Christmas Pudding
and Pomanders
Holiday Cooking

by Olga Oldenburg

Pomanders are also known as clove oranges. Originally, pomanders were perforated metal globes filled with perfumes such as ambergris, musk or civet. They were carried to ward against infection or bad smells. The modern pomander is related to the Advent decoration known as a Christingle - where the orange is divided into four quarters by a red ribbon, and topped with sweets and a candle.

These instructions make a smaller pomander than those normally seen. I find it is better to use clementines as they dry faster and use less cloves. Besides, the green leaves look lovely against the darkness of the cloves.

What you need:

1 clementine, with leaves still attached
Cloves- enough to cover the fruit completely.
Thin, decorative ribbon - about 30cm.
(This may be excessive, but it is better to err on the generous side,
in case your pin falls out and you need to wrap the ribbon around the orange.)
A sturdy pin to secure the ribbon

Fold your ribbon in half to make a loop. Pin this at the top of your clementine, next to the stalk. Starting from this point, push the cloves in a continuous, close-knit spiral around the fruit, making sure that the surface is evenly covered. Once the clementine is completely covered, hang or sit your pomander in a warm, dry place, turning it every day so that it dries and hardens. The pomander will scent the house as it dries. If properly dried, it should keep for several years.


Christmas pudding seems to be one of those love/hate things. Like mince-pies, the original pudding contained meat -along with vegetables, fruit, sugar and spices. Like most traditions we associate with Christmas, we have Charles Dickens to thank for the popular image of the Christmas pudding: round, plump, covered in flickering blue flames and with a sprig of holly stuck in the top. Traditionally, the puddings are supposed to be made on the Sunday before Advent begins, colloquially called Stir-Up Sunday. In the Book of Common Prayer, the collect for that day begins 'Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people...'

Generations of sweet-toothed people have taken this a command to commence the making of Christmas pudding! Every member of the household is supposed to have a stir (strictly clockwise, or towards the East - the direction the three kings took) and a wish over the pudding. Silver sixpences were traditionally dropped into the mix, or perhaps pudding charms. Pudding charms are generally sterling silver, and in the shape of various symbolic objects as follows:

Wishbone - 'you will get your wish'
Button - the person who gets this will remain a bachelor
Thimble - thriftiness, or the person who gets this will remain an old maid.
Money bag - good fortune
Horseshoe - for good luck
Ring or Bells - marriage
'Silver sixpence' - luck, prosperity, fortune

The 'fortunes' are not meant to be taken too seriously. They are a little bit of light-hearted fortune-telling that harks back to the games that used to be played at Hallowe'en and other winter festivals. The custom of setting the pudding alight is similar to the game of Snapdragon - where a bowl of brandy soaked raisins is set alight, and participants take turns at attempting to snatch the fruit from the bowl, without getting (too) burnt. In these days of increased 'Health and Safety', this game has somewhat declined in popularity.

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