I wonder how stressed Regency folk were during the holidays. I was thinking that perhaps they didn’t travel so much, and things might have been easier. But then I remembered all the accounts of people going for protracted visits to various country houses. Like the following snip from a letter Lord Aucklands sent his sister, Emily Eden, after a visit:

“Mary in such a fright you never saw—such a silence you never heard—room so hot you never felt—dinner so cold you never tasted—dogs so tiresome you never smelt.”

So maybe holiday visits weren’t so idyllic then, either. It isn’t much comfort as some of us head off to visit extended families for the holidays. It’s not only an issue of differing tastes and comfort levels; it’s the politics.

People who read and write romance love to see closure in relationships—problems worked out with love as the result. But in real life we can’t always have that. Not with relatives or friends who don’t want to work through the real issues. Sometimes the best I know to do is to paste a smile on my face, for the sake of outward peace. I put up with digs from a jealous sibling, because it’s stupid to brangle, and because I want my kids to enjoy a peaceful time with their grandparents.

But it takes a toll. It just feels so wrong to have to put up with nonsense at a time that’s supposed to be so wonderful. The way I cope is to take (or steal, if necessary) as many little moments of beauty, things that are, in their own way, perfect and wonderful.

In the Regency, I probably would have escaped out of doors whenever possible for a walk. Or if that wasn’t possible, I might have dived into a good book or some soothing embroidery.

Some of my favorite modern escapes:

  • Christmas videos. The original GRINCH—what a wonderful character arc! Some less well known pleasures: OLIVE THE OTHER REINDEER, with the voice of Drew Barrymore. So funny and cute! An unexpected pleasure: Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Christmas video, with a surprisingly intense villain (for Disney) and more of the same romantic chemistry between Belle and her tortured hero.
  • Music. ON YOOLIS NIGHT: Medieval Carols & Motets by Anonymous 4—wonderfully atmospheric and soothing. YULE, with Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton on Celtic harp, guitar and lute. And a new favorite: THE CHAPIN FAMILY CHRISTMAS COLLECTION, Volume II–new takes on old favorites.
  • Cookies! Each year I bake a few kinds, but not with the intent of impressing anyone with Martha-ness. I truly love squishing dough with my fingers, love frosting cookies in elaborate patterns. And of course, eating them. Regular standbys: medauninkai, a Lithuanian cookie sweetened with honey and laced with spices. Vanilla almond crescents, made with a ton of butter and covered in powdered sugar that gets all over dark clothing (I guess Megan might avoid them). Something chocolate, which varies—this year those grasshopper squares, like huge, rich after dinner mints. Moderation is for the New Year. Right now, comfort foods are OK as long as you’re not just inhaling them but really taking a moment to savor them.
  • And of course, diving into a good book. This year, I’m taking Julia Ross’s GAMES OF PLEASURE with me as I head home for the holidays.

What are your favorite holiday pick-me-ups?