We all know well Harvest Festival, the end of the growing season, when we celebrate that the harvest has been brought in safely, however there is another service at the beginning of the season which is just as important to the farmers but less well known – this is the Plough Sunday Service. Abandoned at the reformation, but revived in recent times, it is not followed with the drinking and revelry of years ago – but we do enjoy tea and coffee after our service!
For the medieval farmers it was an important occasion, on the Sunday after Twelfth Day the ploughs were cleaned and decorated, they were then dragged to the church to be blessed and for prayers for a good harvest before the start of the new seasons work. During the service the ‘plough light’, a candle kept lit in the church throughout the year, was paraded ceremonially.
On the following day, spring ploughing would begin provided there was no frost, however this days work was not taken seriously and finished early. In the afternoon the men dressed up and hauled a plough around the village bedecked in ribbons, a man dressed as a woman demanded money from every householder or passer-by as a contribution towards keeping the plough light alight in the church throughout the year though others say it was for the “ale” night of revelling to be had at the tavern. Anyone who refused was likely to have his or her cottage garden or vegetable plot ploughed up! The day ended with a village feast, ale or beer flowed, and the traditional centrepiece was always a large plough pudding. So the blessing of the Plough on Plough Sunday heralded not just the work that would begin on the farm as soon as the weather permitted, but seemed to have heralded a certain amount of revelry.
At St Firmin’s Church Plough Sunday Service, held in January, the blessing of the plough (and the blessing of the seed) seeks to bring God’s love and bounty to the continued work of the farming community wherever they may be so that the harvests are abundant, livelihoods are sustained, people are fed and every one is able to enjoy the fullness of life that God desires for his people. So next time why not come and join our Plough Sunday Service, a chance to join with, and support the farming community, to whom we owe so much as they work the land to provide food for all our people
Recipe for Norfolk Pudding – makes 4 portions
230g self-raising flour, salt
70g suet, shredded
450g pork sausage meat
8 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp sage, chopped
15g brown sugar
Water or pork stock
In a bowl, mix together the flour with the suet and a good pinch of salt. Knead in sufficient cold water to make a soft dough. On a slightly floured surface roll out the dough and line a greased pudding basin with two-thirds of the dough. Set the remaining dough aside.
Evenly place the sausage meat on the bottom of the base and press down firmly. Mix the bacon, onion, sage and sugar and place the mixture over the sausage meat. Add sufficient water or stock just to cover.
Roll out the remaining dough to form a lid, place on top and press the edges firmly together. If necessary, use a little cold water to fix. Cover with a round of greaseproof paper and seal tightly with aluminium foil. Place the pudding basin into a pot of boiling water so that the water comes up to about three-quarters of the basin. Place the lid of the pot on and steam 3 to 4 hours.
Preparation time: 15 min. Cooking Time: 4hr Serve with boiled potatoes, vegetables and gravy