Think of Christmas food, and the mind will turn immediately to turkey, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and lashings of gravy. However, there is one element that
should most certainly not be left out, as it is one of the most iconic aspects of Christmas and has been for generations: the Christmas pudding.
The origins of the Christmas pudding can be traced back to England in the Middle Ages. In the intervening centuries, many traditions have grown up around it. There is the tradition of making a wish as the pudding is stirred; the tradition of hiding a coin into the mixture for one lucky eater to find, although that has fallen out of favour in recent years due to safety concerns; the tradition of finally dousing the pudding in brandy and setting it alight while it is served.
Christmas just would not be Christmas without the pudding - something that is shown by the image above, in which an admiral can be seen helping out in the making of a Christmas pudding on board the HMS Duke of York in the middle of World War II. No matter what is going on in the surrounding world, the pudding simply must be made.
The Christmas pudding has sometimes been a source of scorn. In the image above, nineteenth century Canadian cartoonist H. Bullock Webster illustrates what he held to be the typical reaction to eating a Christmas pudding. Negative attitudes such as this doubtless arise from a simple fact: there is a define craft to making a Christmas pudding, and those who try to simply whip up a quick dessert are heading straight for failure.
What is the correct way of making a Christmas pudding, then? Well, that will depend. Traditionally, Christmas pudding recipes are family affairs: each family will have one, and it may even have been passed down through the generations like an heirloom. This allows the pudding to go through a sort of evolutionary process: over time, the recipe is subtly altered, with only the best elements being kept and the overall dish being slightly altered to fit the tastes of the period.
The Christmas pudding has been with us for centuries, and has survived long enough to be mythologised in the nostalgic Christmases that we know from the likes of Charles Dickens and his contemporaries. Quite simply, it is now an integral part of Christmas.