• Risky Regencies

    It’s No Picnic!

    Happy Labor Day!

    This US federal holiday celebrates the economic and social contributions of the American worker. It was first observed in New York in 1882 and became a federal holiday in 1894. Today it has also become the traditional end of summer and the traditional way to celebrate is to have a picnic.

    Of course Labor Day 2020 is like no other. Many of our work force are unemployed or underemployed due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and many of the employed cannot go into work, but must stay at home. Still others, especially our doctors, nurses, and other health providers, are on the front lines, risking their lives for the rest of us. Still others are protesting in the streets, because it is time to for all men (women and children) to be created equal.

    So life is no picnic right now. Many of us are hunkering down in our homes, but others are trying to celebrate this holiday as we used to — with a picnic outdoors.


    Today’s picnic, albeit a socially distanced one, is a leisure pastime for ordinary people, a chance to grill hot dogs and play outdoor games, but during the Regency, a picnic was a fancier affair, and the working people of the period may have experienced it much differently than we do today.
    In the early nineteenth century, picnicking was a way for the privileged classes to commune with nature, all the while consuming a feast assembled to minimize inconvenience and to enhance the outdoor experience. A beautiful site was selected some distance away. Each guest might have provided a dish to share or the host provided all the food. Entertainments were provided. The idyllic interlude was a pleasurable respite from day to day life.


    Except for the servants, for a Regency picnic required a great deal of work.Servants had to prepare, pack, and transport the food, the furniture, the plates, serving dishes, cutlery, and linens. The whole lot would be loaded on wagons but the wagons often could not reach the exact site of the picnic, so that the food, furniture, etc. would all have to be carried the rest of the way by servants, who would then have to set up everything, serve the food, and attend to the guests in any way they required. When the picnic was over, the servants had to clean up, repack everything, and carry it back.

    It wasn’t until later in the Victorian period, with the rise of the middle class and the ready train transportation that picnics became a less exclusive leisure activity. So on this day, while we celebrate our very unique Labor day, let’s also remember the labor that used to go into a picnic. And let’s remember that times do get better!

    (an earlier version of this blog post appeared on September 5, 2011)

  • Holidays,  Reading,  Regency,  Research

    Happy New Year and Twelfth Night!

    How do you celebrate the January holidays? I think I have only just recovered from celebrating New Year’s Eve, when I hosted a group of old friends who gather to enjoy a festive dinner every year. My health has improved tremendously (9 months of physical therapy has helped a lot) but my stamina is still not what it was. And yet, tomorrow I am heading off to an all-day celebration of Twelfth Night (including a feast) in a beautiful Gothic church hall in Fairhaven, MA. I LOVE this event and am so pleased I’m well enough to go this year! I fully endorse the idea of twelve days in the Christmas season.

     

     

     

    The characters in my new release, LORD OF MISRULE, celebrate both of these holidays in the course of the story, which begins on Christmas Eve day and ends on Twelfth Night (not counting the epilogue). On New Year’s Eve, they are traveling, so they celebrate with other strangers in the public room of an inn. On Twelfth Night they are back in the little village of Little Macclow, and they –well, I recommend you read the book, LOL.

    We know that many of the old traditions surrounding Christmas and these January holidays had been forbidden by the Puritans in the mid-17th century. Celebrating Christmas in any form was actually illegal. (No doubt some families continued to celebrate secretly.) However, once the Puritans fell from power, it took time and an actual campaign by one man determined to see the customs revived to bring them back into fashion by the early 18th century. The revival faded a bit (too “old-fashioned” by Regency times) but was then not only revived again but expanded in the Victorian times, when new customs were added from the German traditions. But I only recently discovered how the revival really came to pass. While researching for LORD OF MISRULE I stumbled across a most excellent blogpost from 2009 on the Austenonly.com website, which addresses the misconception some people have that all the old customs weren’t being observed during the Regency. The article “But Surely Christmas in England didn’t exist until Dickens invented it?” talks about the role played by writer William [or Robert] Wynstanley, who through his annual publication of Poor Robin’s Almanac over a period of thirty-eight years [1663-1701] promoted the revival of Christmas traditions. How’s that for perseverance?

