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.
It 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.
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 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?