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Tag Archives: Regency Christmas

I’ve never written a holiday novel or novella, but I have written books that include Christmas, and it’s fun to look and see what traditions that are familiar to us now would also have been familiar to my characters. Sometimes, the answers are surprising. I turned, as I often do, to THE ENGLISH YEAR by Steven Roud. A lot of what we associate with Christmas now is decidedly Victorian, and was built upon a mythos of a “Merrie England” that never existed. But if you dig back, there are LOTS of local traditions that fell by the wayside during the industrialization of England (as people moved away from home, they didn’t practice their traditions which would have been strange to their new neighbors, and didn’t adopt those of their new homes, as they were strange to them). But those of us who write in the 18th century and the early 19th century can still draw on those local traditions. And those writing in the Victorian era can make hay with the reinvention of that “Merrie England” to which most of our current Christmas traditions harken back. If your book is set post 1847, you can even have Christmas Crackers!

Yule Log with bands by Roger Griffith
Wikimedia Commons

Many places had traditional dances, murmmers, plays, wassails, etc. A book like Roud’s is great for researching these local festivities, as is Wikipedia. And there is always the Yule log. Not writing someone in a grand house with a giant fireplace? Perhaps “the ashen faggot” is more their speed? A bundle of twigs around a larger log, all held together with fresh/green branches (willow was also used). People would sit around and sing carols and cheer when the “withes” burst. Cider would be passed and drunk as the bands broke, and in some traditions, the bands were assigned to girls, prediction who would marry first. I can see lots of fun being had with this in a village hall or a more modest home.

In places with a church with bells, someone (or a team of someones) might have been found “ringing the devil’s knell” on Christmas Eve. There must be one ring (about every two seconds) for every year since Christ’s birth, timed to end at Midnight. This is something you can do in any setting.

Decorations. Historically, they were not put up early as we do now. That was considered unlucky. And they usually consisted only of greenery and candles (anything that was evergreen could be used, but of course holly and mistletoe were popular). Mistletoe, then as now, was a kissing game, but you had to pluck a berry off the ball of mistletoe for each kiss and when the berries were gone, so were the kisses.

Trees. Yes, it is commonly asserted that Christmas trees were introduced by Prince Albert in the late 1840s, and that’s certainly when they spread to the masses, but they were introduced much earlier by other Germans who immigrated (including Queen Charlotte). Charles Greville noted one in 1829, that the Princess Lieven had three large trees in pots put upon a table, lit with small candles, and surround by gifts for the children.

Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition or a favorite Christmas romance? I think mine is the way my parents always wrapped our presents from “Santa” in white tissue paper with real cloth tartan ribbon. It was very “Merrie England” and “Ye Old Christmas, and I absolutely adored it. I think this Christmas I’ll start doing that for my niece and nephew.

I could NOT be more excited to tell you that, as it says above, finally –FINALLY!! –I have finished LORD OF MISRULE. Not only that, but the ebook version is up at both Amazon and Smashwords –the Kindle version is on pre-order and will be delivered next Wednesday. Please, please head on over there and order a copy? You will have my undying gratitude.

I put “finally’ in caps because really, this is not just about the fact that the poor book kept getting interrupted and has taken a couple of years to complete. This is my first all-new book in sixteen years! Yes, THE RAKE’S MISTAKE was the last entirely new book I wrote, and it was published by Signet in 2002. (That’s the only one of my backlist I still have not re-issued. I’ll get to it, I promise.)

Coming back after that long a break is not easy. First, there’s the “rust” factor –you’re horribly out of practice after not writing for that long (teaching helps, but it’s not the same), and more, at least in my case, you lose your “voice” and have to spend a lot of writing time just finding it again. Second, and it’s related to the first, there’s the “fear” factor. Face it, writing is a scary business. You put your heart on the line every time you write a story and put it out there for people to judge. When you’re rusty at your craft and finding your way back, I think the “fear factor” is tripled! So, I have my fingers crossed and hope readers will enjoy my new effort.

But there’s another “finally” I’m celebrating with this new book. I was detoured during those years by a series of serious health issues in my family –my mom, my younger son, my husband. Each time I started to write again, a new crisis occurred and the correlation of the timing was worthy of the Twilight Zone! I began to believe I just wasn’t meant to be writing during those years, and still believe that. No guilt.

This time when I started again, the health crisis that occurred was mine. The reason to celebrate is not only because I managed to write anyway, but because I believe I have either broken the pattern, or come to the end of the period of not-writing. The joy is back, and I feel that part of my brain is working again. FINALLY! Yippee!

