Christmas pudding – why do people put money in it?

Why do we put money in Christmas pudding? Find out why and what other trinkets you could crack your teeth on when tucking into this festive favourite.

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Surprised Black girl holding teddy bear toy on Christmas

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Whether you like Christmas pudding or not, its grand entrance pretty much always garners lots of oohs and ahhs. After all, it’s not often we intentionally set food on fire and then stand back to admire it. But if that wasn’t strange enough, there’s all the trinkets and tokens inside the Christmas pudding itself – including money. Here’s what it’s all about.

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Why does Christmas pudding have money in it?

Traditionally, Christmas pudding has a sixpence hidden inside it.

If you get the sixpence in your portion of pudding, then you’ll have good luck over the coming year. Traditionally, other tokens can also be included, each one with its own meaning. As Hercule Poirot discovered in The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, if a man finds a button, he is destined to be single for the next year. Women who find a thimble share the same fate.

In contrast, if you find a ring in your Christmas pudding, you’ll get married within the year. Find an anchor trinket and you’ll be protected and safe – for the next 12 months at least.

As for pouring brandy and setting it alight, the flames are meant to represent the power and love of Jesus. While some interpret the holly as a symbol of the crown of thorns.

Why do we eat Christmas pudding?

Like with most things, we’ve got the Victorians to thank for Christmas pudding as we understand it now. However, it’s thought to date far further back, possibly to medieval times when a type of milky porridge with dried fruit and nuts was eaten as a fasting dish in the runup to Christmas.

Later, it evolved to include trinkets, which was an idea that came from the Twelfth Night cake eaten at the end of Christmas. But instead of lovely shiny tokens, you’d either get a dried bean or a dried pea.

As bizarre as that might sound, similar traditions can be found in other cultures too. For example, in Spain, they celebrate 6 January as ‘El Día de Los Reyes Magos’ (day of the three kings) with a ‘roscón de reyes’ (king’s cake). It’s a little like brioche with candied fruit. This also includes a trinket, such as a crown, which is the token you want to find. If you’re unlucky, you might get the dried bean token instead.  

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Can you still get a sixpence to put in Christmas pudding?

Yes, you can. Although sixpences are no longer in circulation, you can buy special editions from the Royal Mint if you fancy resurrecting this particular tradition.

Traditionally, you should make your Christmas pudding on the last Sunday before advent (basically, the Sunday closest to the end of November). This was also known as ‘stir-up Sunday’ as families would stir up their puddings in readiness for the coming festivities.

You might also have heard Christmas pudding called plum pudding. The dessert confusingly doesn’t contain any plums and it never has. It’s just that ‘plum’ was used to describe any dried fruit.

So, the next time someone wheels out a Christmas pudding, you’ll be able to astound them with your expert knowledge. Just watch you don’t crack a tooth on that sixpence.

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