Why Roasted Goose Used To Be The Choice-Meat For Christmas Dinner

If you've ever watched a Christmas movie set in the past, you may have noticed that some of the olden traditions differ from the celebrations today. For example, in "A Christmas Carol," the Cratchits have a roasted goose as their centerpiece before Scrooge sends them a prized turkey as their main course. It would be historically correct for the Cratchits to be roasting a goose for Christmas as other meat options were either quite expensive or had another important purpose; chickens could lay eggs that could be sold or eaten and dairy cows could produce milk used for the same purpose. Families that weren't extremely well-off didn't have the means to off one of their essential providers. A goose was the Christmas meat of choice for the everyday people.

Geese became an easy option because they were found on farms and did not possess the same consistent egg-laying ability as hens as they only lay eggs in the warmer months. It made sense economically to use a goose as the main dish and to sell geese to others as a food option as well. Geese were larger than chickens as well; the fatter bird was ideal to feed many people, whether it be a family or a holiday party. The bird would be its fattest in December. Geese have cemented their place in Christmas lore, from a shout-out in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" to mentions of a cooked goose in traditional Christmas poems and stories.

The transition from a Christmas goose to a Christmas Turkey

Today it's hard to imagine a holiday bird other than turkey, but it took some time for this to catch on, especially in Europe. Turkeys are native to America, the first turkeys were introduced across the pond in Europe in 1550. American settlers began using turkeys in place of geese for the same reason the goose was originally used; it happened to be on their land and was more convenient than other options.

Turkeys began to appear on some European tables during the 16th century. King Henry VIII of England was the first monarch to indulge in a turkey for Christmas dinner and kicked off the trend in his country. The turkey was seen as a luxury bird because it had to be imported and wasn't as readily available. And just as the goose received a humble mention in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," the same novel helped to cement the turkey's place in the Christmas tradition due to the novel's popularity and longevity over time. While some people still enjoy a roasted goose today, the more common option is now the turkey. But thanks to the goose's longtime popularity, the Christmas goose association will still be around for a long time to come.