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I recently read this article by Alison Barnes in History Today. It describes how Queen Charlotte (Prinny’s mother) introduced the Christmas tree to England by setting one up at Windsor in 1800. It was decorated with “bunches of sweetmeats, almonds and raisins in papers, fruits and toys”. I wish I could locate a picture!

The article lists several examples of Christmas trees during the Regency and states that the tradition was “firmly established” by 1818, although information I’d read before indicated that Christmas trees were not that common during the Regency. The article goes on to say that by 1860 nearly every family of means had one. This makes me think that Queen Charlotte started the custom but perhaps it was Victoria and Albert’s famous tree of 1846 that made it universal.

Our own tree is a hodge-podge. At one time I had this vision of a designer tree and so I started a collection of blown and cut glass ornaments and made a bunch of crocheted snowflakes. But life evolved and so did the tree. I still enjoy my glass ornaments and my snowflakes, but I’m happy to let them share space with others: stuff my children have made (Q-tip snowflakes decorated with craft store “jewels”, Vaguely Identifiable Things made out of pipe cleaners and beads), my husband’s sports ornaments (featuring the Mets, Giants and Rangers), and a Star Trek shuttlecraft that plays a holiday greeting from Mr. Spock. It’s all good and I don’t miss the designer tree at all. 🙂

Do you have a Christmas tree? What are your favorite decorations?

Happy Holidays!


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So I heard on the radio this morning that we have 19 shopping days left until Christmas!! How did this happen?? The year slipped past while I was not watching. I had a, shall we say, challenging year, and have just started to feel pretty much completely normal again, but it does seem to me like it ought to just be time for Halloween. Not Christmas.

But Christmas will come whether we expect it or not. So how have I been getting ready for it? Well, I have to finish two books and a novella by the end of February (one of those books right after Christmas!) so that is the main way I am spending my holiday. Isn’t the Christmas spirit all about yelling at uncooperative characters and beating one’s head against the desk? Luckily there is online shopping for gifts, and also looking at Cake Wrecks and Go Fug Yourself.

I will get out some of my favorite holiday movies to watch (like Love Actually), decorate the tree, burn my new Marshmallow Peppermint and Dark Mint Chocolate candles from Bath & Body Works, and look at my pretty new party dress. I am also going to see The Nutcracker this weekend (haven’t been in years, so I am very excited!)–I love to see the little girls in their velvet dresses, so excited to be at their first ballet. I will get out some of my Christmas anthologies and re-read some novellas. And on Christmas Eve, there will be my family and my dad’s “famous” margaritas, guaranteed to make even the most frazzled writer feel much, much better…

Last weekend my mother and I made Christmas candy to give as gifts, which is time-consuming (and I usually end up sugar-sick) but is totally worth it. It reminds me of holidays when I was a little kid and would sit in the kitchen watching my grandmother do her holiday baking (she would let me stir the bowls and eat the samples). This Christmas especially I am grateful to be here and spending time with people I love, doing things I love. And that includes writing, which I love even when I hate it. 🙂

Here is one of the candy recipes we make. It could not be easier, and it’s very yummy:

Christmas Bonbons
1 stick butter
2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 can Angel Flake coconut
Tsp vanilla Chopped pecans
Chopped maraschino cherries

Mix these up, refrigerate until chilled. Then form into little balls.

1/4 pound paraffin
Large package chocolate chips (I use dark!)

Melt in double broiler, and dip coconut balls in. Let them harden, and you’re done! (The pecans and cherries are optional–you can really use anything that sounds yummy to you)

What are you doing to get ready for the holidays? What are you grateful for this winter season?? And what movies do you always get out to watch this time of year?

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Hang your mistletoe and stir your pudding. Today we welcome Leisure author Emily Bryan who will tell us about the Christmas Anthology she shares with fellow authors, Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson. Emily is also offering to give away one of her backlist books. Read on and welcome Emily.

“Great writing and research skills, as well as her ability to weave a good old-fashioned story with heft, make her an author to watch.”~Michelle Buonfiglio, RomanceBuyTheBook

1) Tell us about A Christmas Ball and your story in it!

Thanks so much for having me here at Risky Regencies!

A Christmas Ball is a collection of three Regency-set Christmas stories from USA Today Bestseller Jennifer Ashley, Alissa Johnson and me. Since I never like to do the expected, my heroine in My Lady Below Stairs is a scullery maid. Jane Tate is a dead ringer for her well-born half-sister, so when Lady Sybil runs off with an Italian portrait painter, Jane is called in to pose as Sybil long enough to accept an arranged marriage proposal at the Christmas Ball. Needless to say, Ian Michael, the well-muscled head groom who loves Jane, makes plans to crash the party himself. It was great fun to write!

2) How do the three stories fit together? How did this anthology come about? How are the tales connected?

A Christmas Ball is the brain-child of our fabulous editor, Leah Hultenschmidt, at Dorchester Publishing. She conceived a holiday anthology where the stories are united solely by setting and time. The date is December 19, 1822 (not technically Regency for you purists out there, since Prinny has been on the throne for two years, but it’s before the Victorian era kicks off in 1837.) The characters in all three of our novellas attend the same Christmas ball at Lord and Lady Hartwell’s elegant London home. We had to agree on the floor plan of the mansion and certain details about the ball, but otherwise, we were given complete autonomy in writing our stories. Jennifer used her novella as a chance to revisit her Nvengaria paranormal Regency world and Alissa penned a delightful Darcy-esque hero in hers.

3) Did you come across any interesting research on historical Christmases?

Oh, yes! First of all, most of the way we celebrate Christmas now is directly linked to Victorian traditions. For example, there were no Christmas trees in England in 1822. That custom was imported from Germany after Queen Victoria married her German cousin. But greenery was used for decoration, most specifically a “kissing bough.” This was an arrangement of ivy (to symbolize women), holly (whose prickly leaves remind us of men!) and of course mistletoe (still used to steal kisses.) During the Regency era, mistletoe was a limited time offer. For each kiss, the man was supposed to pluck one of the berries. When the berries were all gone, so were the free kisses.

4) What are your own favorite holiday traditions?

Being with family is the most important tradition for us, which means we’ve spent more Christmases in airports and on the road than I care to count. But once we’re all together, before we open our presents, my dad always reads the Christmas story from the Bible, the Luke 2 passage. Any time I read that scripture to myself, I hear my dad’s voice in my head.

5) What is next for you?

I just finished Stroke of Genius (coming June 2010). I adore Crispin Hawke, my hero for this story. He’s a brilliant, but cynical artist who’s so handsome my heroine compares him to a total eclipse. Dangerous to look upon.

Crispin is engaged to sculpt Grace’s hands and decides to help Grace bag a titled husband. But when he starts falling for her himself, the games are just beginning.

I’m in that limbo-land of being between books at present. Just listening to my mental cast of characters and deciding whose story needs telling next. It’s really pretty exciting when a new book starts taking shape.

Another thing I’m excited about now is my MERRY CHRISTMAS BALL CONTEST. Readers who subscribe to my newsletter and enter this contest may win a $100 B & N gift card! So please pop over and enter today. And I’d like to give away a choice from my backlist to someone who leaves a comment or question here today.

To get the conversation started: What’s your favorite Christmas tradition? It can be historic or contemporary.

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