December 8, 2012

Holiday Cheer - 12 Days of Christmas

By Tara Manderino

Thanks so much, Anna, for inviting me to post about Christmas. 

Every school child knows the Christmas Carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Ask every parent who has heard it more times than they care to remember. As a kid, I was just as fascinated as the kids are today. Christmas – for twelve days. It boggles the imagination.

Yet, the Christmas season, although technically lasting 40 days and ending at Candlemas, or February 2, really is twelve days. It’s a magical time of the year. Most business will attempt to operate as they normally do, but no matter how they try, it’s a slow time of year.

The week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is probably when most festivities take place, but in some countries, the big event of exchanging presents and a full scale celebration may not happen until the end of the 12 days – the Feast of Epiphany on January 6. (Notice how the song starts with one partridge in a pear tree and build up to 12 drummers drumming.)

I never got this hurry up and give-all-the-presents-to-everyone on Christmas Day bit. I like the 12 days of Christmas, and I use them. This is the time to visit family and friends. I don’t think giving or receiving a present after December 25 is late.  If I get a Christmas card or newsletter through January, I don’t think it’s late. I actually look forward to the stragglers that come in then because I can enjoy the newsletters instead of quickly skimming through them.

I have had my share of Twelfth Night Parties (which while the end of the Christmas season is the beginning of the Carnival, or Mardi Gras, season) and everyone who attended was happy to do so; the Christmas decorations were still up and all of the mad rush of obligatory holiday parties was over. Now they could simply enjoy themselves and be with friends.

In my Christmas novella, Stirring Wishes, the story doesn’t take place during those 12 days. Instead, it focuses on the magical time in British celebration before Christmas – Stir-up Sunday.  Traditionally, Christmas Pudding was made on Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent, allowing it time to properly cure before Christmas Day. This year (2012) Stir-up Sunday was on November 25. Each member of the family takes a turn at stirring the pudding, making a secret wish while doing so.

Elise, the heroine in Stirring Wishes (, and Harry, her young brother, explain the process:

Harry worries about it, but many people don’t make such a fuss over plum pudding.”

“But it’s really good,” Harry interjected after swallowing the remainder of another piece of bread and cheese.

“But I adore plum pudding,” Richard told him gravely. “I just don’t recall much of the making it.”

“You don’t?”  Harry jumped up to stand in front of him. “You mean you never stirred the pudding?”

Elise laid her hand on his shoulder. “Harry, not everyone does.”

“Er… no. I can’t say that I have. Am I missing something?”


“Yes.” Brother and sister said at the same time.

“You add the flour, and eggs, and currants,” Harry listed. He pantomimed adding each ingredient to a bowl. “Then you add the bean, and then you stir. But you have to stir in the right direction.”

“I see.” In spite of not wanting to be amused, Richard was. The imp was adorable as he showed him how to stir. “What happens if it’s in the wrong direction?”

Harry’s mouth opened and closed in disbelief. The two adults did their best to hide their grins.

“No one stirs the wrong way, do they Elise?”

“Oh, no. They wouldn’t dare,” she assured him.

“If you don’t stir from east to west, then the wise men won’t come.”

“A grave problem indeed. But why must you do it tomorrow. Can’t it wait another day?” He was willing to humor the child, but found he truly wanted their company. Maybe he really shouldn’t have sent Michael away.

“It’s Stir Up Sunday, my lord. Everyone knows that.”

“Oh, indeed.” He shot a look to Elise, hoping that Harry wouldn’t quiz him any further. He should have realized she would have smoothly filled the breech.

“It’s good to have the pudding age. Besides, it fits so well with the prayers for Advent. "Stir up we beseech Thee O Lord..."

Richard gave a slight cough. “Of course, I can see how that would work.”

~* ~
One of my most requested holiday desserts has not been plum pudding, it’s my brownie trifle. I’m always a little embarrassed to give the directions because it’s so ridiculously easy. The first time I made it I figured it couldn’t be too bad, brownies and chocolate pudding. I didn’t realize it would turn into a staple. It’s to the point I make a suggestion when I offer to bring something, otherwise it will be (and often still is) brownie trifle.

