Chambers Book of Days

bodfp_smallWhenever I’m at a loss for a topic for this blog, I take a peek at Hillman’s Hyperlinked and Searchable Chambers Book of Days. The Book of Days (or, if you like, the real title: The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, Including Anecdote, Biography, & History, Curiosities of Literature and Oddities of Human Life and Character) was published in 1832 by Robert Chambers, a prolific writer particularly known for his reference books.

The Book of Days is arranged around the calendar, and contains interesting essays and trivia. The original work was printed in two volumes, each 840 pages long. It is an incredible feat of research.

Today’s date in the book contains who was born this date, who died, and the saint whose feast day it was. There was an essay about mermaids and about the “Circe of Carlyle House, Soho Street,” Teresa Cornelys. Mrs. Cornelys ran an upscale Assembly Room where great balls and masquerades were held.

The last essay of November 24 was this one:


The great social and religious festival of New England, from which it has spread to most of the states of the American republic, is a legacy of the Puritans. They abolished Christmas as a relic of popery, or of prelacy, which they held in nearly equal detestation, and passed laws to punish its observance; but, wanting some day to replace it, the colonial assemblies, and, later, the governors of the states, appointed every year some day in autumn, generally toward the end of November, as a day of solemn prayer and thanksgiving for the blessings of the year, and especially the bounties of the harvest.

Thanksgiving day is always celebrated on Thursday, and the same day is chosen in most of the states. The governor’s proclamation appointing the day, is read in all the churches, and there are appropriate sermons and religious exercises. Families, widely scattered, meet at the bountiful thanksgiving dinners of roast turkeys, plum pudding, and mince and pumpkin pies. The evenings are devoted by the young people to rustic games and amusements.

The subjects of the thanksgiving-sermons are not infrequently of a political character, and in the chief towns of the union, those of the most popular preachers are generally published in the newspapers. The thanksgiving festival, though widely celebrated, is Not so universally respected as formerly, as the influx of Roman Catholics and Episcopalians has brought Christmas again into vogue, which is also kept by the Unitarians with considerable solemnity. As a peculiar American festival it will, however, long be cherished by the descendants of the Puritans.

Not a mention of shopping in Chambers’ essay. When you shop on Black Friday, don’t forget to put Megan’s The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior and Susanna’s A Christmas Reunion!

How many of you are planning plum pudding and an evening of rustic games and entertainments this Thursday?

Happy Thanksgiving!

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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Laurel Hawkes
7 years ago

How interesting to see an Englishman’s perspective.

LOL! No plum pudding or rustic games… wait, nieces and nephews will be there so I’m sure a few rustic games will make their way into their play like hide and seek and tag. 🙂

Elena Greene
7 years ago

I’m going to the UU church potluck, so who knows what the food will be. We bring sweet potato & apple casserole and deviled eggs (because my youngest doesn’t like turkey I have told her this is an acceptable protein alternative). Others may supply traditional foods and whatever they feel like–we’ve had anything from authentic German spaetzle to curry at previous gatherings. As we are UUs, lentils may make an appearance. 🙂

Rustic games may happen too. Maybe music.

Louisa Cornell
7 years ago

Unfortunately I will be participating and that most ridiculous of Thanksgiving traditions – The Running of the Idiots – Black Friday. As a department manager I have no choice but to man a post at one of the BIG DEAL items and keep the competitors, I mean shoppers, in line until the item “officially” goes on sale. Think of me between the hours of 2 and 10 PM Thursday night. And as my family is over 80 miles away they will be having Thanksgiving Dinner without me. Sigh. Yet another reason to work harder to make writing my full-time job!

7 years ago

I bought this book at a thrift store this past July. It looked interesting. I haven’t had the time I would like to read much of it, but I will.
We are postponing our celebration until Sunday. One daughter can’t get here until then and we hope the weather cooperates. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving.