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Tag Archives: Unplug the Christmas Machine

2014_Black_Friday_SnowHere’s the view off my back deck. So pretty!

I have nothing very Regency for you today, except the thought that while Christmas is mentioned in many (all?) of Jane Austen’s novels, I can’t recall any mention of buying presents. Not having written a Christmas Regency, I haven’t done any intense research into the subject, but most of what I’ve read seems to revolve around food and parlor games.

unplugIf I had my way, that’s how it would still be. This whole idea of a mad rush of shopping from Black Friday to Christmas gives me the hives. I’m a firm believer in the concept of Unplug the Christmas Machine, a program for reclaiming the warmth and meaning of Christmas or any other holiday.

I’m not that excited about buying presents, maybe because I’m ambivalent about receiving them. I don’t want New Stuff when I have Old Stuff that works. I do like to get more books, music and the occasional bit of jewelry, but most people don’t know my taste well enough to choose what I’d really like. I’d rather just treat myself occasionally. So I worry about whether I’m choosing the right thing for others. That’s why in my family we use lists. But I’m fine with the idea that we could give gifts to the children and as adults, just enjoy the other parts of the holiday season.

I’m not seriously opposed to Black Friday. If any of you went out early or are out there now, I hope you were/are warm and safe and having a good time. But it is not my thing. I sometimes enjoy shopping, I’m enough of an introvert to prefer to do it when the stores aren’t too busy. In response to those ads encouraging me to “win” Black Friday, sorry, I don’t want to play.

As for shopping on Thanksgiving Day itself, I won’t do it. I believe store employees should have the day off to be with their families, if that is what they want.

But perhaps for some people, the prospect of spending a whole day with family is the very reason they’re eager to get out and shop. I get that. Some families are nothing like the ones shown in holiday advertising. Sometimes you need to get away. Personally I’m inclined to look for better solutions: ways to cope with family such as meditation or taking a walk, adapting traditions that don’t work well, finding other people to be with or spending the time volunteering.

Which makes me think a lot about holiday advertising. Commercials show those perfect-seeming families and at the same time, urge everyone to show their love—or distract themselves from the lack thereof—by spending more time in stores or online.

Is it messed up? What do you think?


In the past, I’ve taken the Unplug the Christmas Machine workshop, designed to help people focus on what is personally meaningful during the holidays, rather than burn out trying to do it all. For me, music is essential. Last week, I attended the “Lessons and Carols” concert with our local Madrigal Choir, who often perform older, less well known carols. If like me, you are tired of “Carol of the Bells” being used to sell cars and electronic gadgets, you might want to check out some of these videos for a taste of an earlier, less commercialized Christmas.

The first Christmas carols to appear in English were in a 1426 work by John Awdley, who listed 25 “caroles of Cristemas”. Carols were sung by wassailers who went from house to house and also as part of mystery plays. The carols were often only loosely based on the Christmas story and considered entertainment more than a religious practice.

Here’s an example, “The Cherry Tree/10 Joys of Mary” performed by Nowell Sing We Clear, a group devoted to preserving these early Christmas carols. I’ve seen them and they put on a great show.

Here is a performance of the Coventry Carol by the Westminster Cathedral Choir. This is part of a 16th century mystery play, depicting the Massacre of the Innocents when Herod ordered all male infants in Bethlehem to be killed. It makes me cry, but I believe stories like these are an important reminder to be compassionate during this season.

Cromwell and the Puritans tried to suppress the singing of carols, but not surprisingly, did not succeed. Carol singing survived into “our” period and carols continued to be composed and recorded. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was first listed in a 1760 broadsheet and is probably older than that. Here’s a performance at King’s College, Cambridge.

By the Regency, many Christmas customs were considered rustic and weren’t practiced by the upper classes. Our Regency romance characters gathering around a Christmas tree to sing carols, though not impossible, wouldn’t have been the common thing. While Queen Charlotte did have a Christmas tree at Windsor in 1800, that custom and the singing of carols (especially in church) were more a Victorian thing.

But the process did begin during the Regency. Already, some people longed for simpler, bygone traditions. Some began to create collections of Christmas carols, Davies Gilbert with “Christmas Carols” published in 1822 and William Sandys with “Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern” published in 1833. During that period and later, old carols were revived and many new ones composed.

Here’s “Gaudete” performed by the John Brown University Cathedral Choir. “Gaudete” is from “Piae Cantiones”, a compilation of Finnish and Swedish sacred songs which was published in 1582 but only came to England in 1853. So it’s not Regency at all but I’m including it because I love it!

Another favorite of mine is “Masters in this Hall”. I thought it was older, being fooled by the fact that it is based on an old French dance tune, but the lyrics were written by William Morris in 1860.

What do you think of these? What are your favorite carols? How do you try to “unplug” Christmas?

And congratulations to the following winners of the Kindle ebook of THE INCORRIGIBLE LADY CATHERINE. Please send your email address, and if you wish, the email address of a friend who might enjoy a copy, to elena @ (no spaces).

Jacqueline Seewald

Keira Soleore


Shelley Munro


Happy holidays!


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