Christmas Trivia - Christmas Dinner
What is the origin of the tradition of having a Christmas Dinner, or a special feast at Christmas?
Christmas dinner is the primary meal traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
As long as Christmas has been celebrated, the celebration appears to have included a large meal. Of course, food plays an important role in many celebrations, including Thanksgiving, Easter, and Passover.
However, the Christmas feast always followed an Advent fast that prohibited the eating of most animal products (other than fish) during the four weeks before Christmas. Therefore, the breaking of the Advent Fast was the primary motivation for the abundance of foods available at a Christmas celebration.
Ancient Christmas feasts were less focused than today's on the specific types of food to be available -- although even in older times traditions had developed around serving plum pudding, mince pie, or a boar's head. But for the most part, the focus of the ancient Christmas feast was on the abundance of the food -- not the type -- and the specific plates served would depend on what was available and popular, with the Christmas celebration inspiring more and better, rather than different.
Therefore, an ancient Christmas dinner might have featured goose, duck, pheasant, venison, chicken, beef, pork, rabbit, or whatever could be had in abundance, but not anything different from their normal diet, unlike the narrow modern preference for specific "Christmas" foods, such as turkey or ham, either of which might commonly be eaten only once or twice per year.