I’ve been thinking about what to make for Christmas dinner. We all have our yummy favorites but I have to decide soon because I need to order our main meat item from our little butcher in town. I was thinking of adding a British favorite or two just for fun so I’ve been doing a little research. Turkey is the hands-down favorite in England. Right around Thanksgiving time we started seeing the ads for “order your holiday turkey now.” We thought this was kind of interesting since Thanksgiving is obviously not a British holiday, but they were already thinking ahead to Christmas. In fact we learned that some Brits are stumped as to what Americans might eat for Christmas if we have just had turkey in November. They can’t imagine anything else.
A traditional English Christmas dinner has a few interesting items for us Americans. There are some variations, but the usual dinner is roast turkey, sometimes goose, brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, stuffing with nuts (chestnuts), bread sauce, pigs in a blanket (sausage wrapped in bacon), cranberry sauce and gravy. The traditional Christmas desert (called Christmas Pudding – all desserts are called pudding) is cake with raisins, nuts and fruit that has been soaked in some type of alcohol, usually made weeks before Christmas.
Brussels sprouts are not necessarily loved by all, but they are the tradition, and there have been recent news stories about shortages of Brussels sprouts and price spikes due to the Christmas demand.
The Queen has traditionally given a Christmas message to the country at 3:00 on Christmas day. This is why most families serve their meal early in the day and sometimes call it Christmas lunch. They wanted to be done prior to 3:00 so they could gather around the radio or the TV to enjoy the message.
Another important festive season food item is mince pies. Mince meat is simply ground meat (beef, pork, turkey, chicken or lamb), but mince pies don’t contain meat. They are primarily fruits such as raisins, sultanas, apples, and black currants sweetened with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. They are very common at Christmas parties in a small bite-sized version.
Christmas crackers are also a fun tradition. Each place setting has a cracker filled with a paper crown and a toy or small gift item. Everyone crosses their arms to hold the cracker with the person seated next to them and the crackers are pulled open together, at the same time. There are all sorts of crackers to choose from at the stores, and most people wear the paper crown throughout dinner.
I’m thinking I’ll try the roast parsnips and possibly the mince pies. Not feeling a lot of love for the Christmas pudding, or the bread sauce (warm milk flavored with onions and mixed with bread crumbs). I actually don’t mind fresh Brussels sprouts roasted with a little bacon, but I probably won’t fight the crowds to buy them at the store. We will likely also break tradition and make something other than Turkey but will enjoy the Christmas crackers. I think that is a nice tradition for us to start.
What’s on your menu for Christmas dinner?