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Traditional Christmas Dinners in America.

Are you a Ham? A Turkey? Something Else?



According to Time Magazine, Americans consume an estimated 22 million turkeys on Christmas. They also purchase an estimated 318 million pounds of ham around the holidays.

Back in the 1600’s Turkey was all the rage. In fact, it was considered an exotic bird. Far more “wow” factor over the standard Goose. Pigs were quite popular but really a mainstay for every holiday so for Christmas, it was considered a “what else is new” main dish.


Christmas traditions in the United States have many eclectic origins with those from the United Kingdom predominant, but many others over the past 400 years have come from Scandinavia, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and, most recently, Spanish speakers from Latin America and the Caribbean.





The basic American Christmas dinner is British in origin: roasted root vegetables as a side dish, mashed potatoes, gravy, and the centerpiece being a stuffed roasted fowl. In the South, an area that has a very high concentration of people of UK extraction from centuries past, Christmas is the time of year in which many variations on a country ham or Christmas ham get served.


Further regional meals offer diversity. Virginia has oysters, ham pie, and fluffy biscuits, a nod to its English 17th century founders. The Upper Midwest includes dishes from predominantly Scandinavian backgrounds such as lutefisk and mashed rutabaga or turnip. In the southern US, rice is often served instead of potatoes, and on the Gulf Coast, shrimp and other seafood are usual appetizers, and Charlotte Russe chilled in a bed of Lady Fingers (called just Charlotte) is a traditional dessert, along with pumpkin and pecan pies. In some rural areas, game meats like elk or quail may grace the table, often prepared with old recipes: it is likely that similar foodstuffs graced the tables of early American settlers on their first Christmases.


What is a traditional dinner on December 25th for people not celebrating Christmas?

It is a common tradition among many Jewish Americans, for example, to eat American Chinese food on Christmas, because these were often the only establishments open on the holiday in many cities. Rabbi Joshua Plaut has this observation:

The Chinese restaurant was a safe haven for American Jews who felt like outsiders on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. If you go to a Chinese restaurant, you become an insider. You can celebrate somebody else's birthday and yet be amongst friends and family and members of the tribe, thereby the outsider on Christmas becomes the insider.

Whatever you enjoy on Christmas Day, rest assured that we at Morton Williams wish you a happy and health meal with family and friends. We also most likely carry every ingredient you need for your side dishes, desserts and main dish whether it's exotic, "what else is new," or "WOW!"

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