The Twelve Days of Christmas Folklore & History: The Eighth Day

On the Eighth Day of my Christmas Holidays my Employer gave to me…eight dead birds with stuffing up their butts.

As far as we can look back human societies have been celebrating their winter festivals with midwinter feasts. They would have looked slightly different to the roast turkey and stuffing pictured above – heck I’m vegan so mine doesn’t even look like that – but the feeling would have been the same.

Archaeological finds have shown that feasts were conducted during celebrations of the pagan midwinter solstice. With the main meats being pork and beef – which would either be cooked over a spit or chopped up and used in winter stews. Alongside the meat would be seasonal fruits like crabapples or berries, different from us and yet not at all.

From the Romans with their Saturnalia, to the Monks of the Middle Ages with their special spices and roasted fish – humans have been using food to eat away at our winter worried from the very start.

Jump to Tudor times and things are looking down right decedent at our Christmas tables. Or at least the tables of the wealthy. Not only is this the arrival of the Turkey into England , – in 1523 – we also have things like blackbirds, badgers and swans filling the feasts of Henry VIII. Not to mention the mince meat pies, which back then were the size of a baby’s cradle.

Come the Georgian period, the Brussel Sprout makes its first appearance- at least on the British plate.

By Victorian times, this midwinter feast has become a smaller more intimate affair. With trimmings like roasted parsnips and potatoes, along with a cooked goose making it’s way onto even the most humble of plates.

And come to today where we celebrate this midwinter feast in anyway we so choose – nut roasts, KFC, Chinese Food – it really doesn’t matter. Just so long as you’re stuffing yourself silly, you’re continuing this wonderful tradition. Oh, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.

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