Sunday, March 29, 2015

Notes on Fig Sunday

Last year on this day, which is commonly called Palm Sunday, I posted a list of other names for the celebration. I left out a few, and one in particular came to light while perusing "The Lives of the the Saints or Notes Ecclesiological and Historical on the Holy Days of the English Church" by William Leeson Dickinson published in 1865 (available on Google Books).

"In several parts of England, and especially in Hertfordshire, it is known as Fig Sunday; and in Hertford itself and the surrounding towns more figs are sold in the preceding week than in all the rest of the year together. No doubt the origin of this custom was our Lord's desiring to eat of the fig-tree on the Moday following that Sunday; only it is curious that the tradition should have lasted on through the middle ages, when preserved figs must have been as great a rarity as natural figs are with us." William Leeson Dickinson, "The Lives of the the Saints or Notes Ecclesiological and Historical on the Holy Days of the English Church." London: The Church Printing Company, 1865. p164 
I think it curious that one would eat figs in memory of a day where our Lord could not find a fresh fig to munch upon, so I wonder if it should be called "Figless Sunday".

For those who are undeterred and who may want to indulge in figs today, I think it would only be appropriate if you eat dried figs or fig preserves even if fresh figs are available in your locale. For myself, I pulled out the fig/strawberry preserves we canned last year. If you are feeling industrious, here is a recipe for Fig Preserve Cake that you should try,

1hr 15mins
PREP 15 mins
COOK 1 hr

1 10inch cake
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup fig preserves
1⁄2 cup chopped pecans or 1⁄2 cup walnuts
Buttermilk glaze

1 1⁄2 cups powdered sugar
1⁄4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon real butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Combine first 8 ingredients in a large mixing bowl;add oil and eggs,beating well at medium speed with electric mixer.
Add buttermilk and vanilla,beating well.
Stir in preserves and pecans or walnuts.
Pour batter into a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pan 10 minutes;remove from pan and place on serving platter.
Pour buttermilk glaze over cake while both are still warm.
Melt 1 tablespoon real butter in saucepan over low heat,add the buttermilk and the powdered sugar and heat till dissolved,then add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
If the glaze is to thin or thick add powdered sugar or more buttermilk accordingly till you get the consistency you like.


  1. Anonymous5:59 PM

    Thank you for the information and the recipe. Both are bonuses!

    I did not see many figs in England in the run-up to Palm Sunday, although that might be because of weather, import issues or other circumstances.

    This is an interesting tradition, one which I shall watch out for next year 'down south' (Home Counties/Greater London, aka 'God's Country', so called because we are blessed with the best weather in Britain). Hertfordshire is one of the Home Counties, incidentally.


    1. Thanks Churchmouse. If the Fig Sunday tradition survives into the modern era, let me know.