Why do we eat turkey on Christmas Day?

A roast turkey is often a Christmas dinner staple. (Picture: Getty)

While eating turkey on Christmas Day might not be as much of a staple these days as it used to be, it’s still a long-kept festive tradition that will be observed around many a dinner table today.

According to business data platform Statista, 78 per cent of us look forward to Christmas dinner on December 25 and for those of us indulging in a festive feast, 64 per cent will cook a turkey (less than the higher 77 per cent of us who will make sure to include roast potatoes as a trimming).

But why do we eat turkey on Christmas Day and how did the tradition start?

Why do we eat turkey on Christmas Day?

Turkeys were introduced to the UK by Yorkshireman William Strickland in 1526, after he was given six birds from American Indian traders on his travels.

King Henry VIII became the first English king to feast on turkey but it was King Edward VII who popularised turkey consumption in the 19th century.

A roast turkey dinner would have looked a little different back in the day. (Picture: Getty)

One of the first written mentions of turkey forming a key part of a Christmas feast was in a 16th century poem which describes Christmas dinner in England as: ‘Beefe, mutton, and porke, shred pies of the best, pig, veal, goose and capon, and turkey well drest”, along with cheese, apples, nuts and ‘good drink.’

Turkey wasn’t readily available to your average family or household until the last century, meaning that turkey was seen as a relative luxury and special treat to be served in honour of Christmas time.

Turkey became widely available in the 1950s, quickly cementing itself as a Christmas Day staple in the UK.

Prior to the relatively modern tradition to eat turkey at Christmas, festive feasts would have featured roast swan, pheasants and even peacocks instead.

MORE: Why do we give presents at Christmas? The history of the festive tradition

MORE: The weird truth behind some of your favourite Christmas traditions


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