THE WORST JOBS IN HISTORY CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Let’s face it – there’s always been plenty of extra work to be done at Christmas time. But historically, seasonal Christmas labour was far worse than just stocking shelves. In this Christmas Special of The Worst Jobs in History, Tony Martin takes a closer look at Christmas in Roman/Anglo Saxon, Medieval, Stuart, Georgian and Victorian times, and discovers some truly hideous jobs.
In Roman times the season of Saturnalia (which Christmas would eventually replace) meant the house slave had his hands full collecting the vomit of his masters as they feasted on their Christmas lunch. In the Medieval era, ‘faggoters’ worked their fingers to the bone collecting forest sticks and binding them together in freezing weather to sell them for a pittance to fuel the Christmas fire, and boar hunters risked life and limb to track the piece de resistance of the Christmas table – a boar’s head.
The Irish and Scottish kelp collectors of Georgian times had the unenviable task of rising at 3am to collect 20 tons of seaweed before boiling it down to make one ton of soda – the magical chemical that kept the linen tablecloths snowy white underneath all that Christmas fare.
And in Victorian times – an era where gas lighting was dim – some brave man had to cook up the highly flammable and dangerous chemical concoction whose phosphorescence illuminated the stage of the Christmas pantomime – the original ‘limelight’. Meanwhile, some other lucky actor had to be the back end of the Christmas pantomime’s cow…
Even worse, Victorian children as young as four worked in sweatshop conditions to create beautiful dolls which would cost more than the child’s annual wage – gifts for other rich children to find beneath the Christmas tree.
And which lucky soul got to pluck, stuff and cook hundreds of turkeys for an aristocrat’s Christmas celebrations? Or had to cut the traditional forest ‘Yule Log’ in sub-zero temperatures? Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, these are the worst Christmas jobs ever…