The annual tradition is back, with lots of money waving, turkeys flying and meat parading in an excitingly good natured morning of protein rich delights.

It’s Smithfield’s annual Christmas Eve auction, although this year it’s on Christmas Eve Eve (aka, Saturday 23rd December), when people throng to a meat market for bargains, laughs and fun.

What was once a necessity in the days before refrigeration, to sell of meat as close to consumption, and ensure none is left to rot over the Christmas holiday — is now a tradition maintained by one butcher.

Harts the Butchers actually spends several weeks preparing for the day, buying in a range of good hefty cuts that wouldn’t look out of place in a normal butchers, but can seem a bit daunting in the domestic setting.

But that’s the fun of it — to buy, for a price a fraction of what they charge in a supermarket — a hunk of meat that leaves you going home thinking “what on earth am I going to do with that?”

The auction starts at 10:30am, but crowds build up earlier. Don’t worry, they try to ensure everyone gets something, and you just need to catch their eye by that most basic of methods — waving money in the air. No credit cards, no fancy pants smartphones, this is a land of tenners, fivers and twentys.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in the front row, or the back, catch their eye and the prize is yours — money passed forwards, and your Sunday roast will be passed back to through the crowd.

Bring your own bags, and enjoy the puzzled look on the way back home on the tube laden down with a small freezer’s worth of meaty goodness, all of a quality better than a supermarket, and at a fraction of the price.

Whether you’re going with the hope of filling a freezer, or just to snag a single item as a treat, it’s as much a tradition for the bargains as the sheer damn fun of it all. I’ve never seen a person leave who wasn’t smiling.

Sadly, your correspondent is sitting this year out, an injury means standing in a crowd waving money is totally out of the question. So enjoy yourselves, there’s one less person competing against you for that prime cut of ribs you’ve got your eye on.

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Whats's on in London: today or tomorrow or this weekend

3 comments on “Smithfield’s famous Christmas Eve auction is back
  1. Martin says:

    We went last year, and it was real good natured fun. You’re not guaranteed to get exactly what you want, though there were plenty of turkey crowns to go round. They’re also quite fair about making sure it’s (mostly) one item per person.

    We also discovered what a big fan our (then) 2-year old is of gammon. We were just about to call it a day when they came out with some 15kg joints, and she ran back down towards the crowd shouting “gammon! gammon!”. Holding up a toddler holding a £20 is a fairly good way to get served, it turns out.

  2. Kit Carrau says:

    Any idea why it’s on the 23rd this year – I would have missed it if I hadn’t checked here first!

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