Until that time ordinary people could not afford a turkey and it is thought that the bird was first eaten during the reign of Henry VIII. At one time an English family might expect to sit down to Christmas Dinner with a boar’s head or even a peacock being the centrepiece of the meal. It was only much later that turkey or goose became the traditional Christmas meal in England.
Although most people in England will be sitting down to turkey today there are still a number of people eating other things on Christmas day with an estimated 3% of the UK being vegetarian there are probably a lot of nut roasts being consumed. Goose is also still popular and is of course the meat mentioned in that most famous literary Christmas Dinner, The Cratchit Family’s Christmas Dinner in Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”.
“There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone, — too nervous to bear witnesses, — to take the pudding up, and bring it in.
Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose, — a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.”
Although the family were poor the important thing for the Cratchits was that they had a meal together and they felt like it was a treat for them all.
The Christmas Dinner has followed the UK example in may countries around the world but there are also a number of other favourites in Poland for example it would not be Christmas without their traditional meal of carp and even in Germany there is a tradition of serving carp at this time of year.
In many countries, particularly those with a strong religious tradition, they will have had their main Christmas feast on Christmas Eve.
Wherever you are, whoever you are with and whatever you are eating, may you have a truly Merry Christmas.