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The Twelve Days of Christmas: Part 6 – 5 Gold Rings

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My “12 days of Christmas Sale” is running in my ETSY SHOP 

****** For more details, please see my previous post  ******

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

Five Gold Rings

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Illustration of “five gold rings”, from the first known publication of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (1780)

I’m deviating from the original article I have been basing this series on for the 5th Day of Christmas, as its difficult enough to relate Gold Rings to birds, although this “may have referred to Ring-Necked Pheasants, or perhaps to Golden Pheasants. Those original meanings unify the verses around a bird motif.

Both of them are natives of Asia but have long had successful populations in Europe and the British Isles. The Romans probably introduced them to Europe during their Empire. Pheasant were accepted residents of Britain by the 10th century.” 

I’m not convinced this is the best interpretation!  After all, the whole song is not just about birds, but it’s fun to try and link them anyway – and FIVE gold rings do seem to be a bit excessive, even if it was for a ‘true love’!

The Radio 4 “Tweet of the Day” has chosen another bird, and you can hear it here;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09jgnf4#play

a British Goldfinch in flight showing the yellow ‘flash’ on wing feathers – some American Goldfinch have bright yellow bodies!

“As actress Alison Steadman outlines the refrain Five Gold Rings in the song is a recent thing, having emerged as an Edwardian addition to the song when Frederic Austen composed the music we know and love today. Yet in the century before that, a small colourful bird captivated Victorian society like no other. The goldfinch.”

PS:  In the past, some international readers have had problems listening to BBC iPlayer links – especially in the USA.  If you manage to get to the page without any problems, you may be able to download the file – its only 2 minutes long – and listen to it on iTunes.

Please do let me know if you have any difficulties, or even if you can access it – as its good to know.  You may have to register with the BBC site – this is a consequence of the new rules and regulations on paying for tv licences if you watch programmes online. A pity really, because the BBC always prided itself that it was available worldwide!

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Part 5 – 4 Calling Birds

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My “12 days of Christmas Sale” has started in my ETSY SHOP

****** For more details, please see my previous post  ******

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

By Christine Henrichs – originally published in Backyard Poultry Magazine (2013) – I have added a few photos and modified the text slightly!

 12DaysChristmasBIRDS-1Four Calling Birds

 

In the Carol ” The Twelve Days of Christmas”,  Day Four, the “calling” birds were originally “collie” or “colley” birds, meaning black-as-coal blackbirds. My poultry mind wants to stretch and consider that they could have been black domestic fowls, such as the old French breeds, all of which were often black, or black Spanish chickens.

Black turkeys also were popular in the 18th century in Europe. ( see photo at end of post)

 

blackbird

A very black Blackbird! Not sure why they should have been a gift to a ‘true love’, but they were thought to have magical powers, and are well known for their beautiful ‘song’, so maybe they are in fact “calling birds’ – smile

Black fowl lost favor because the dark feathers show up in the skin of the bird prepared for the table, unlike white feathers. In the 19th century, white birds lost popularity because they were thought to be constitutionally weak. Fashions in food are as variable as fashions in dress.

rooster

jersey giant cockerel

Many breeds have modern black color varieties. American breeds such as Javas, Jersey Giants, sometimes called Black Giants, and the English Orpington have black heritage. Asian breeds such as Cochins and Langshans have a strong history of black plumage. Sumatras are always black.

Black varieties of Orientals are relatively recent, such as Malays and Cubalayas. Among Mediterranean breeds, the White-Faced Black Spanish is an old breed. Minorcas were originally an entirely black breed called Red-Faced Black Spanish.

cayugas

cayuga duck

Black East Indies ducks are an old breed, although whether they date back to the 17th century is a matter of discussion. Some authorities trace their history back only as far as the 19th century. Cayuga ducks are always black. The recognition of the breed dates back to the 19th century, but it originated from wild American Black ducks crossing with domestic ducks. A black variety of Runner ducks is recent, 20th century. Black ducks could fit the description of “colley” birds.

Black turkeys were popular in Europe, and after Columbus introduced the wild turkey, American colonists crossing the Atlantic brought domesticated black varieties with them. Turkeys were often known by their origin as well, such as the Norfolk Black and the Black Spanish.

