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(I first posted this blog on Dec 3, 2012 and, really, it still applies. I still need to prepare for Christmas….)

I am the lady of this house, not an exalted country house, but a respectable one and I must not dally any further. I must prepare for Christmas. It is a daunting task in this modern age – 1820. There is so much to do.

First I must check to see if Cook has prepared the Christmas pudding. She should have done so one week ago on Stir Up Sunday. I must discuss with her all the food we shall need for the holidays, because the rest of the family and some friends will gather here and they will stay through Twelfth Night.

I should send invitations to the families near here to come for a Christmas meal. I believe I shall have my daughter write them. She has a better hand than I. Soon it will be time to send the footmen out to gather greenery and we must hang a ball of mistletoe to generate some excitement during the party.

Then there are gifts to purchase. I shall make a list and have my husband’s people purchase them in London and send them to me here. And I must exert myself to embroider some handkerchiefs for everyone, because that is the sort of generous person I am.

Speaking of generous, we will also make up baskets of food for those less fortunate than we. I am certain the kitchen staff and maids might take an afternoon away from their duties to assist in filling the baskets. My dh, Lord P–, and I will, of course deliver them to the families. It will take the better part of the day.

Elena reminded me I must make brandy butter and that it needs a great deal of tasting to make it just right.
Now I shall lie down for a bit. All this planning has quite exhausted me (not to mention making the brandy butter)

It is such a busy time!
What are you doing to prepare for the holidays??

In researching Lord Grantwell’s Christmas Wish I came across some new-to-me Regency Christmas traditions. I’ve blogged about Regency Christmases before, like here at Risky Regencies in 2016, when Bound By a Scandalous Secret was a December release.

I mentioned things like Regency households did not have Christmas trees or send Christmas cards. Santa Claus came later, as did singing Silent Night. They did exchange gifts, decorate with winter greenery, and have special Christmas food. You can read the whole blog here.

Lord Grantwell’s Christmas Wish was set in Yorkshire, so a couple of new traditions popped up in my research.

The first was a tradition involving the lighting of the yule log. To bring good luck, a large log was brought in on Christmas eve to burn constantly in the hearth until it has completely burned itself out. Before supper, when the yule log is burning, all other lights are extinguished, everyone is silent, and the youngest one present must light two special candles from the yule log while everyone makes a wish. The wish must be kept secret or it will not come true. In my book it is Anna, the youngest of Lord Grantwell’s wards who lights the candles. And, of course, along with everyone else, Lord Grantwell makes his wish.

Another Yorkshire tradition I discovered took place on Christmas morning. For more good luck, on Christmas morning, before anything was taken out of the house, something green must be brought in, usually a leaf from an evergreen. Grant charges Anna and her brother William with this task.

Did you know there were different versions of The Wassail Song? Even though I was not absolutely sure the Wassail Song was sung in the Regency, I played upon the differences.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“You are forgetting something, m’lord,” Thompson said. 

“Forgetting something?” He was puzzled. “What?” 

“The wassailing song,” Thompson said.

Anna’s face fell. “I do not know the wassailing song.” 

“No?” Grant touched her cheek. “We will sing it for you.” He began and the servants joined in:

We’ve been a-while a-wandering,

Amongst the leaves so green.

But now we come a wassailing,

So plainly to be seen. 

For it’s Christmas time, when we travel far and near,

May God bless you and send you a happy New Year….

He paused. “Miss Pearson, why are you not singing?” 

She shook her head. “That is not the song I know.”

“That is the wassail song,” he insisted. 

“No,” she countered with a smile. This is the wassailing song.

 She sang: 

Here we come a-wassailing

Among the leaves so green;

Here we come a-wand’ring

So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail too;

And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year

And God send you a Happy New Year…

“No. No. No,” he protested. The words were slightly different. The tunes were slightly different. He led the servants in the second verse:

We are not daily beggars,

That beg from door to door,

But we are neighbors children,

Whom you have seen before…

Lillian stopped them. “That is the third verse,” she said. “Here is the second.” 

