Dean Martin was right, it is a marshmallow world in the winter. Some of the season’s most festive carols are chock-a-block with edible écriture - but most of us have no idea what the heck we’re singing about. Kind of like that time when we all thought Elton John’s “Rocket Man” was just about a man traveling to outer space or that Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” was all about making dessert. Yeah, not so much.
So what the heck is a figgy pudding? Is wassailing something you do on a boat? We’re whipping out our Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Pin to translate the food and drink references in a few of the season’s most scrumptious tunes. Sing along, won’t you?
In “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” carolers downright demand figgy pudding, so if their proposal was acquiesced to, what exactly would they get?
In this sense, pudding is not what most Americans would imagine: the thick, creamy, often gelatinous, no chew variety. Instead, the song references pudding in the traditional English or British school of thought.
Across the pond, the word "pudding" is used as a generic term for soufflé, starchy or custard-like dishes that are either boiled or steamed. They can be sweet or savory.
Figgy pudding, sometimes referred to as Christmas or plum pudding, typically contains dried figs, spices, breadcrumbs, eggs, brandy or other boozy flavorings, like cognac or rum. The classic Christmas pudding is also made with chopped suet, but many modern recipes opt out of its inclusion. Think of it as a moister fruitcake.
“Here We Come A-Wassailing”
According to Joseph J. Walsh’s Were They Wise Men Or Kings?: The Book of Christmas Questions, the Middle Age toast “Waes hail” or “to your health” would be employed when handing someone a drink. The proper response was “drinc hail” or “drink to your health.” Thus, wassail can also simply mean to merrymake or raise one’s glass.
The Nutcracker's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy"
"Good King Wenceslas”
Did we miss any palatable poetry? Let us know in the comments and we’ll put on our detective caps.
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