In domestic poultry, black plumage has an iridescent quality that gives it a greenish sheen, sometimes complemented with violet. The feathers are truly beautiful and eye-catching, suitable for a gift that would honor the season.

black turkey

A ‘spanish style’ Black Turkey

Three French Hens – at last Part 4 – 12 Days of Christmas Carol

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My “12 days of Christmas Sale” has started in my ETSY SHOP

****** For more details, please see my previous post  ******

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

By Christine Henrichs – originally published in Backyard Poultry Magazine (2013)

12DaysChristmasBIRDS-1Three French Hens

(I have kept hens for many years, which is why this piece caught my eye!)

Three French hens could be selected from the three old French breeds recognized by the APA for exhibition. Houdan, LaFleche and Crevecoeur were all in the original APA Standard published in 1874. They have long histories, as far as the 15th century in the case of the La Fleche, the 17th century for the others. All are large birds, topping out at 8 pounds for roosters and 7 pounds for hens. All are white egg layers.

Houdans have been known as Normandy fowl. They are a crested breed, recognized in mottled-black and solid-white varieties. Solid black, blue mottled and red mottled varieties have existed in the past and may be raised by fanciers yet.

In the U.S., Houdans were a popular dual-purpose production breed in the 19th and early 20th century. They have five toes like the Dorkings.

The La Fleche, which may be the oldest of the three, was selected and managed for egg production in Britain and North America. They take their name from the town of La Fleche, around which production was centered in the early 19th century. They probably resulted from crossing Polish, Crevecoeur and Spanish birds, which gave them their white earlobes.

Their unusual horned V-shaped comb is remarkable, in the past causing these birds to be called the Horned Fowl. Although now clean-headed, some breeders report occasional offspring with small crests or tassels. The French standard requires a crest.

Although recognized now only in black, they were bred in other colors in the past. In 1580, Prudens Choiselat wrote that blacks, reds, and fawns were the best. Blue and white strains have existed in the more recent past.

The Crevecoeur is sometimes compared to the Dorking, which has history on both English and French sides of the Channel. They also have V combs, although earlier in history they also had leaf combs. Currently recognized only in black plumage, white and blue ones were raised in the past.

The Crevecoeur was also used as a production fowl in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Wyandottes & Houdan Chickens

The 12 Days of Christmas – Part 2

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This is a continuation of my previous post – A Post for Christmas – The 12 day Carol

From :Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century

12DaysChristmasBIRDS-1So:

having discovered the History of A Partridge in A Pear Tree, we come to

Two Turtle Doves

Turtle Doves are a wild breed of European doves, similar to North American Mourning Doves. They would have been common in England and France during the spring, summer and fall as they migrated through to enjoy a warm winter in southern Africa. They have a long history of domestication by humans.

Doves carry a message of peace and hope, appropriate for the holiday season. Their symbolism transcends religious divisions: In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the dove was the messenger of revival to Noah on the ark in the Old Testament and the embodiment of the Holy Spirit descending on Christ at his baptism in the New Testament. In India, gods take the shape of doves. In Islam, Mohammed was attended by a spirit in the form of a dove.

turtle doves

A Pair of Turtle Doves

In the U.S., doves and pigeons — the terms are used interchangeably, although sometimes there’s a suggestion of size, smaller birds being doves and larger ones pigeons — are very popular. Their small size puts them within reach of those who live in small homes or even apartments. Literally hundreds of colors and types of pigeons have been developed by fanciers. Stephen Green-Armytage has documented many of them in his photographs, Extraordinary Pigeons, http://www.abramsbooks.com. The gift of two Turtle Doves confers both the spiritual and the earthly virtues, their beauty reflecting their spiritual power.

In creating the American edition of Harrison Weir’s The Poultry Book in 1912, editors Willis Grant Johnson and George O. Brown decided to include a chapter on pigeons even though the English Weir had overlooked the species in the original. “There is an awakening of interest among fanciers for the fancy breeds, while squab-raising has become an important business in many sections,” they explain. They invited J.C. Long of New York to write the chapter, describing him as, “one of the oldest and best-known pigeon experts in the country.”

Part 3 – Three French Hens – will be the next post!

In the meantime, you might like to know that for ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ – well actually its 10 days – from Christmas Day, 25 December to 3 January – you will be able to buy any item in my ETSY SHOP (julzcraftsupplies) for 10% less than its normal price.  Why not have a look now and favourite the items you might be interested in, so that you can find them easily in the next few days – smile.