Our wassail cup is made

Of the rosemary tree,

And so is your beer

Of the best barley.

He joined her in singing the refrain—his refrain along with hers, and they all continued singing verses with identical lyrics, Lillian’s differing version making a sort of harmony while the refrains sung together became a jumble. 

He and the others ended the song, but she kept singing. One last verse.

Her singing slowed and she held her gaze on his:

God bless the master of this house

Likewise the mistress too,

And all the little children

That round the table go.

When she mentioned children she walked over to William and Anna and put her arms around them. Grant joined them as they sang the refrains one last time with the children trying to join in. 

And God send you a Happy New Year…

Here’s the Yorkshire version:

Here’s Lillian’s more familiar version:

Love and Joy come to all of you from the Riskies….and to you your wassail, too!

I have a new book out!

Lord Grantwell’s Christmas Wish is available at online bookstores now!

I had a lot of fun writing this one, especially in adding Yorkshire Christmas traditions and researching toys of the time period.

See my Pinterest Board for some of what I came up with.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

He wished to never see her again

Now he wishes she’ll stay…

Lord Grantwell hasn’t seen Lillian Pearson since she betrayed him years ago. So when she arrives on his doorstep looking for sanctuary, he’s not inclined to offer it! But when the two orphaned children in his care ask if she can stay for Christmas, how can he refuse? Grant and Lillian discover an intense attraction still simmers between them, and Grant starts to wonder if he has done her a grave injustice…

Here’s what the reviewers had to say:

Gaston fills the second sterling addition to her Captains of Waterloo series with holiday warmth and cheer before wrapping it up with her usual insightful characterization, empathetic storytelling, and perfect period details. John Charles, Booklist

Five Stars! Diane Gaston has creatively intertwined this time in history with joyful holiday festivities, and the resulting storyline is constantly filled with anticipation for one event while being guarded because of uncertainty about other circumstances….A number of enchantingly delightful Christmas traditions of the Regency era are scattered throughout the story….This couple come across as very believable, as reactions are sincere while their inner feelings are so heartfelt, thus causing me to truly like them and hope they would finally have a sense of belonging. The second book in the Captains of Waterloo series is engaging at all times. Amelia,

In her Regency romance featuring two estranged lovers, Gaston adds a dash of Christmas spice to a heartwarming story about the meaning of home and family…. Readers get to experience the joy of Regency-era Christmas traditions and children’s pastimes as Lillian and Grant try to give William and Anna a happy holiday, falling in love in the process. Sarah Johnson, Historical Novel Society

You can order Lord Grantwell’s Christmas Wish from Amazon or your favorite online bookstore.

janusHappy New Year, everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying the holidays, and found some time to relax, read, write, or at least spend some time with loved ones. It always feels refreshing to me when we start a new year. I like to do the Janus-thing –you know, the Roman god of new beginnings & reflection, who looked both forward and backward. Do you like to do that, too?

Looking forward, we are considering some changes here at the Riskies, and we would love to have your feedback. So, below I’m going to post some questions and hope you’ll take the time to consider them and share your thoughts with us. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on any changes we decide to make!

Before I post the questions, I’ll share a little of looking backwards over my holidays. First, I learned why it’s best to spoon the brandy already in the pan over the plum pudding after it’s alight. My family always has plum pudding (with hard sauce) at Christmas dinner, a nod to our English heritage. But you must understand the job of flaming the pudding is usually undertaken by my sister, who could not be with us this year. Here’s what happens if you light the pudding, then decide to pour more brandy on it after it’s flaming nicely –the blue flame travels up the stream of brandy to the receptacle you are pouring from, making you dump the rest quickly and without much grace, before your sleeve catches on fire. <g> Christmas Pudding-afireI must say that creates a really good blaze!! Good thing I was using a heat-proof glass measuring cup! Hmm, maybe that’s why the pudding package says to use just a teaspoon or two of brandy, but we have found that’s nowhere near enough! I might have to use this in a story…