Brownie Trifle


1 prepared (9-inch x 13-inch pan size) pan of brownies
2 cups milk
1 package (3.4 ounce) instant chocolate pudding mix*
8 oz. (2 cups) frozen whipped topping thawed
3 Heath candy bars (1.4 oz. each), chopped


·                     Divide brownies into thirds. Cut each third into 1-inch cubes

·                     In a large bowl, beat milk and pudding mixes on low speed for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set.

·                     Layer the brownie pieces, chocolate pudding, whipped topping and Heath Bar pieces. End the layers with whipped topping. Sprinkle with Heath Bar pieces.

*To make this even easier, used canned chocolate pudding. If you can’t find the can, 3 or 4 packages of the 4-pack snack size work well. I like more pudding so I use 5 of the little cups per layer.

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Maddy said...

Thanks for he reminder about Stir Up Sunday. Makes me feel homesick [almost]. Well done getting your seasonal story out on time.

Sandy L. Rowland said...

Always a great scene having a man who will cook. I'm not going for the drawing. I don't have a nook. but I did enjoy the excerpt and thanks for the chocolate trifle. Yum!

Anonymous said...

Great excerpt.

LisaRayns said...

It looks good. Great post!

Celia Yeary said...

I can taste that trifle, and I can picture it--and now I'm getting dizzy and sleepy when I eat very rich chocolate deserts. Wow, this one is a keeper. I can certainly see why everyone wants a repeat of this. I imagine it's quite beautiful, too, in a trigle dish.
This season, I've read more than a couple of posts about Stir-up Sunday, when I'd never heard of it before.
Thanks for the interesting tale,...and the recipe!

Alisha said...

I never knew about Stir up Sunday. How fascinating! I'm going to have to make these yummy chocolate trifles!!! Thanks for the recipe!!!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Tara, thanks for being my guest today. I enjoyed the 'history' lesson too. As I told you, one of my pet peeves is people not knowing when the 12 Days of Christmas fall. The secular world is trying to move it before Christmas, sigh. I had never heard of Stir-it Up Sunday, so thanks for sharing that. The trifle sounds delicious. I'll need to make it this year. Oh, last year, I made figgy pudding for the first was good!

Rose Anderson ~ Romance Novelist said...

I love the idea of Stir up Sunday. Thanks for sharing Tara. I have a British family I'm writing about now, who might really enjoy this added to their holiday. :)


Carol said...

I, too, love the Stir-up Sunday tradition. The trifle sounds delicious. Great post!

E. Ayers said...

Great post. Love the stir-up Sunday. My mom stayed with many traditions that I let fall by the wayside. It's good to see a few being revisited.

Jane Leopold Quinn said...

That's a sweet scene, Tara. I'm not much of a baker, but the trifle sounds easy and delish.


Cindy Bartolotta said...

What a great scene, Tara. Love your recipe, too. It does sound easy and yummy. Happy Holidays to you.

J.D. Faver said...

I agree this was a great scene. Very telling about the characters. And thanks for sharing about the Stir up Sunday and the 12 Days of Christmas. The Brownie Trifle sounds decadent. I might be tempted to make this for my family.

Ally Broadfield said...

I do love yummy, simple recipes like this. I wish people were more informed about the 12 days of Christmas. Every year the local radio station starts playing Chistmas music earlier and earlier in November, but they always stop the day after Christmas.

Brenda Jean Hyde said...

I love the excerpt, and the recipe. My oh my, I need to make that this Christmas:)

wayfaringwriter at gmail dot com

Linda Carroll-Bradd said...

I agree the dessert presentation must look great and sounds yummy.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Love heath bars-- this is a recipe for me. Yummy!

Loved the tidbit of history and the Great excerpt, too!

kmnbooks at yahoo dot com