December 22 – A Goose For Christmas

Today’s factismal: Scrooge bought a turkey for the Cratchit because it was more expensive than a goose.

If you’ve ever read Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol” (or seen any of the many, many, many, many, many film versions of the tale), then you know how it ends: Scrooge wakes up and proves that he’s reformed by buying a turkey for his poor, overworked clerk Bob Cratchit. Now the generosity of buying a meal for someone is nice but one thing that might puzzle modern readers is why did Scrooge buy a turkey? Why didn’t he buy a goose instead? Isn’t that the better bird? The answer, as always, is both yes and no.

The goose was the poor man's meal when "A Christmas Carol" was written (My camera)

The goose was the poor man’s meal when “A Christmas Carol” was written
(My camera)

Today, goose is considered a rare an exotic meat, reserved for special occasions (at least in the USA). But back when Dickens wrote his homily, the goose was the humble animal; unlike turkeys, geese were native to England. That made them cheap to raise and feed, while turkeys were expensive and rare. As a result, a goose was a poor man’s bird while a turkey was something that only a member of upper class society would expect to enjoy. So when Scrooge sent a turkey to the Cratchit family, he wasn’t just sending them a meal. He was sending them an invitation to join the upper class. Today, thanks to advances in modern agriculture and cheap transportation, turkey is the cheap bird and goose is the expensive treat. But both remain delicious reminders of human generosity.

Turkeys were exotic and expensive back in the 1800s (My camera)

Turkeys were exotic and expensive back in the 1800s
(My camera)

They are also reminders that birds are pretty special in many ways. As the last living descendants of the dinosaurs, they tell us about life millions of years ago. And as one of the most common types of animal, they show us how diverse and wonderful our world is. If you’d like to turn the tables on the birds this year and serve them (instead of them being served to you), then why not join in on the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count? Since 1900, this annual event has helped scientists learn more about where birds live and how many there are.  During the first Christmas Bird Count, 90 different species were seen at some 27 locations; last year’s Christmas Bird Count counted 68,753,007 birds belonging to 2,106 different species in 2,462 different spots! To learn more about how to take part this year, wing on over to:
http://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count

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