What the heck is figgy pudding?
Anyone who sings the song, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” around Christmas time sings the lyrics, “Now bring us some figgy pudding, now bring us some figgy pudding, now bring us some figgy pudding, and a cup of good cheer.” But what is figgy pudding? I never knew what this was growing up, and I had never met anyone who actually did know what it was. So, here’s to all of you out there who were just like me.
Figgy pudding, also called plum pudding and Christmas pudding, is a popular Christmas dessert in Britain, which is how it ended up in the jolly Christmas tune we sing today. It’s a staple on a British Christmas menu, but is rarely eaten in the United States. Its original number of ingredients (thirteen) represented Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles, so the dish carries a symbolic meaning to the Brits around Christmas time.
First, let’s establish what “pudding” is. Over in England, pudding doesn’t refer to the creamy deliciousness inside of a snack-pack that Americans know and love. It refers to any dessert, so Christmas pudding, a type of cake, fits this label.
Though this cake’s names would lead you to guess what it is made of, it does not always contain figs or plums. Figs were historically incorporated in the recipe, but are occasionally left out of modern ingredient lists. The term “plum” used to be a generic term for any dried fruit, which is how this particular nickname came to be, since the cake does contain lots of raisins.
A figgy pudding is a steamed cake (those two words don’t seem like they go together) filled with brandy, dried fruits, and fresh fruits. A steamed cake is quite literally a cake that is steamed instead of baked, and the brandy contributes greatly to the flavor of the “pudding.”
This dessert is often made from scratch, and the process is very labor-intensive. The alcohol in the cake is meant to age for a couple of weeks to draw out more flavor, so it needs to be prepared in advance. Christmas hosts across Britain are already at work on their cakes and are letting the brandy soak to create figgy deliciousness.
Oh, and another thing about Christmas pudding? You can set it on fire. You can light this cake up Baked-Alaska-style. If that doesn’t scream Christmas cheer, I don’t know what will.
You now know what the heck the lyrics of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” are talking about. You can run and tell all of your friends that you know a bit of Christmas trivia that they probably don’t know. You can also sing the song with a sly smirk, knowing that you’ve read up on the overlooked meaning of the words.
And, if you’re really curious and patient and want to try out this Christmas staple for yourself, you can click on the link below for a recipe from BBC.