For a British person living in the States, the best deal after Thanksgiving is not a 50-inch television from Best Buy on Black Friday, but a plump, cut-price turkey from the supermarket during the weeks that follow.

turkeyIt may sound a little strange to get excited about purchasing a bird we have just eaten copious amounts of and may be sick of the sight of. However, we Brits like to savor slices of the white, moist meat for our Christmas Day dinner. It is a British tradition.

Traditions—the passing on of customs or beliefs from generation to generation—are important.

Christmas is a time to wonder, believe, and observe our traditions.

And so, my husband and I add to our American Christmas some UK customs that my parents and grandparents have practiced for decades, and British families and English monarchs have observed for centuries.

hans-holbeing-91067_1280Henry VIII in the sixteenth century —the guy who had six wives and chopped off their heads if he didn’t like them—was the first monarch to eat turkey for his Yuletide feast.

For this reason, I presumed turkeys were native to Europe. But, they originate from Mexico. A British explorer to the Americas took an interest in these wild, gobbling birds and herded some on board his ship and brought them to England during the 1500s.

Henry’s choice of Mexican fowl for his Christmas celebration did not make an immediate impact. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that Edward VII, eldest son of Queen Victoria, made turkey a trendy choice for his Christmas Day banquet. Food fads existed even then.

By the 1950s turkey became less of a luxury for only the upper classes and more commonplace for the ordinary family’s Christmas table. However, it has not lost popularity with the royals.

Roasted turkey with all the trimmings— sprouts, parsnips, cranberry sauce, chestnut stuffing, bread sauce, gravy, chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon, roast potatoes—is a tradition for present-day royals, too.

queen-63006_1280The Queen will carve a turkey on Christmas Day like the rest of us Brits.

Queen Elizabeth always spends Christmas on her Sandringham estate, not far from where I grew up. She begins her Christmas morning by attending the small church in the grounds. Next, she shares the turkey dinner with her family, and then at 3:00pm her annual Christmas Day speech is broadcast to the nation.

Her majesty’s subjects, stuffed like turkeys themselves by this point, settle down in front of the television to watch their monarch and hear her words of wisdom, compassion for her citizens, and a proclamation of her Christian faith.

You may not be eating turkey like a British monarch this Christmas, but if you catch the Queen’s Christmas Day speech. you’ll be in for a royal treat. Watch the message from last year. It’s worth listening until the end.

Do you have any special family customs that you enjoy during the holidays?

I’m linking up with Suzie Eller at #LIveFree, and Susannah Kellogg at #FaithandFellowship 



  • Hi Rachel, I enjoyed reading about the British-style Christmas and as an island Brit I can tell we have some of the same customs — definitely the roast turkey one. We also enjoy carolling, going from house to house and serenading others with Christmas songs. It’s a tradition that is slowly dying but which I really enjoy.
    Whatever you do, however you spend it this year, I hope you have a lovely celebration!

  • Christmas is summer, and long holidays (school is out for 5 – 6 weeks!) here in NZ. The traditional hot Christmas dinner (inherited from Britain!) of roast turkey, or lamb, followed by steamed Christmas pudding has been replaced in my generation by much lighter options. It’s entirely normal for a group to have an outdoor celebration – even at a beach! Over recent years there have been a few Christmas drive-throughout, where I take my granddaughter to see the real Christmas story re-enacted – what a joy to see the wonder on her face!
    Happy Christmas!

  • I just love reading your posts, especially when they take me home to Britain in my heart and memories 🙂 When we begin having Christmas in our own home I have all intentions of replicating {or attempting to} my Mum’s Christmas dinners!

  • Rachel,
    I truly enjoyed this window on YOUR Christmas traditions. Now, I also have a good trivia question for my next Thanksgiving feast 🙂 Actually this year, I am dusting off an old tradition of singing Christmas carols around my piano, albeit out of tune. We are not good singers, but we do like to lift our voices to God. So glad I stopped by this morning!

  • Rachel, I always love reading your posts and learning more about you and your traditions! FUN to know. And how blessed the Queen addresses her Christian Faith. Publicly! Praise God!

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