Second, I learned a lot about foods that are considered to be lucky, or lead to prosperity and good health, if eaten on New Year’s Eve. We usually stay in and have friends over for dinner on New Year’s Eve, so this year I planned a menu made up almost entirely of these sorts of foods: shrimp (before dinner), lentil soup, butternut squash soup, roasted pork tenderloin, soba noodles (with water chestnuts, spinach, and curry sauce), salad of dark leafy greens with poppyseed dressing, sour cream & chive mashed potatoes colored gold, lemon poppyseed muffins. Explaining them all would be another whole blogpost! (Desserts were exempt from the theme.) Aside from the fact I prepared almost twice as much as we needed, we had a lovely evening, watched the 2006 movie Miss Potter (about Beatrix Potter) and all managed to stay awake to watch the NYC ball drop on TV and make a toast to the new year at midnight. Now we are all expecting great things from 2015.

I am sure I should be posting profound insights here, but after also having relatives over for dinner on New Year’s Day who couldn’t come on Christmas, I am still (or again) cleaning up my kitchen and am too tired to think that hard. I do love the holidays, but still, I can’t wait to get back to work on my Christmas novella (for release next fall), my rewrite of The Magnificent Marquess, my series and other writing projects. Do you feel a bit relieved when life starts to return to “normal” routines?

The normal routines here at the Risky Regencies are already a little changed with the departure of Megan and Myretta. We will miss them greatly! Thank goodness we can still visit with them in their other online homes. And we’ve invited some wonderful guests and may be expanding the ranks of the Riskies, as we have before. But we are taking a hard look at our blogging schedules, and wondering about making changes. So here are some questions we’d love to have you answer:

1) How often do you read the Risky Regencies blog? Daily, every few days, weekly, or less often?

2) Do you read several postings at a time, to catch up, if you don’t visit every day?

3) If we cut back the posting schedule so there were only three or four posts each week, would you still check in with us to read the posts?

4) Do you tune in to read only certain Risky authors, or do you read all/any of us? Do you pay attention to the schedule of who posts when?

5) Do you prefer one type of post over another? (i.e research posts, personal posts, writing related posts…)

6) Are you on Facebook? Do you think we should make the Riskies Facebook page a more active venue for discussions and posts?

We have tried to keep a schedule where there’s a new post almost every day. While we love the sharing with you, keeping to that schedule can really cut into writing time, and we are thinking a somewhat reduced schedule might be a help to all of us. What do you think?

Please, share your thoughts with us? We really would like to know. You can post in the comments here, or on the FB page, or in anyone else’s comment spaces in the next week.

In the meantime, I (and all my fellow Riskies, I’m certain) wish you all the very best in 2015, and look forward to many more conversations in this space!

I love old and unusual (pre-commercial-madness) holiday music. This season I spent some time prowling around Youtube and found some traditional renditions of favorites, and also some interesting reinterpretations.

The Coventry Carol deals with the Massacre of the Innocents, when Herod ordered the execution of male children under the age of two in Bethlehem, an often forgotten part of Christmas story. To me, it is a necessary counterbalance to some of the forced jollity of the season, a reminder that while many of us are celebrating, there are those who suffer who deserve our compassion.

This is King’s College Cambridge’s traditional rendition of the Coventry Carol.

Here’s a modern version composed by Kenneth Leighton, using the original words. Some commenters didn’t like the change but I find it captured the solemn subject beautifully. The young soloist is fantastic.

I’ve also loved “Gaudete”. Here’s a version by Anúna. Don’t you love their costumes?

And here’s a version described as a “post industrial groove anthem”, from the men’s choir of Milliken University.

What do you think of these pieces? Do you enjoy their modern reincarnations?

Happy Boxing Day!


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