Why Is Turkey the Traditional Christmas Dinner?

Some historians attribute the tradition of eating turkey on Christmas to author Charles Dickens and his popular holiday story "A Christmas Carol." In the novel, the Cratchit family and Ebenezer Scrooge eat a Christmas meal that includes the turkey he gave the family as a gift.

The tradition of eating roasted poultry for Christmas dinner is an old British tradition that migrated to America from Europe. Roast goose was the bird of choice at Christmastime for many British families until turkey from America arrived in England. Charles Dickens may have cemented the tradition of turkey on Christmas in England and America when his main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, presented a turkey to Bob Cratchit and family. The characters sat down to a Christmas turkey with all the trimmings, including stuffing, gravy and plum pudding.

Turkey is considered an affordable meat that is enjoyed by families at all income levels. The bird's larger size and affordability could also play a factor in its popularity as a Christmas meat. Turkeys are typically 10 to 12 pounds, which provides plenty of meat for a family meal. The cost of raising turkeys is economical as well. Beginning in the 20th century, some affluent families preferred wild game or beef for Christmas dinner over turkey.