Good news for meat lovers and lovers of a meaty bargain as the exceptionally good fun Christmas Eve auction will return to Smithfield this year.

Despite warnings that the venue might have to change due to development works, it’s been confirmed that Harts of Smithfield will once again open up their shutters in their traditional home near Farringdon Road for the morning.

This year it takes place on Monday 24th December 2018, from 10:30am.

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.

Greg Lawrence has worked at Smithfield since he was sixteen and is now Managing Director of G Lawrence Wholesale Meats, and Chairman of the Smithfield Markets Tenants’ Association.

In the run up to Christmas, Greg gathers up plenty of choice meats and turkeys from the other traders ready for the crowd that’ll turn up on a cold Christmas Eve morning.

And it’s exceptionally good fun.

You don’t need to be there quite as early as some, who will be grabbing front row spots from 9am onwards, as while being at the front of the crowd undeniably helps, they go to a lot of effort to spot people who hasn’t made a purchase and try to ensure as many people as possible go home with something.

Out they come, parading a choice chunk of meat, declare a shockingly low price, then a roar as people wave money and try to grab a bargain.

Being at the back and catching their eye means handing cash forwards over people’s heads (and the crowd always helps) then then, often, a flying pig hurtles back at you as that pork loin or leg that you bought is sent your way. Or the turkey, or the lamb, or whatever it is they manage to rustle up.

Don’t however expect delicate little slices of something in a neat supermarket package, for this is a proper butchers, and you’ll be getting the real thing, in very large portions. 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?”

Bring your own bags, a handful of tenners and twentys, and enjoy the puzzled look on the way back home on the tube with a rack of ribs bulging out of a bag or a suckling pig draped over your shoulder, 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.

It’s the perfect start to Christmas.

NB – for an additional fiver or so, they’ll usually chop up larger pieces if you don’t have a suitable knife at home – just wait until the auction is over for that.

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