14 December 2015

Why do we eat Turkey at Christmas?

Some days I feel like I could burst with questions. How does this work? Why does that happen? What on earth is that meant to be? My poor husband not only has to put up with the moniker Mr Kiwi, but attempt to explain centuries of British traditions. On top of that he's often used as a consultation resource for several of my expat friends - the questions posed over the years has often bamboozled both of us and we turn to the Google to hopefully explain.

The Whats, Whys and Where for art thous (or if you are Welsh it's 'where for to you goin'?, nope I don't understand how that translates to 'Where are you off to?' either) are often just shrugged off as a lovely mystery that we enjoy just 'because'. And why not, it's Christmas.

Why do we eat Turkey at Christmas? Adventures of a London Kiwi

Why are brussels sprouts so reviled but always make the festive dinner table?
I love brussels sprouts. Yes, I know I'm foreign which puts me slightly in the bizarre camp anyway, but I genuinely like those little green cabbage spheres - especially cooked just the side of crisp and served with a drizzle of honey, chestnuts or cranberries and bacon. Yum. All the more brassicas for me then...

Who was the genius who invented devils on horseback?
Bacon + Sausages in tiny two-bite concoctions. Utterly brilliant, seriously simple and altogether delicious. And yet still restricted to the festive table for the majority of the calendar year. Possibly dating back to the 1600s devils on horseback, like the deceptively simple eggs benedict, come in many permutations; angels on horseback (oysters wrapped in bacon), the american pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in croissant dough) and devils on horseback (dates or liver wrapped in bacon).

What is the point of dressing up for Christmas day? 
Some of the nicest Christmas days we've had in past years involved Pyjamas (a clean, festive set), a Doctor Who and Downton Abbey boxset marathon and an enormous cheese platter. I adore having family Christmases - it's so lovely watching our nephews rip through their festive gifts - but I'm usually too concerned with chipping my new manicure (specially booked in on Christmas Eve to avoid all possible damage) and balancing canapes over a nice dress to really properly relax.

Why do we eat Turkey at Christmas? Adventures of a London Kiwi

So, why do we eat turkey at Christmas?
My husband's family are split into two camps - the ones who eat it as a festive treat, taking great pleasure in carving the white and dark meat (the dark is usually favored as it has a little more flavour apparently) from a painstakingly prepared whole turkey, and the ones who only eat Roast Beef (one year we branched out and made a delicious beef wellington). We don't really eat the gobbling fowl the rest of the year, unless someone is going through a Paleo phase, and I've quizzed them tableside as to whether they enjoy Turkey which is usually met with a "oh, well, it's nice, but it's traditional, you know".

 So I did a little research *ahem, typed my question into Google*;

Historically, prior to the turkey tradition Christmas fare included roast swan, pheasants and peacocks. A special treat was a roast boars head decorated with holly and fruit. Henry VIII was the first English king to enjoy turkey, although Edward VII made eating turkey fashionable at Christmas. Indeed turkey was a luxury right up until the 1950's when refrigerators became commonplace. Turkey was also a convenient family size, lived in people's gardens and didn't provide other foods like cows provide dairy.

Bread Sauce. What the hell?

Why do we eat Turkey at Christmas? Adventures of a London Kiwi

Who called the sweet shortcrust pastries filled with sultanas, spice and everything nice, 'mince pies'?
In my country, mince pies are served with a cheese topping under the pastry lid and a swift helping of tomato sauce (aka a near-cousin of Ketchup). Don't get me wrong, I adore festive mince pies but they confuse me a little sometimes. Usually just before the point that I bite into one and get lost in the flavour.

Why did someone once think it was a good idea to bring a forest item into our lounges, call it a Christmas tree and then hang purpose-made breakables from the branches?
The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God. 
Nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably began about 1000 years ago in Northern Europe. Many early Christmas Trees seem to have been hung upside down from the ceiling using chains (hung from chandeliers/lighting hooks). Thanks whychristmas.com for clearing that one up...

How early is too early to sing Christmas carol?
I get woken up at 6am on the 1st of December each year to Slade's "Oh I wish it could be Christmas Everyday" which is hilarious, but why shouldn't we sing about peace on earth, how the stars brightly shine or pen hilarious lyrics about an elderly lady getting knocked down by a gilded flying bucket led by deer. Whilst writing, why do we also allow pop starlets to warble over simply, pretty classics?

Why do we eat Turkey at Christmas? Adventures of a London Kiwi

But these questions aren't just restricted to the Northern Hemisphere, oh no...

Why do Kiwis and Aussies sing Christmas carols and exchange Christmas cards with snow and robins on them?

How does a piping hot roast meal in the middle of Summer make any sense?

Just who writes all of those terribly wonderful Christmas cracker jokes and why weren't they upgraded in their cross-globe journey?

Why do we eat Turkey at Christmas? Adventures of a London Kiwi

All these pointless questions posted over the feast laden table -and that's not even mentioning the vicious spikes of holly, pest-status of ivy or scarcity of real mistletoe...


Do you find yourself with any random questions?

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