Last year I stumbled across a marker day for this season. I love it, because it does several things simultaneously: it reminds us to start early on upcoming projects, and it gives us a taste (literally!) of the coming Christmas season. Trust me to figure out a way to extend our Yuletide even further!
The day I learned about is called Stir It Up Sunday. It came to me in a passing reference in a British recipe on line. Even though I’d never heard of it, it clicked immediately, because of our family’s holiday baking traditions.
Two cookies anchor Michelle’s family’s traditional holiday baking: pfefferneusse and lebkuchen. Both of these cookies improve greatly if made early and allowed to cure before eating. Their complex spice blends meld wonderfully if allowed enough time, so they should be baked well ahead of Christmas if possible.
We also make fruitcake—yeah, yeah, spare me your distain. We lace ours with plenty of rum, so again, an earlier start makes a better finished project.
We also make Christmas puddings some years. Puddings also need time to meld, which is where the tradition of Stir It Up Sunday comes from.
Stir It Up Sunday is the Sunday that preceeds the first Sunday of Advent, which, for many traditions, starts the Christmas season. Apparently, The Book of Common Prayer uses a Bible verse on this day, that includes the phrase “stir up.” The tradition holds that this verse reminds cooks to get going on the Christmas pudding after services.
Okay, Thanksgiving defenders, I know what you’re thinking, and I agree. I, too, balked at the idea of a Christmas marker day falling before Thanksgiving. But, this tradition comes from countries that don’t keep American Thanksgiving. I try hard to seperate our holiday seasons, but the practicality of Stir It Up Sunday seems too hard to ignore.
Ironically, because we live as we do, this day of preparation requires its own preparation. When I mentioned the approach of Stir It Up Sunday this year, Michelle immediately responded that she would need to prepare for our baking projects ahead of time.
Obviously, we need to shop for ingredients before the day. We can’t pop ’round to the grocery store for anything we forgot. Also, we candy our own lemon, orange, and grapefruit peels instead of buying premade candied fruit.
That process can take about a week, so maybe we need an even earlier marker day, like “Get Ready To Stir It Up Sunday”?