Christmas dinner is a meal traditionally eaten at Christmas.
This meal can take place any time from the evening of Christmas Eve to the evening of Christmas Day itself.
It is one of the biggest and most special meals of the year.
All around the world, people celebrate in different ways, eating different foods that reflect different cultures and traditions, and the United States is no exception.
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.
In each US state, people eat different foods at their Christmas feasts based on traditional favorite dishes and what is the freshest around the Christmas season.
In England, the evolution of the main course into turkey did not take place for years, or even centuries. At first, in medieval England, a main course of boar was sometimes served. Through the 16th and 17th centuries goose or capon was commonly served, and the rich sometimes dined upon peacock and swan.
The first turkeys were introduced to England in 1526 by William Strickland, an English landowner and trader who made his fortune sailing to the New World. Strickland is recorded as having bought six turkeys from Native American traders.
When turkeys first appeared in England they would have been a rare sight and the first ones are more likely to have been kept as pets for display of wealth rather than served as food.
The turkey appeared on Christmas tables in England in the 16th century, and popular history tells of King Henry VIII being the first English monarch to have turkey for Christmas.
The 16th century farmer Thomas Tusser noted that by 1573 turkeys were commonly served at English Christmas dinners. The tradition of turkey at Christmas rapidly spread throughout England in the 17th century, and it also became common to serve goose which remained the predominant roast until the Victorian era.
Charles Dickens in particular was the one who spread the idea of a Christmas dinner, with a roast bird, all the trimmings and a pudding on the table.
There are all sorts of influences from different periods in history that have helped make Christmas what it is today.
According to Time Magazine, Americans consume an estimated 22 million turkeys on Christmas.
The humble roast potato has been hailed as the best part of the Christmas dinner. Researchers found the much loved crispy roastie leaves everything else on the festive plate, including pigs in blankets, trailing in its wake. It even beat the star of the show, the Christmas turkey, with stuffing and gravy completing the top five.
Christmas pudding also known as plum pudding is a type of pudding traditionally served as part of the Christmas dinner in the UK, Ireland and in other countries where it has been brought by Irish and British immigrants. It is traditionally composed of thirteen ingredients, symbolizing Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, including many dried fruits held together by egg and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle or molasses and flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and other spices.
The Christmas cake we all know and love today originates from a cake made for and eaten on Twelfth Night (5 January), which was when the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem to see baby Jesus. The use of spices was supposed to symbolise the gifts the three men brought with them, while almonds and dried fruit were a rare sweet treat in the colder months. However, in the 1640s Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans banned feasting of any kind on Twelfth Night, so people started to make it on Christmas Day instead, when a little merriment was permitted. The recipe changed slightly and the almonds were eventually replaced by marzipan in Victorian times, when it became fashionable to decorate the cake to look like a snow-covered landscape (which accounts for some of the kitsch cakes we see today).
In France Buche de Noel or gingerbread men and women are decorated and hung on the Christmas tree.
In Scotland a pastry biscuit called shortbread is made and has become a popular tradition in many countries.
In countries without a lengthy Christian tradition, such as Japan, the Christmas meal may be more heavily influenced by popular culture.
KFC is so popular for Christmas dinner in Japan that people have to pre-order their dinners weeks in advance or wait in lines for hours to get their chicken.