The rise in prominence of plum pudding (later Christmas Pudding) can be seen in terms of the symbolism associated with it. One of the earliest examples of this symbolism can be seen here ‘the plum pudding in danger’, a cartoon by James Gilray (published in The works of James Gillray in 1851) which shows Napoleon and William Pitt cutting up a pudding with a map of the world over the surface.
Although not at this point associated with Christmas, this illustrates the value of the image of plum pudding as an easily understood symbol. During the early 19th century, this symbolism was further refined so that plum pudding came to represent the British nation (similar in a way to roast beef).
It is interesting to think about this dish in terms of Empire: many of the traditional ingredients came from different parts of the commonwealth, and so plum pudding became associated with aspects of colonial experience.