It is that time of year when we are singing Christmas carols and we hear about Figgy Pudding. If you have already wondered just what sort of dish makes up "Figgy" here is some information you might find very interesting.
Figgy pudding is a type of Christmas pudding which was originally made with figs. It may be baked, steamed in the oven, boiled or fried.
Figgy pudding dates back to 16th century England. Its possible ancestors include savory puddings, such as crustades, fygeye or figge (a porridge of mashed figs thickened with bread), creme boiled (a kind of stirred custard), and sippets (croutons). In any case, its methods and ingredients appear in diverse older recipes, for instance in Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.
Today, the term figgy pudding is popularized mainly by the Christmas carol "We Wish You A Merry Christmas," which includes the line, "Now bring us some figgy pudding". A variety of nineteenth-century sources state that, in the West Country of England (from which the carol comes), "figgy pudding" referred to a raisin or plum pudding, not necessarily one containing figs.
In 1935, Oxford University Press published an elaborate four-part choral arrangement by Arthur Warrell under the title "A Merry Christmas", describing the piece as a "West Country Traditional Song". Warrell's arrangement is notable for using "I" instead of "we" in the lyrics; the first line is "I wish you a Merry Christmas". It was subsequently republished in the collection Carols for Choirs (1961), and remains widely performed.
The earlier history of the carol is unclear. It is absent from the collections of West-countrymen Davies Gilbert (1822 and 1823) and William Sandys (1833), as well as from the great anthologies of Sylvester (1861) and Husk (1864). It is also missing from The Oxford Book of Carols (1928). In the comprehensive New Oxford Book of Carols (1992), editors Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott describe it as "English traditional" and "[t]he remnant of an envoie much used by wassailers and other luck visitors"; no source or date is given.
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