As we near the heart of the holiday season, I thought it might be fun to look ever so briefly at what the holidays might have been like in Regency England.
A Regency Christmas
During the fortnight before Christmas, the Waits—sweet, low music is performed in the streets during the middle of the night—are played by itinerant musicians. The music is played so softly that if you should awaken, it soothes you back to sleep. After Christmas, they receive a small payment for their efforts from the houses included in their rounds. The Bell-man, one of the officers of the parish police, also walk the streets at night, ringing a bell and chanting verses. He too receives a small payment for his efforts and will leave a copy of his verses at houses along his path.
All the houses, both inside and out, are decorated with branches of evergreens, including laurel, bay, ilex and holly. The greenery is stuck in windows, over the mantles, and wreaths are hung on the walls. In the servants’ hall, a large bunch of mistletoe is suspended from the ceiling and of course any maiden underneath is kissed if caught by a male member of the household.
Many junior and collateral branches of families will visit the houses of the head of the family, as well as close friends, and dinner on Christmas day commences at an earlier hour to allow more time for celebrating. For Christmas dinner, an enormous piece of roasted beef is often served for the first course and an enormous plum-pudding for the last, as well as mince pies. The ladies are allowed to remain longer at the table and the gentlemen join them sooner in the drawing room.
In the drawing room, everyone, including children, gather to celebrate. They play cards, sing, dance, and the children play games including forfeits, blind-man’s bluff and others.
Christmas in Whitby
During the fortnight before New Year, women stroll from door to door carrying circular baskets containing a wax doll image of Christ, sprigs of boxwood, and apples or oranges. The baskets are called vessel cups. The women stand by the doors and sing hymns and if they are sent away empty-handed, those living in the home will forfeit all luck for the coming year.
Christmas Eve is celebrated with a family supper featuring frumenty, apple pie, cheese and gingerbread. The frumenty is made of steeped wheat, boiled with milk and seasoned with sugar and spice. When supper begins a Yule clog, a short block of wood, is laid on the fire. Sometimes a piece of the Yule clog is saved and placed beneath the bed until the next Christmas, when it is burned with the new clog. This was supposed to protect the house from fire during the coming year. A tall Yule candle is also lit and set on the table. It is considered unlucky to light these before Christmas Eve, snuff them out during supper, or leave the table during supper.
After supper, a game of card is played and it’s unlucky to have an odd number at the table.
Many feast on roast beef, plum pudding and goose pie between Christmas and New Year’s day. Visitors are usually treated with cheese and gingerbread along with a glass of wine or spirits. Yule cake, a spiced cake, is often served instead of gingerbread.
The frumenty supper is repeated on New Year’s Eve.
While boys in the morning are out and about, it is considered unlucky for a woman to enter the house first on either Christmas or New Year’s day, so women usually stay inside until later in the day. On both days, it is also unlucky to give a light out of the house, throw out ashes, or sweep out dust.
St. Stephen’s Day, Dec 26, is considered a great hunting day, and the game laws are relaxed on that day. Many gentlemen and ladies who indulged in the sport hunted that day.
Childermas Day, Dec 28, is thought to be an unlucky day and any day of the week on which it falls is considered a “black day” for the rest of the year to come!
Hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse in the past!
Best luck for the holiday season and the year ahead!
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Spirit of the Mountain my August release and the first book of a trilogy about siblings who were made spirits by the Creator. While I made up the spirit world and their shape shifting and powers, the day to day living of the Nez Perce I tried to keep as factual as the information I could find.
At the time of my story the Nez Perce were nomadic, living off the land and its bounties. They had horses, but had yet to be introduced to cattle. Salmon, eel, and steelhead, were commodities of their region starting in May and early June and ran through the summer. They traveled first to the lower streams and worked their way to the high tributaries. The fish were caught, some eaten fresh others smoked and either stored for later use or used for trade. There was much rejoicing and ceremonies when the harvest was successful.
Kouse and other early roots were gathered during the spring while they were still along the lower streams fishing. They would meet at meadows in the high country once the snow had melted and gather roots. The women used sticks to dig the roots form the ground. They gave thanks to the Creator for growing the food that help sustain them through the winter months.
During the warm months they harvested wild plants, berries, pine nuts, and sunflower seeds. In the meadows they also gathered wild onion, carrots, and other plants. On the Forested mountainsides, they picked hawthorn, serviceberries, chokecherries, blackberries, and huckleberries.
Their diet also consisted of game animals and birds. They preserved what could not be eaten at once and had caches where they stored the preserved food until it was needed. So while they led a different life than the White man was used to, in reality they were not that much different in their methods of staying well fed.
