To all my neighbours in the United States, I’d like to wish a very happy Thanksgiving. We had our Turkey Day in Canada last month, but many of the traditions are very similar between the two countries. For example, we both tend to carve up a big honking turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

Have you ever wondered how that tradition came to be? So did I, so I did a little snooping around the Internet to see if anyone could enlighten me on the matter. Now, I realize that Internet research might not be the most reliable thing in the world (“It’s online; it has to be true!”), but it’s a good start if you want to pursue this search further.

In general, I found two themes starting to emerge. There are others too, to be sure, but these two stories came up time and time again through my online searches.

The Queen Roasts a Goose

First, it seemed that Queen Elizabeth was enjoying a harvest festival dinner one night and baked goose was the main course. When she was told that the Spanish Armada had sunk enroute to an England-bound attack, the Queen celebrated by requesting another roast goose. Since turkey is more plentiful in American than goose (and the two birds are somewhat similar), the tradition was born in the States to carve up a turkey around the autumn harvest.

The second possibility is much more pragmatic in nature and it could be related to the Queen Elizabeth story. In the late 19th century, people wanted to also celebrate the harvest season in the fall. From an economic standpoint, eating large poultry around this time made the most sense.

Cheap Eats for a Large Family

Turkeys, both wild and farmed, were relatively plentiful. They were large birds, so they offered enough food to feed a large group. It also helped that they were relatively cheap, at least on a per pound basis, compared to chickens. Even then, slaughtering hens hurt the family farm, because the hens laid eggs. And cows were worth more alive than they were dead on the dinner table.

Turkey dinner made economic sense, since commercially-available meat wasn’t exactly widespread just yet. They were cheaper than the British-favored geese too. I’m not sure if I can believe either story, but it’s good fodder for conversation.

Gobble, Gobble Around the World

Whether it’s a Canadian holiday, American holiday, Australian holiday, or British holiday, I still find myself putting in some work on any of these days. The international nature of freelance writing, particularly with clients all around the world, lends itself to a rather global calendar.

No turkey for me today, so to my American cousins, please have a drumstick on my behalf.