Christmas dinner emerged for the first time as an important and distinctive meal in mid-nineteenth century America, fueled by changing attitudes towards the Christmas holiday, changing meal patterns, and the need to unify Americans after the Civil War and to assimilate waves of immigrants. Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol provided an ideal template for meals centering on turkey and plum pudding, and that model has continued to inform many middle and working class tables. But by the end of the nineteenth century, cookery writers for the more affluent market began to disdain turkey at Christmas, and the uniform tapestry of Christmas foods began to unravel. Christmas dinner in twentieth-century America became more a statement of class than of national identity.

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