Advance apologies, I’m going to be shamelessly schmultzy and as oozy about Christmas as a hyper active kid (let the fact that I’m listening to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album on full blast give you fair warning). So this year I’m spending Christmas in America with my boyfriend, and it will be my first Christmas away from my family. I guess it’s only when you know you won’t have something that you really start to appreciate it, but I’ve been getting really into all the Christmas traditions this year – did you know that Americans don’t have Christmas pudding, or crackers? These are staple things that I always took for granted, but apparently they are massively English traditions.
Stir Up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent starts, and this is the day when you’re supposed to make the Christmas pudding. I did it a week late, and I’m sure you could do it a few weeks late; it doesn’t matter, as long as it has a few weeks before Christmas to sit and soak up all that alcohol. I’m going to take my pudding with me to America. I’m just hoping the fumes don’t make the sniffer dogs at the airport go crazy.
To start your weekend of getting into the Christmas spirit: first, decorate a wreath of pine with some pine cones, cinnamon sticks and little stars – you’re supposed to put four candles in the wreath and light one for each of the four Sundays of Advent. Then make some cranberry sauce to put away in jars for Christmas dinner. You can buy packets of fresh cranberries at most supermarkets. Pour a packet into a sauce pan, add 3 tablespoons of water, 120g caster sugar, the juice of one fresh orange, a generous teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and plenty of ginger and then heat very gently on the stove for about half an hour, until all the cranberries have popped and turned jelly-like. (By now, your fantasy about being in a sleigh with Michael Bublé should be well under way.)
When it’s ready and you’ve given it a good stir, let it cool before putting it in jars and storing it away in the fridge for the big feast.
I always assumed making a Christmas pudding would be incredibly difficult, but it’s the perfect Advent weekend activity to get you in the mood of the season, and you’ll appreciate it all the more on Christmas day because you put so much effort into making it. It takes a while, and you need two days to make it because it needs to rest overnight and then spend quite a while steaming the next day, but it’s definitely do-able. I used Delia Smith’s recipe, which you can find here.
I’m naturally a Summer person – I hate the cold, and I feel like the grey skies just drain me of energy – but getting into the spirit of the season really helps dispel the Winter gloom. Try it and see – it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, after all.