Christmas Turkeys

From The Book of Christmas: Descriptive of the customs, ceremonies, traditions … By Thomas Kibble Hervey (1845)

Amongst the signs of the time that are conspicuous upon the roads, the traveller whose journeyings bring him towards those which lead into the metropolis, will be struck by the droves of cattle that are making their painful way up to the great mart, for this great festival. But a still more striking, though less noisy, Christmas symptom forms a very amusing object, to him who leaves London by such of its highways as lead eastward. Many a time have we seen a Norfolk coach, with its hampers piled on the roof and swung from beneath the body, and its birds depending, by every possible contrivance, from every part from which a bird could be made to hang. Nay, we believe it is not unusual with the proprietors, at this season, to refuse inside passengers of the human species, in favor of these oriental gentry, who “paybetter;” and, on such occasions, of course, they set at defiance the restriction which limits them to carrying “four insides.” Within and without, the coaches are crammed with the bird of Turkey;—and a gentleman town-ward bound, who presented himself at a Norwich coach-office, at such a time, to inquire the “fare to London,” was pertly answered by the book-keeper, “Turkeys.” Our readers will acquit us of exaggeration, when we tell them that Mr. Hone, in his Every Day Book, quotes, from an historical account of Norwich, an authentic statement of the amount of turkeys which were transmitted from that city to London, between a Saturday morning and the night of Sunday, in the December of 1793;—which statement gives the number as one thousand seven hundred, the weight as nine tons, two cwt., and two lbs., and the value as £680. It is added that, in the two following days, these were followed by half as many more. We are unable to furnish the present statistics of the matter; but, in forty years which have elapsed since that time, the demand, and, of course, the supply must have greatly increased; and it is probable that the coach proprietors find it convenient to put extra carriages on the road, for these occasions.

Norfolk must be a noisy county. There must be a ” pretty considerable deal” of gabble, towards the month of November, in that English Turkistan. But what a silence must have fallen upon its farm-yards, since Christmas has come round! Turkeys are indisputably born to be killed. That is an axiom. It is the end of their training,—as it ought to be (and, in one sense, certainly is) of their desires. And, such being the destiny of this bird, it may probably be an object of ambition with a respectable turkey, to fulfil its fate, at the period of this high festival. Certain it is that, at no other time, can it attain to such dignities as belong to the turkey who smokes on the well stored table of a Christmas dinner, the most honored dish of all the feast.

Leave a Reply