Turkey: International Bird of Mystery

Since most of us probably won’t be eating it for another 11 or 12 months, I think it’s time to give the turkey its due before we forget about it again.

The word turkey (used to refer to the bird) has a surprisingly convoluted etymology. And no, it’s not a coincidence that it’s also the name of a country… Continue reading

Black Friday

Another Black Friday has come and, depending on where in the world you are, gone again. Did you enjoy it? Did you buy anything?

I must admit that every time I hear the day mentioned, it takes me a moment to remember what it is. In my life it’s quite a new phenomenon. Of course in the United States, it’s long been considered the unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping period (though why it needs to be such a long period I don’t know: I usually manage to get everything after 20th December!) In Ireland it used to be 8th December, when it was said that all the country folk would come to the nearest large town or city to start their shopping. But now, as with so many things associated with Christmas, the shopping starts earlier, and there are more and more ads for Black-Friday deals. Which seems a little strange. I understand why it exists in America: many people have the day off, they’re starting to think about Christmas, and perhaps need to get away from their family after a day of cabin fever. But in Europe it’s a normal working day, so I don’t know how many people are shopping.

The first case of the day after Thanksgiving being referred to as Black Friday seems to have occurred in 1951 in the pages of the journal Factory Management and Maintenance, to refer to the number of people calling in sick to work. But this is not the only Black Friday, which isn’t really surprising when one thinks about our tendency to mark momentous yet tragic days with a the colour black. Perhaps most famously there was Black Tuesday, the day of the Wall Street Crash in 1929. The term Black Friday has long been used by emergency services and the National Health Service in the UK to refer to the last Friday before Christmas, when the increase of drunken revellers makes them quite busy. It’s also, contrary to a seemingly increasingly popular misconception, nothing to with slavery. Here are some more historical Black Fridays: Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers! The commemoration of the first Thanksgiving feast between the Wampanoag tribe and the Mayflower pilgrims is obviously an integral part of American culture. And yet, as it’s not celebrated anywhere in Europe, I was always curious about the celebration whenever I was watching an episode of a TV episode set on the holiday. What are they celebrating? Why is it so close to Christmas? Won’t they get sick of having two big turkey dinners in such close proximity?

As I got older and more worldly, I gathered more information and began to understand the origins of the holiday. I began to understand why Americans refer to The Holidays, plural, and I no longer think Thanksgiving is too close to Christmas. It’s actually a nice way to break up the monotony of Autumn/Winter. Though the commemoration of a peaceful feast between pilgrims and Native Americans always seemed strangely melancholy to me, given how things turned out.

Interestingly enough, that wasn’t actually the first Thanksgiving. Continue reading