Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding

I have never been to England at Christmastime but the Dickensian Christmas images I see (and have always imagined since reading A Christmas Carol) seems to show that Brits really do things up in December.

They are lucky not to have to roll out of Thanksgiving into the monthlong Christmas madness which has almost nothing to do with Christianity.

One of the holiday songs I keep hearing is “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”

Good tidings to you, wherever you are
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year
Now bring us some figgy pudding

Figgy pudding? It is an odd reference for Americans. I actually had it one year when a college friend who was a visiting student from England made it before our winter break. I didn’t question the contents of his creation but I did learn then that there were no figs in it and it doesn’t fit my American definition of “pudding.”

Figgy pudding is also called plum pudding or Christmas pudding and it looks like a softball or bigger ball depending on how many it serves.

flaming figgy pudding

It seems to be one of those holiday traditions that continues though it may not be a loved dish or a healthy one. I recall it feeling like a ball in my stomach for a day or so.  I have never had it again.

Though it has no figs, it also doesn’t seem to have plums. That seems quite odd so I did some searching and found that some people do use figs or plums sometimes but that a “plum” was a pre-Victorian generic term for any type of dried fruit. Most of the time it meant raisins. It’s no wonder that the Brits lost the Revolutionary War.

It seems that today it is more of a steamed cake full of raisins, currants, and brandy.

If you want to get into the traditional part of figgy pudding you will find that the classic version was supposed to have 13 ingredients that represented Christ and the 12 apostles and it was served with a sprig of holly on top, standing in for the crown of thorns. All that seems more Easter than Christmas.

The dramatic side of this dessert is setting it on fire.

You can’t knock out this dessert tonight. You were supposed to have begun it on the last Sunday before Advent. That is five weeks before Christmas. That lets the alcohol age the ingredients.

One Christmas/Plum/Figgy Pudding Recipe I found online says it takes 30 minutes prep, 8 hours cooking time and is stored in a cool, dry place for 4-5 weeks.

It uses brown sugar, raisins, currants, candied orange peel, eggs and spices. Plus breadcrumbs and suet (raw beef or mutton fat!) and the all-important brandy.

On Christmas Day, you steam the pudding again for 1-2 hours immediately before putting it on the table, dousing it with more brandy and setting it aflame.

I think I’ll just have some eggnog with bourbon and a hot toddy before bedtime tonight.

Happy Christmas!

Concerning the Yuletide

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I see that the Yule Log at Douglass College celebrates its 100th anniversary tomorrow.  This is a non-sectarian event, but this marking of the advent of winter falls on the first Sunday of the Christian Advent and the first night of Hanukkah. The Douglass College event embraces the diversity of seasonal celebrations with candles, which play a role in many observations during this time.

I attended the Yule Log celebration there my freshman year at neighboring Rutgers College and sang songs, and listened to students reading passages about the winter season.

Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a festival historically observed by Germanic peoples. It went through some remixes and later was, as many other pagan holidays, Christianised as Christmastide.

As a child, my family incorporated some of our the Austro-Hungarian traditions of our ancestors. We considered Yuletide to be a 12-day celebration (as with the more modern Twelve Days of Christmas).

“Officially” Yule 2018 will begin on the Winter Solstice on December 21 (at 5:23 PM ET for the Northern Hemisphere if you want to be Druid precise) and it will end on January 1, 2019. So, today’s post is early, but it gives you lots of time to prepare.

The most common present day custom is probably the Yule log, but there are also a Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing and other pagan Yule symbols.

Much earlier references to Yule are made in the Germanic month names Ærra Jéola (Before Yule) or Jiuli and Æftera Jéola (After Yule).

We also associate this time with the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht. But you can mark the Yuletide and the winter season inside and outside your home with a variety of traditions.

I forgot this year when the first snow fell, to collect some of it for snow water – a kind of Pagan “holy” water.

I know that some people leave out birdseed ornaments and halved oranges as winter offerings to attract and aid the birds who remain for winter.

wassail

If you make some wassail, you can gather friends and go wassailing and after the sun has gone down, Sure, go ahead and burn a yule log in a bonfire, if you can.

Inside, you can make stovetop potpourri as an alternative to incense.

As the winter solstice comes upon us, get out the tarot cards and do a spread for you and your friends and see what is to come.

Hang mistletoe for protection, and also for consensual kisses. In the Christian era, mistletoe in the Western world became associated with Christmas as a decoration under which lovers are expected to kiss. It had also been considered protection from witches and demons. Mistletoe continued to be associated with fertility and vitality through the Middle Ages, and by the 18th century it had also become incorporated into Christmas celebrations around the world.

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In a cultural sense, I would be quite happy if someone decided to make me some Swedish Lussekatter rolls, or a loaf of cardamom-scented, studded with raisins and candied citron Norwegian Julekake bread. The smell of any baking in the house in winter always warms me and feels like the holiday season.

You can have a ritual bath with fresh orange slices and winter spices, such as frankincense and myrrh, or essential oils which is supposed to ensure future prosperity.

On a Winter Solstice or Yule altar you might find colors like reds, greens, whites, and metallic colors, but some holly, pine, ivy, mistletoe, juniper, or cedar greenery. The harvest can be represented by oranges, pears, nuts and berries.  Snowflake obsidian, clear quartz, or bloodstone may be found there too.

Neopaganism – and holiday rituals – can vary widely and also share similarities, having come from similar origins. Some may try to celebrate in a way as close as possible to how they believe Ancient Germanic pagans observed the tradition. Neopagan sects may celebrate Yule with a special meal and gift giving.

No matter how you treat this time of year, there are probably some roots back to the original Yuletide.

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