About the turkey in Turkey

Wild Turkey So what about the turkey in Turkey? I mean the bird of course. Turkeys have been raised in Turkey for quite a long time and they have become popular as a New Year celebration center piece. Villagers raise them commercially and they can be purchased in a variety of markets.

Late in 2011 I wrote an article called “The turkey in Turkey” in which I attempted to answer the question “Did you ever wonder how the turkey, a bird eaten in celebration of Thanksgiving and Christmas in England and America, became to be named after Turkey, a country of mostly Muslim people?

There are at least two and slightly different versions of the story:

Version One comes to us from Professor Larry E. Tise, a Professor of History at East Carolina University, who tells us that the bird was brought back to the Mediterranean by Columbus, domesticated in Turkey, exported to England and then made its way back to America by way of early colonists.

Version Two comes to us from Professor at the University of Minnesota, Giancarlo Casale, who received what he believed was the definitive answer from distinguished Harvard Professor of Ottoman and Turkish Studies, Şinasi Tekin. Professor Tekin told Casale in this version that the name of the turkey is a case of mistaken identity. He claimed a bird called the çulluk, a bird native to Turkey, was mistaken for the Meleagris gallopavo or wild turkey in America and the name stuck.

Turkey forensicsWhich brings us to this major holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, called Thanksgiving. Eating turkey for Thanksgiving in the United States is a tradition, allegedly going back to the early colonists. However, it seems there are contending origin theories about the first Thanksgiving. The Plymouth Pilgrims origin is the one commonly associated with the event in the United States. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday celebrated on the last Thursday in November, in 1939 Franklin Roosevelt moved it to the fourth Thursday in November. The holiday itself is controversial and not celebrated among various indigenous peoples of North America.

Do not eat TurkeySo the next time someone asks you if people in Turkey eat turkey for Thanksgiving, remind them that Thanksgiving is usually considered to be a holiday in the United States and not in Turkey but that people in Turkey do eat turkey, sometimes for New Year celebrations, sometimes for a change in diet. Of course, if you are a vegetarian as are we Hobbits in Barrakam, you may instead, enjoy looking at these strange birds and listening to their strange “gobbling.”

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