So. Christmas dinner traditions. Lots of people have them. In my husband’s family, they had a sitdown roast beef dinner with the customary sides, along with trifle and floating island for dessert. Everyone dressed formally (ties, etc.), and although they were a “Christmas Eve presents” family, no one was allowed to open anything until the dishes were washed and his father read “The Night Before Christmas” aloud.
Um, in my family, the only tradition for years was getting up at all hours on Christmas Eve to “go down to the bathroom” when we were really checking to see if Santa had shown up. Once it was determined that he had, we lay awake in our beds for about 30 hours until my parents told us we could get up and turn the living room into an explosion of wrapping paper (there were 14 kids, eventually–it was a lot of paper). When I was 13, my father decided that, for religious reasons, we weren’t going to celebrate Christmas.* We substituted with a New Year’s tradition: renting movies and eating a TON of junk food. At first, these were actually reel-to-reel movies played on a screen and projector we got from the library. Later, we rented a TV-cum-VCR from Rent-a-Center (we didn’t have a television, either).** It was tremendous fun, and even now, my favorite Christmas food is the cheese ball.
As we all know from classics like A Christmas Carol and “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” one of the centerpieces (literally, perhaps) of the Victorian Christmas dinner table was the roast Christmas goose. Have you ever had one? I have not, and probably never will–in my head, geese (like ducks) are birds you toss treats to at the park–although geese are meaner, and a little scary once your bread-bag is empty. I can’t really imagine eating them. A lot of people could, however, and since they were apparently expensive, they were given as gifts, raffle prizes, and could be bought in installments by members of “goose clubs.”
As we’ve seen, the latter two could be problematic. Along with the poor fellow who didn’t receive his goose, etc., from the raffle, another December, 1881 article detailed the dilemma of a goose club whose treasurer absconded with all of their money. Reading these, I started to get curious about how the difference between the raffle and the “goose club,” and found this article from The Globe, dated 7 December, 1883:
RAFFLING NOT GAMBLING.
A case of considerable interest to publicans at this season of the year, came into the West Riding Police-court the other day. The landlord of a local inn being summoned for allowing gambling to take place on his premises, the police gave evidence that a leg of pork had been raffled for. The defendant offered no denial, but pleaded general custom in excuse for the technical breach of law. Other publicans’ he affirmed, were allowed to have raffles for food and drink, in order to draw custom to their houses, and why should he be debarred? As the police brought forward the case avowedly as a test, it would appear that the defendant was correct in pleading general use and wont, and the bench, recognising the strength of that excuse, dismissed the case. Yet it is beyond question that raffling is gambling within the meaning of the law. Those who join, pay their money on the chance of winning something of higher value than the amount subscribed, and it matters nothing at all whether the prize be a sum of money or the equivalent in goods. Goose and turkey clubs stand on an altogether different footing, because all subscribers get, or are supposed to get, their money’s worth. But in the first half of December public-house raffles for spirits, tobacco, and other seasonable luxuries are by no means uncommon, and they will not be diminished in number by this magisterial decision acknowledging their legality.
Now that we have that cleared up (and aren’t you relieved!), it’s time to post today’s contest. According to Baring-Gould, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” occurred in 1883, so it is the source of today’s question:
Where did the ill-fated Julia Stoner meet her fiancé, and how does that location connect to an actor who later portrayed Sherlock Holmes?
If you win, you get to go “Holmes for the Holidays”with these two anthologies, containing stories by Anne Perry, Loren Estleman, Carole Nelson Douglas, Daniel Stashower and Tanith Lee, among others. These are used books, in very good condition, copyright 1996 and 1999, respectively. And I will never get used to the 90’s being over 20 years ago.
As always, to play, send your answer to today’s question to me via blog comment or FB message. Hope your day–whether filled with traditions or not–was a wonderful one!
…to Marie-Claire, winner of the True Victorian Crime Book Club! As many of you pointed out, there are a lot of poisoners in the Canon. Her candidates were these:
1. Enoch Drebber from STUD, killed by Jefferson Hope, poison of choice: alkaloid.
2. Brenda Tregennis, from DEVI, killed by Mortimer Tregennis (later killed himself by Leonard Sterndale; poison of choice, Radix pedis diaboli (Devil’s-foot root)
3. The baby in SUSS (who lives), poisoned by Jack Ferguson using a dart tipped with curare or another South American poison.
*So, technically, not all of my siblings had a traditional Christmas, as my youngest brother wasn’t born until I was 16.
**When our Magnavox console bit the dust in 1979-80-ish, my parents just didn’t replace it. 1980’s TV is unknown territory to me.