Christmas is almost upon us, and it brings with it a time to reflect on traditions that we continue, and memories of Christmases past. Looking at my collection of family photos I am struck by the abundance of pictures of the Christmas turkey (and also the Thanksgiving Turkey). Seriously, we take a lot of pictures of our turkeys. So what is the fascination?
I first went online to find out about when people started eating turkey at Christmas. After consulting ‘Dr. Google’ it seems that the turkey has been enjoyed since the time of Henry VIII when a Yorkshireman named William Strickland brought six birds from the new world. [Felipe Araujo, Express, 25 Dec 2015 http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/629175/christmas-dinner-turkey-meal-lunch-festive-season-food ] But it seems that it was only in the late 1800s that the beast started being enjoyed by people for Christmas. When Dickens used the turkey in his story A Christmas Carol as for Christmas dinner with the Cratchits, it was clear that the turkey meal was a special dish. One source says that the turkey became the dish for the the middle class by the beginning of the 20th century [http://www.bbc.co.uk/victorianchristmas/history.shtml]. Another source places its popularity at a later time : “Indeed, up until the 1950s it was widely considered a luxury, as only then refrigerators became commonplace. Back in the 1930s the average person had to work for a week to be able to buy a turkey. Now it only takes 1.7 hours of labour.” And it was only in the last 60 years that it has become more widely used for Christmas dinner. [Felipe Araujo, Express, 25 Dec 2015 http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/629175/christmas-dinner-turkey-meal-lunch-festive-season-food ]
I know that when Mom moved to Canada from England turkey was an unusual thing. She normally had goose at Christmas. Dad, Canadian-born, seems to have done the turkey feast with his parents. I think that after Mom married she decided to opt for the turkey meal, but with a number of English sides and deserts such as sausage rolls, mincemeat pies, trifle and the like. I should also mention that at the time of her marriage, she didn’t know how to cook, so it was all a learning curve anyway. Growing up it was turkey all the way, with stuffing, corn, potatoes and cranberry sauce. Maybe it was the sense of accomplishment – the perfect turkey, the delicious sides, the festive decorations, crackers ready to be pulled, and the joy of the season – but every year we took a picture of the turkey. I have shared a few of the more interesting turkey shots below.
Really, the meal is only part of the tradition, it is the picture of the turkey which makes it feel like Christmas!