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Why do we serve up turkey and mince pies for Christmas

6th December 2019
Posted by Aston Avery

The way we celebrate Christmas has undergone many transformations from generation to generation, from a rambunctious medieval feast to a sumptuous sugar banquet under Queen Elizabeth I and finally emerging as the Christmas we know today in the Victorian era. It was during this historical period that the UK had its very first Christmas tree, turkey lunch, and the meat filling of our beloved mince pies was replaced with fruits, suet and spices.

From decorating the Christmas tree (54%) to tucking into turkey and trimmings (49%) and mince pies (43%) on Christmas Day, the UK is still steeped in these Victorian traditions. Other Yuletide rituals that remain as popular as ever in homes across the country include eating Christmas cake and Christmas pudding (39%), Boxing Day buffets (28%) and putting out all the treats for Santa on Christmas Eve (23%).

Indeed, 92% of us think such rituals are important with 89% planning on sticking to these customs for generations to come, according to new research from Co-op. However, while long-standing Christmas conventions remain sacrosanct, the new seasonal festivities of playing Elf of the Shelf (11%) and eating turkey curry are proving more popular than putting oranges or coal in stockings, or making gingerbread houses (7%).

Aston spoke to Dr Polly Russell, food historian and author and Katharine Shipley, head of innovation at co-op to discuss the history of British Christmas traditions and how they will evolve over the coming years.