Figgy Pudding—England’s Fiery Festive Centerpiece

Figgy pudding has confused many a modern caroler in America, though we all just kept asking for it and threatening to loiter until we got some. Having now tried the famous dish, I have to say, I wouldn’t ever turn down a slice. It is warm, rich, and extremely Christmasy.

On the Sixth Day of Imported Christmas, we set a boiled figgy pudding on fire to make the dessert course both more festive and more dangerous.

Figgy pudding dates back to at least the medieval period and was traditionally made with dried fruit, suet, bread crumbs, flour, eggs and spices. In the past few centuries, it has become Christmas pudding, a must-have dish for your holiday table.

There are a whole series of myths and traditions surrounding Christmas pudding, from the number of ingredients (13, to represent Christ and the 12 apostles) to the direction you stir (east to west, like the traveling Magi). Since Victorian times, it has been the custom to start making your pudding on the first Sunday before advent. The traditional collect, or prayer, for the service that day, says “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.”

Stir Up Sunday, as the day came to be known, seemed to be the perfect day to start stirring your Christmas pudding. A generous helping of brandy acts as a preservative, but also helps the flavors develop in the weeks between Stir Up Sunday and Christmas. By the time you are ready to eat the pudding, it is rich and complex.

Of course, no Christmas dessert is complete without some pageantry, so the pudding is doused in brandy one more time and set alight before being carried to the table (with the lights dimmed for the full effect).

We were too impatient to make our own pudding this year, so we bought a packaged one from our local British market, and it was delicious. After setting it alight, we drenched it in caramel sauce and finally got the figgy pudding we’d been demanding.

Interested in learning about more international Christmas traditions? Follow our 12 Days of Imported Christmas:

Twelve Days of Imported Christmas

  1. The First Day: Chichilaki—Georgia’s Shaved Christmas Tree
  2. The Second Day: Lotería de Navidad—Spain’s Communal Christmas Lottery
  3. The Third Day: Stargazy Pie—Cornwall’s Town-Saving Fish Dish
  4. The Fourth Day: Rellenong Manok—The Phillipines’ Elaborately Stuffed Christmas Chicken
  5. The Fifth Day: Himmeli—Finland’s Geometric Straw Ornaments
  6. The Sixth Day: Figgy Pudding—England’s Fiery Festive Centerpiece
  7. The Seventh Day: Glückspilz—Germany’s Lucky Mushroom
  8. The Eighth Day: Pumpple Cake—Philadelphia’s Quadruple Dessert
  9. The Ninth Day: Porchetta—Italy’s Decadent Pork Centerpiece
  10. The Tenth Day: Julkalender—Sweden’s Serialized TV Christmas Countdown
  11. The Eleventh Day: Peppermint Pig—Saratoga’s Shattered Sow
  12. The Twelfth Day: Ursul—Romania’s Bear Dance Festival

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