Why Do We Eat Christmas Pudding? The British Hamper Company - The British Hamper Company

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Why Do We Eat Christmas Pudding?

27 Dec 2023

For many of us, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without that delicious Pudding! 

We know a few folks who claim they hate it but still have it on their table as it wouldn’t feel right without it.

But do you ever stop to wonder what it’s all about?!

Let’s take a quick look at its history.


Early days:

A recipe that was found dating back to around 1392 is thought to be that of the original ‘figgy pudding’.

Eaten around Christmas time, it was broth-like and was served at the start of a meal and known as a ‘plum pottage’. It contained blanched almonds, wine, figs, raisins, ginger, honey, mutton or beef, and some breadcrumbs. Savoury and sweet really.


After the 16th century, dried fruit became more available and the pudding started to shift from savoury to sweet.


In the 17th century, it became more solid, served like porridge or cooked inside a skin like a sausage. It still wasn’t served as a dessert but either as an accompaniment to roasts/main meals or served as a starter.



Skip to the Victorians:

It was the Victorians who really established ‘Plum Pudding’  (the plums referring to dried fruit) as a Christmas tradition.

Back then the whole family would be involved in its making:

  • On the 5th Sunday before Christmas they would each take turns in stirring the mixture from ‘east to west’ to honour the journey of the Magi. It was supposed to bring them good luck.

This was known as ‘Stir Up Sunday’!

  • The wooden spoon was to remind them of Jesus’ manger.
  • The pudding was meant to have 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his 12 disciples.
  • Often small trinkets were hidden in the mixture (a silver coin for wealth, a ring for future marriage and a thimble for spinsterhood!).
  • The brandy poured over it and set alight represented the passion of Christ.
  • The pudding was shaped into a sphere and boiled in a cloth.
  • Later on, at least in the wealthier households,  it was steamed in a pudding basin or elaborate mould.
  • It was served with a sweet custard or a ‘hard sauce’ which we now call brandy butter.


The plum pudding appeared in much Victorian literature – novels (famously Charles Dicken’s ‘ A Christmas Carol’), greetings cards and satirical cartoons of the time, raising its prominence.

Both rich and poor enjoyed it  - the poor substituting some ingredients for cheaper ones.



  • The holly on top dates back to the Middle Ages. It was believed it would bring good luck.
  • In 1644 the Puritans tried to ban the pudding as they said it was ‘sinfully rich’ and ‘unfit for God-fearing people’!
  • In 1714 King George reestablished the pudding and it was enjoyed as a dessert for Christmas.
  • Christmas 1915 saw Fortnum and Mason sending 500 Christmas puddings to troops in Gallipoli so that they’d have a taste of home on Christmas Day.
  • In 1927 George Vth encouraged the UK to make Christmas Puddings using ingredients from the Empire.
  • In the 1940’s the Ministry of Food provided a rationing recipe for plum pudding bulked out with potatoes and carrots – apparently, it was quite tasty!


Hope that’s given you some idea as to why we eat Christmas pudding – it’s traditional!


  • There’s no doubt the Christmas Pudding remains a favourite Christmas tradition but things have moved on -  we’ve adapted the recipe to suit modern tastes and dietary needs and, thankfully, we can buy tasty ready-to-cook Christmas Puddings saving us hours of labour!

            If you fancy having a go, try this recipe from Queen Victoria’s chef:



  • ¾lb (335g) raisins
  • ¾lb (335g) currants
  • ½lb (225g) candied orange, lemon and citron
  • 1¼lb (560g) chopped beef suet
  • 1lb (450g) flour
  • ¾lb (335g) moist sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 3 gills (450ml) of milk
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp each of ground nutmeg and cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • Glass of brandy (about 50ml)
  • A very little salt


Mix the ingredients thoroughly together in a large basin several hours before the pudding is to be boiled; pour them into a mould spread with butter, which should be tied up in a cloth. The pudding must be boiled for four hours and a half; when done dish it up with a German custard sauce spread over it, made as follows:

Put four yolks of eggs into a bain-marie or stew pan, together with two ounces of powdered sugar, a glass of sherry, some orange or lemon peel (rubbed on loaf sugar), and very little salt. Whisk this sharply over a very low fire, until it assumes the appearance of a light frothy custard.


So there you have it, that is the history of the Christmas Pudding!


If you don't fancy making your own, we highly recommend the Brandy Christmas Pudding from Cole's. They are an artisan producer based in Great Chesterford and we consider their Christmas Pudding to be one of the finest we've tasted.

You'll find their Pudding in a selection of Christmas hampers across our website. Why not treat your friends and family to a festive hamper and enjoy the best treats the UK has to offer.