Sugar Plum Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads."
~ A Visit from St. Nicholas Clement Clarke Moore, 1779-1863
Originally referring to a confit or sweetmeats shaped as plums, the term "sugar plum" acquired new meaning past the 1600s. If your mouth was "full of sugar plums," it meant that you spoke sweet (but possibly deceitful) words. If you "stuffed another's mouth with sugar plums," that referred to a sop or bribe that would shut someone up. Nowadays, the term plum is still used to refer to an especially desirable thing, such as a prize, or a choice job or appointment.
Today, Sugar Plum Day, marks the December 18th premiere of Tschaikovsky's ballet, The Nutcracker, a Christmas themed ballet with dances named after sweets, including the well-known Sugar Plum Fairy dance and music. In the Land of the Sweets in Act Two of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her consort rule the kingdom in the absence of the Nutcracker Prince. In Tchaikovsky's day, the sugar plum was both the name of the particular candy and the universal signifier everything sweet and delectable and lovely.
If visions of sugar plums have ever danced your head and you longed to know what they taste like, surprisingly, there are no plums involved! "Sugar plum" was well known to English-speakers from the 17th to the 19th century as another name for what was sometimes a comfit, a sweet made of sugar hardened around a central seed or kernel in successive layers using a process called "panning." Sugar plums or comfits were most often made with a caraway or cardamom seed at the center. The first sugar plums were likely named by their association with the similar size and shape of a a real plum.
To give the plums their due, we provide a compromise, a "Sugared Plum" pudding of course, using real plums. Victoria plums, are he Victoria plum is a type of English plum. It has a yellow flesh with a red or mottled skin
Later past the 1600s, the term "sugar plum" acquired new meanings. If your mouth was "full of sugar plums," it meant that you spoke sweet (but possibly deceitful) words. If you "stuffed another's mouth with sugar plums," that meant a sop or bribe that would shut someone up. By the 18th century, plum was British slang for 100 pounds, or a big pile of money. And nowadays, plum has come to mean an especially desirable thing, a prize, or a choice job or appointment.
To combine both the delectable quality of the sugar plum and real plums, click here for a "Sugared Plum Pudding" recipe and use the most beautiful plums available. Victoria plums are known for their yellow flesh and red or mottled skin.
For a Sugar Plum fairy ballet battle, click the ballerina below to see six different interpretations of this dance with its distinctive orchestral use of the celeste for those fairy-like bell tones!