Blurb for Spirit of the Mountain
Wren, the daughter of a Nimiipuu chief, has been fated to save her people ever since her vision quest. When a warrior from the enemy Blackleg tribe asks for her hand in marriage to bring peace between the tribes, her world is torn apart.
Himiin is the spirit of the mountain, custodian to all creatures including the Nimiipuu. As a white wolf he listens to Wren’s secret fears and loses his heart to the mortal maiden. Respecting her people’s beliefs, he cannot prevent her leaving the mountain with the Blackleg warrior.
When an evil spirit threatens Wren’s life, Himiin must leave the mountain to save her. But to leave the mountain means he’ll turn to smoke…
Wren’s eyes glistened with unshed tears. “My gift is to save The People. The weyekin who came to me in my vision quest said this.” She wrapped her arms around herself as if staving off a cold breeze.
Himiin hated that they argued when they should relish their time together. He moved to her, drawing her against his chest, embracing her. The shape of her body molded to his. Her curves pressed against him. Holding her this way flamed the need he’d tried to suppress.
He placed a hand under her chin, raising her face to his. The sorrow in her eyes tugged at his conscience. To make her leaving any harder was wrong. But having experienced her in his arms, he was grieved to let her go. Even for the sake of their people.
Her eyelids fluttered closed. Her pulse quickened under his fingers. Shrugging off the consequences, he lowered his lips to hers. They were softer than he imagined. Her breath hitched as he touched her intimately. Parting his lips, he touched her with his tongue, wanting to see if she tasted as sweet as she smelled.
This month if you go to my blog and leave the title of one of my books in the comments, I'll donate a toy to foster children for every ten people who leave a title and will draw a winner from every ten to receive a holiday goodie packet.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Here is a working blurb.
An investigative reporter, Dessa Wade is on assignment in Fredericksburg, Texas. In her effort to discover what happened to a young lawyer gone missing in 2008, Dessa is thrown back to 1889 into the arms of a Texas lawman determined she’s an outlaw.
In 1889 Prairie, Texas, Marshall Cole Jeffers is tracking the Colter Gang and plans to bring the bank robbers to justice. Just as he has them in his clutches, a young woman lands in his lap and makes him rethink what he’s always know to be possible.
Truth and trust will collide before Dessa can convince Cole of her innocence and both can achieve their goal.
If you have any advice for writing sequels, please leave me a comment.
Thanks and Happy Reading and Writing!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
A Regency Christmas story wouldn't be complete without the hero and heroine celebrating their love with a kiss under the mistletoe. Long a symbol of fertility, mistletoe, with its glossy green leaves and white berries, has become a Christmas symbol of love and marriage.
Mistletoe is an evergreen, a spot of life in the brown, dormant landscape of a northern winter. At this low point of the year, Regency people decorated their houses with mistletoe, along with other seasonal greens such as Christmas rose (Hellebore), evergreen boughs, holly, ivy, hawthorn, laurel, rosemary, and bay, as a reminder that spring would return.
In England, mistletoe, which is a parasite, grows most often on apple trees, but also on blackthorn, hawthorn, lime, poplar, rowan and willow. Although its range extends from Devon to Yorkshire, the plant grows mainly to the south and west, and is particularly abundant around London.
Some of the myths surrounding mistletoe originated with the Druids, who deemed the plant a sexual symbol--the juice from the white berries resembles semen--and, by extension, an aphrodisiac. As part of their winter solstice ceremonies, they cut mistletoe from oak trees, providing a link to the later holiday of Christmas.
The origin of kissing under the mistletoe may derive from the Norse legend of the death of the sun god, Balder, killed by a sprig of mistletoe hurled by his enemy Loki. When Balder's mother, Frigga, the goddess of love, cried over her son, her tears resurrected him. In gratitude, she kissed everyone who came under the mistletoe.
A lesser known legend declares mistletoe the plant of peace. Enemies meeting under the mistletoe had to embrace and declare a truce until the next day. This goodwill and embrace may also be the source of the kiss under the mistletoe.
Regency people used mistletoe in the form of a kissing bough--a simple arrangement of mistletoe decorated with ribbons and hung over a doorway or entrance. The gentleman would kiss his lady and then pluck a white berry and present it to her, perhaps as a symbol of the child he could give her. When all the berries were gone, that sprig of mistletoe could no longer be used to steal kisses, although many people disregarded the berries' absence.
My Regency Christmas novella, Mistletoe Everywhere, incorporates the myth of enemies, in this case, the estranged hero and heroine, declaring a truce under the mistletoe. Short blurb: A man who sees mistletoe everywhere is mad--or in love. Buy link here.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.
Thank you all,
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!