"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"
Church going types may recognise this as being a 'collect' from the Book of Common Prayer but more recently it features in programmes like The Archers as being the quote which is rolled out for "Stir Up Sunday", the Sunday "next before Advent", the day traditionally (in some circles) used for mixing up your Christmas Pud ingredients. This gives the pud a good chance for the flavours to meld and mature by the big day.
For us it dawned crisp and frosty, with the grass nearly as white as the chickens, at first bright and sunny but then turning misty and dull and later thawing to a drippy wetness. It felt nice and Christmassy, like the true start to our Season of Good Will.
This is actually going to be our first Christmas in a sense, despite us being 19 years married. We were always invited to either Pud Lady's place in Hastings, or to Ireland for which we are, obviously, mightily grateful and we loved every one of them but now, with our own 'new' house we are determined to do it here and take our turn at being Host and Hostess.
So off we went on a special shopping mission yesterday to Castlerea armed with our list of ingredients. Liz is following a recipe from Pud Lady's beaten and battered 'family heirloom' cookery book which (Pud Lady may correct me here) I believe may have been a Wedding present to Pud Lady and Stamp Man way back and is called by us "Flo" (I think it is by a Florence Jacks, who was an equivalent to the more famous Mrs Beeton). This is the recipe Pud Lady has used for all my life and certainly for the 19 years Liz and I have been together.
This being our first Christmas, it was pointed out to us by friend Mazy-Lou , it is also a good opportunity to start our own portfolio of 'family traditions'. To a degree we are there already because although we have never done the meal, we always decorate our house anyway and have a proper real Christmas Tree which we try to keep to a tasteful small amount of colours (this generally fails and we end up as garish as the next man) and clear (white?) fairy lights, plus we have traditionally purchased one tree decoration each new each year from some significant location. We have two, for example, from the market in New Orleans from when we were there, a crawfish and a 'beignet' (a New Orleans pretzel-type bread roll). If anyone reading this is coming anywhere near here at Christmas please do feel free to join in. Bring a tree decoration - big small, silly, serious, beautiful or kitsch, plain or garish - we will happily adopt them all and know that you were there to keep our tradition going.
Another tradition which is probably more widespread is for everyone in the household to take a turn at stirring the mixture and to make a wish. I can remember doing this when we lived at home and Liz tells me that the family photo 'archive' has almost an annual shot of kids round the kitchen table chopping peel and so on. We kept this alive this year with both Liz and I doing the honours but later on John Deere Bob called by on one of his drop in visits and Liz passed him the bowl and spoon to have a go. He was happy to oblige and joked that he'd wish for loads of money. We reminded him that money is one thing you are not allowed to wish for, and, anyway, he mustn't tell us or it wouldn't come true!