Why do we eat turkeys at Christmas?


I’ll briefly run down the history of Britain’s Christmas turkey to bring you up to speed. Traditionally we’ve always eaten goose in the UK, not turkey. And why not – we’d get some lovely goose fat for our roast tatties.

It wasn’t until the 16th century that eating turkey started to become popular, when Spaniards imported them from America. Henry VIII was apparently the first English king to enjoy the big-breasted bird, but Edward VII made it a little more fashionable to eat them at Christmas.


Still, the turkey was seen as a luxury right up until the 1950s, where the upper classes boasted its exoticism and high price tag. Now, however, it seems to be as common as muck.

In fact, each Chrimbo Britons eat 10 million turkeys (between them, that is, not each) and according to the British Turkey Information Service (yes, there is such a service) Christmas isn’t Christmas for 87% of Brits without a traditional roast turkey. Though, with around 23 million households in the UK, those 10 million turkeys are going to be stretched a little thin if nearly nine in ten Britons want one.


So we’ve been eating Xmas turkeys for a few hundred years, and the birds themselves have been around for 10 million more years (there are fossils to prove it).


If we take a glance around the rest of the world, they’re scoffing much more interesting things. In Norway, Sweden, Poland and Austria fish is the Xmas food of choice. In Germany it’s often game, like wild boar, that makes its way onto the menu.

In Italy, Christmas dinner lasts for more than four hours, with most families stuffing themselves with seven or more courses. And it’s worth giving the Czech Republic a mention, not for their eating habits, but for their superstition. They must have an even number of people around the Christmas table, otherwise the person without a partner will die in the next year. Cheery.

Source: William Herrera


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