LORD OF MISRULE

On a snowy Christmas Eve day, a vicar’s daughter runs into the Devil himself, or is he just the Lord of Misrule? In a season of miracles and magic, can love bind two unlikely hearts in the days leading to Twelfth Night?

“a bit of Pride and Prejudice, a little Brigadoon and a dollop of Cinderella” –author Terri Kennedy

In trouble for causing a scandal in London, Adam Randall, Lord Forthhurst, is headed home to make amends on Christmas Eve day when he becomes stranded in the tiny village of Little Macclow. Before the night is over, he has become thoroughly entangled in the village’s celebration of the twelve days of Christmas, and fully intrigued by the vicar’s daughter, Miss Cassandra Tamworth.

Cassie has been raised by her widowed father to expect the worst from members of the aristocracy. Lord Forthhurst is a puzzle. Can she trust him? Or is he a devil, as he claims and warns her? Can her mind resist when her heart and body want to be his?

Note: This special full-length holiday book from Gail focuses entirely on the romance between Adam and Cassie and the shenanigans during twelve days of Christmas. In this one, no nefarious doings are afoot and there’s no mystery to be solved beyond the mystery of how two people who belong together ever manage to sort themselves out enough to find love!

BUY LINKS

Kindle:  https://tinyurl.com/y7rofpyo

Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc.:  https://tinyurl.com/y89v9odt

Have you ever had to persevere over a long period of time to complete something, or get back to something? I am so grateful to my readers who have been patiently waiting for me, and for new ones who are willing to give me a try!

Bound by a Scandalous SecretBound By A Scandalous Secret, available in paperback and ebook, begins and ends in the Christmas season. I’ve written about Christmas before in A Twelfth Night Tale (my only Christmas novella, still available in the Governess Brides Bundle), but I had to go back and do the research about Christmas in the Regency all over again.

Many familiar Christmas traditions–decorating Christmas trees, singing Silent Night, waiting for Santa Claus–did not emerge until the later Victorian times, but a Regency Christmas did have other traditions still celebrated today.

Regency families decorated their houses with holly and ivy and evergreens of fir and pine. Mistletoe was hung and the tradition of a gentleman and lady kissing beneath it would have been part of a Regency Christmas. With each kiss the gentleman plucked a berry from the mistletoe. When the berries were gone, so were the kisses. In the book I’m working on now (more on that in later months) the hero and heroine decorate his house. I’m writing those scenes today!

Christmas was mainly a religious holiday during the Regency. Gifts were exchanged, church attended, and guests might be invited to Christmas dinner, like Ross and Dell were invited to Lord Tinmore’s for Christmas dinner in Bound By A Scandalous Night.

cruikshank-christmas-pudding-served-at-dinner-party-life-magazine-imageAt Christmas dinner a goose or turkey would be served. A Regency household would also serve a Christmas pudding that was made on Stir Up Sunday, the Sunday before Advent, and served on Christmas day. The pudding was a porridge of sugar, raisins, currants, prunes, and wine that was “stirred up” and boiled together in a pudding cloth.

Some of the traditions of the Regency holiday season had their origins in ancient winter celebrations. First-Footing customs of New Year’s Day may have originated in ancient Greece. In order to have good fortune all the year, an uninvited stranger–a dark man in some areas of the UK but the hair color could vary by region–should be the first to cross the threshold on New Years Day. He might carry symbolic gifts- salt (or a coin) for wealth; coal for warmth, a match for kindling, and bread for food. The householder might offer him food and drink. In some villages one tall, dark, and handsome fellow was selected to visit all the houses, receiving food and drink at each one. I mentioned this custom in A Twelfth Night Tale.

Twelfth Night, the eve of the Epiphany, was even more of a time for revelry than Christmas day during the Regency. It was a time to drink wassail (ale or wine spiced with roasted apples and sugar) and play games. A bean was buried in a cake and whoever found it was designated the Lord of Misrule who presided over all the Twelfth Night festivities, which might include theatricals or singing, although many of our most popular Christmas Carols were translated from German later in Victorian times. When Twelfth Night was over, the house decorations were removed and the season is over.

Christmas cards were invented by Sir Henry Cole, who, as an Assistant Keeper of what is now the Post Office in the UK, started the Penny Post, the first postal service that ordinary people could afford. He and an artist friend designed a Christmas card that would encourage people to use the Penny Post. Here’s an example of a Victorian Christmas Card.
victorian_christmas_card

It is rather fun to be writing Christmas scenes in this Christmas season. And to have a book out at this time of year where Christmas plays a part. Of course, though my characters are decorating at this very moment. I’ve not done anything yet!

Have you decorated for the holidays yet? Have you sent any Christmas cards?

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