza, or heaven forbid.. my iPhone is old tech and no longer works. Just in case you were wondering.
Stir up Sunday is November 20th. Wooden spoons at the ready!