“Christmas pudding originated as a 14th century porridge called ‘frumenty’ that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This would often be more like soup and was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas festivities.”https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/pudding.shtml
If you have never tried plum pudding you are missing out. The origins of this pudding are closely related to the idea of mixing meat with fruit which I know sounds strange, but was quite customary during the Middle Ages because there was a lot of ‘medicinal’ relationships with food. It was customary, to put in herbs and fruit. Plum Pudding was modified over the years to exclude the ‘meat’ and only include fruit, in particular prunes or plums depending on the recipe, it is often served with clotted cream (https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/clotted-cream-scones/) which is not as icky as it sounds or hard sauce (https://www.thespruceeats.com/hard-sauce-for-bread-pudding-3056248). Plum Pudding may have some link to the old traditions of ‘wishing cake’. It was customary in many cultures to make some kind of treat that had a hidden gift buried in it, if you found the treat it would often gift you your wish. Sometimes, however, it would mean you were the chosen sacrifical victim in some early cultures, so not exactly always desired. Today, small items are often placed in plum and figgy pudding, and many have some modern meanings attached.
- Putting a silver coin in the pudding is another age-old custom that is said to bring luck to the person that finds it.
- A dried pea or bean was baked in the cake and whoever got it, was ‘king or queen’ for the night. There are records of this practice going back to the court of Edward II (early 1300s). The bean was also sometimes a silver ring of small crown. The first coins used were a Silver Farthing or penny. After WW1 it became a threepenny bit and then a sixpence.
- You might also get other items (sometimes called ‘tokens’ or ‘favours’) placed in the Christmas Pudding which also meant to have special meanings: Bachelor’s Button: If a single man found it, they would be stay single for the following year, Spinster’s/Old Maid’s Thimble: If a single woman found it, they would be stay single for the following year, A Ring: If a single person found this, it meant you will get married in the following year! It can also mean you will be rich for the following year
- Figgy Pudding: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/warm-sticky-figgy-pudding-recipe-1918585
- Tiny Tim’s Plum Pudding: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/tiny-tim-s-plum-pudding/
- Prince Alberts Plum Pudding: https://www.historytoday.com/archive/englishmans-plum-pudding
- Irish Plum Pudding: https://www.dochara.com/the-irish/food-recipes/irish-christmas-pudding/
- Plum Pottage: http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/plumpottageorchristmaspottage.htm