Stir Up Sunday – A Centuries Old Tradition

By ELEANOR MCGILLIE 25 November, 2018

Today was all about music, family and Stir Up Sunday – a centuries old tradition where home cooks spend the last Sunday before Advent ‘stirring up’ their chosen Christmas pudding – in our case – Spiced Port and Orange Christmas Cake using a recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine and Eleanor McGillie is beginning to smell the zest of the oranges 

Today, as it is Stir Up Sunday, we have decided to focus on this centuries old tradition by getting family together to create our very own Christmas masterpiece – or so we hope.

This is the first year we have done this together but we figured we could use an old tradition to create a new one in terms of three generations, all in the one kitchen, stirring the pot.

In fairness, I had always heard of the term ‘Stir Up Sunday’ but never really knew much of its meaning as such.

The name comes from the collect or prayer said on the last Sunday before Advent in the Anglican church – the first line is, ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people’.

It’s fair to point out that the prayer is nothing to do with cooking, but likely during the reign of Queen Victoria (Albert was apparently a huge fan of Christmas), the words and traditions of the day have been linked.

So we decided to become home cooks for the day, make a cake and make a day of it while we were at it.

Stir Up Sunday - Live It Experience It

We had spotted a recipe in Good Housekeeping magazine for a Spiced Port and Orange Christmas Cake. Reading through the recipe, this cake is described in the magazine as ‘a cake you can be proud of, decadent with a good fruity hit’.

Sounds good to me.

So, ingredients were bought and the fruit was soaked overnight, cooling and maturing, before our Stir Up Sunday gathering.

Stir Up Sunday - The Fruit is ready to use

Taking part in Stir Up Sunday was my mother, sisters, my son and my niece – all keen to stir the pot.

We had a bowl full of sultanas, raisins, dried figs, dried cranberries, dried apricots, orange zest, port, cinnamon and ground cloves. The smell was fantastic and following every letter of the method we pulled it together.

I have never made a Christmas cake on my own before but it’s a heavy enough task so it totally makes sense to get a few together to create your Christmas masterpiece.

And tradition has it that those stirring the pot should stir it east to west which would echo the direction of travel of the wise men. Also according to tradition your chosen pudding should contain 13 ingredients – one each for Jesus and his disciples. However, as you can imagine the number of ingredients vary according to taste but we did stick to tradition with all of us taking turns and making a wish.

We didn’t have 13 ingredients nor did we put a coin or charm in the mix.

Stir Up Sunday with Live It Experience It

Once we had everything done, it was time to put the cake in the oven. Now, at the time of writing this, the cake is still in the oven and there’s another hour or so to go. So, fingers crossed it come out in one piece.

The knitting needle is at the ready for testing and the smell of Christmas is starting to whet a few appetites. Now of course it’ll be another few weeks before the icing goes on the cake but we are looking forward to the final masterpiece.


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Eleanor McGillie

About Eleanor McGillie

Eleanor spent eight years working in the south west of England - one of the UK's most popular tourism hotspots. During her stint working with key players in the tourism sector she developed a love for all things outdoor adventure. As a journalist she got to travel to remote corners of the world to write travel features about the experiences of a particular place. Northern Ireland's story needs to be told and needs to reach new audiences. Live It Experience It aims to attract tourists from outside Ireland, people from Ireland and people who live in Northern Ireland but aren't aware of the extent of the adventures on our own doorsteps. Eleanor is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) at Associate Level