    Later, a version under the same name was published by Ben Franklin’s brother and served as the model for his more famous Poor Richard’s Almanac. I see confusion between the different versions and end-dates that don’t pay attention to where these almanacs were published. (the researcher’s headache.) The publication continued to be issued by others (including possibly Robert Herrick whose name is also associated with it) as late as (pick one!) 1776? 1828?

    From the 1664 edition:

    “Provide for Christmas ere that it do come
    To feast thy neighbour good cheer to have some;
    Good bread and drink, a fire in the hall,
    Brawn, pudding, souse and good mustard withal;
    beef, mutton, pork, and shred pies of the best,
    Pig, veal, goose, capon, and turkey well drest;
    Apples and nuts to throw about the hall,
    That boys and girls may scramble for them all.
    Sing jolly carols, make the fiddlers play,
    Let scrupulous fanatics keep away;
    For oftentimes seen no arranter knave
    Than some who do counterfeit most to be grave.”

    I hope you have enjoyed a wonderful holiday season shared with people you love! We here at the Riskies wish you all the very best in 2019, and we thank you for following our humble efforts here. Do you have any special holiday traditions for New Year’s or Twelfth Night? We would love to hear about them.

  • Food,  Frivolity,  Risky Regencies

    Best Wishes for 2016!

    new-years-countdown-clock I suspect that on New Year’s Day, you have better things to do than reading a blogpost at the Risky Regencies! All the same, I’m here, so whenever you are reading this, I want to say thank you for reading during this past year, and I wish you a new year filled with joy, health, luck and prosperity!

    I hope you ate food on New Year’s Eve that might be thought to bring those in the coming year. My guests last night dined on:

    Shrimp: symbolizing long life (Japan)

    Cheeses: gold colored foods symbolize prosperity and good fortune (Asia & South America)Sweet potato-pumpkin bisque

    Soup: sweet potato and pumpkin bisque (sweet and also gold colored, both considered “lucky” for New Year’s)

    Pork Tenderloin: pork, and pigs, symbolize both prosperity and moving forward in the new year (Western World) pork tenderloin

    Sliced carrots with waterchestnuts: foods that resemble money –coins for instance –are lucky

    Parmesan potatoes: gold, again (we added a bit of food coloring), and besides, yummy!

    Poppyseed muffins: poppyseeds are considered lucky in Poland.

    Bread & butter pickles: coin-shaped, more or less!

    For dessert we had plum pudding (with hard sauce) just because we hadn’t used all of it at Christmas, but that fits the tradition of “finishing up old matters” before the year ends. ChristmasPud4

    We toasted the new year with champagne, of course. Then just after midnight we each had twelve grapes meant to signify how sweet or sour our 12 months of the year are going to be (Spain, and Spanish influenced countries). I don’t have a clock that strikes (you’re supposed to eat them on the strokes), and we figured we had a better chance of tasting a sweet year if we ate them after the tart champagne!

    Mind you, these aren’t Regency customs and beliefs, just ones culled from all over the world. But the universality of some kind of traditions to bring in the new year is quite consistent. In Regency England, country people would be the most likely to observe quaint practices like opening the back door to let the old year pass out at the first strokes of midnight, and then opening the front door as the strokes ended to let the new year in. Or to make a big production over who the “first-footer” (first visitor to set foot in the house) after midnight on New Year’s Eve would be. Or to make certain nothing of substance should leave the house during New Year’s Day –in some locales, housekeepers even retained the dust sweepings and food scraps from the day until January 2!

    How did you ring in the new year? Will you do anything special today? Are there old customs or traditions your family observes? However you celebrate, or even if you don’t, I wish you a year full of delightful reading and discovery of many new books and authors for your pleasure! Stay tuned here at the Riskies and we’ll try to help you with that.

    New-Years-Eve-2016-Champagne-05

    Happy New Year!

Follow
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com