Bill of Fare, Christmas Dinner, December 25, 1859 Aboard the Ship Reliance
The life of a sailor did not always provide for the option of spending Christmas Day with his family. Many times, sailors were away from home for several years and celebrated the holiday aboard ship. Depending on who kept the ship’s log, Christmas Day was discussed in detail or not mentioned at all. The Bill of Fare shown above, was penned by Freeman Pulsifer, the keeper of the log for the Ship Reliance, on its voyage from Boston to Hong Kong, via Manilla. Christmas was celebrated on a Sunday in 1859. The entry before the Bill of Fare reads as shown below:
Sunday Dec. 25
Got up this morning at 4 oclock just about daylight. Drew a pail of water from over the side and took a rub-down. Notice the water a trifle cooler than a week ago. Went to bed again and got up at 7. did not hear any bells ring for Christmas.
Beautiful day, wish I were on shore as we do not distinguish this day here, not even We had a crushing dinner tho’ and the bill of fare annexed, will make the mouth water.
The remainder of the entry for this day consists of notes transcribed by Pulsifer from his reading of the East India Directory; he includes notes on Trade Winds, Monsoons, and Ty-foongs.
I searched several other log books to learn more about the celebration of Christmas aboard ship. James E. Cook kept a diary aboard the bark, Houqua, as a passenger and while living in China. His entry for Christmas, 1859, reads:
Johnny hung up his stocking for the benefit of ‘Santa Claus.’ All the folks are well.
Christmas Day at home. I suppose everybody is enjoying themselves and having a good time generally. killed a pig yesterday and had Roast Pork and Plum Pudding today for dinner. The sailors enjoyed themselves and had something a little extra.
The entry for Christmas Day 1788 aboard the schooner Ruby, traveling between Cape Anne, Massachusetts and Martinuque reads:
At 7 caught a Dolphin and him him for Cristmest Dinner.
The British ship, Island Home, traveling from Philadelphia to France, the West Indies and Florida, included an entry for Christmas 1878.
Morning just such aw one as I hoped to see on Christmas Day, clear, fine bracing air & good 6-7 K Breese . . . Just such a day as I would have asked for the anniversary of the Nativity of our Blessed Lord. We can forgive the calm that delays us for such a perfect sky, air and surrounding as we now enjoy . . . All hands had holiday mates champagne, stewand ale, boy port & men a mixed punch made by my own hands. Roast Pork Chicken-soup & all the fixins filled out the bill of fare, & the steward sat up about all last night to get it ready.
To learn more about these logbooks and read the PHILCAT record for the item, click on the link attached to the name of the ship. My thanks to Kathy Flynn, Head of Reference, for sharing the Bill of Fare illustrated above as well as for the image of the sailor attempting to attach a Christmas tree to a ship’s mast, depicted in the December 2nd posting.