Browse through a variety of Blogs for a veritable feast of entertainment!
(And as with any good party, you’ll find a few giveaway prizes along the way!) The links are below…
Here is my contribution to the Blog Hop
Celebrating a Regency Christmas
When most people consider a Regency Christmas, they envision a Victorian one. During the Regency Period (1811-1820), Christmastide began on Christmas Day and ended with a Twelfth Night celebration. There are few references to Christmas traditions in Regency literature other than the occasional wish for a “Happy Christmas” among story characters and real-life accounts. Even Jane Austen made few references to the day as anything other than an acknowledgement of Jesus’ birth.
Religious observances remained the foundation of English Christmases of the time. One must remember that in the 16th Century, to prevent subversion, the government banned Christmas celebrations. According to the Jane Austen Centre Magazine, “We have accounts from early 19th Century journals of Christmas days where the writer mentions the holiday, but makes absolutely no fuss about it. Likewise, there are records of newspapers, published on December 25th that do not even contain the word Christmas.”
In Chapter 14 of Austen’s Persuasion, we see how the schoolboys’ return home for the holidays is the most important event, not the celebration of Christmas itself. “Immediately surrounding Mrs. Musgrave were the little Harvilles, whom she was sedulously guarding from the tyranny of the two children from the Cottage, expressly arrived to amuse them. On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were trestles and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard in spite of the noise of the others.”
The Christmas pudding is traditionally made on Stir Up Day, the last Sunday before Advent. All family members of a household take a turn in the stirring with a special wooden spoon, which represents the Christ Child’s crib and the stable. Stirring in a clockwise direction with his eyes closed, each person makes a secret wish during his turn at the spoon – very much as one might do before blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.
In country houses, the occupants hung decorations on Christmas Eve. These remained in place until the Epiphany on January 6, when they were removed. One might hang holly, ivy, rosemary, evergreen, hawthorn and hellebore (Christmas rose). As for the mistletoe/kissing ball, it became quite elaborate during the Victorian Period. However, many believe the tradition remained below stairs in the servants’ quarters during the Regency Period. Yet, the kissing ball and the removal of the berries for each kiss “stolen” from a lovely heroine is often found in Regency-based romances.
A Yule Log to burn throughout the festive days would have been common, as well as a Christmas candle. The kindling from the previous year’s Yule Log would be used to light the current year’s find. Groups – mummers whose origins date back to the Middle Ages – sang and performed short plays, customarily on Boxing Day (December 26). The actors often mixed bits of history with the heroes of the British Napoleonic Wars in their tales. Of course, Saint George remained a staple of the plays.
Parlor games entertained houseguests, but caroling (except possibly in Wales), decorated trees, stockings hung by the chimney with care, and Christmas cards were not part of the celebrations. Gifts were few and often took the form of charitable acts by the aristocracy. A landowner’s cottagers might bestow a gift symbolizing their devotion to his generosity or representing the bounty of the estate’s harvest on the main house. A Regency Christmas was a time to reflect upon one’s religious beliefs and to enjoy the companionship of friends and family. It was not the commercialized holiday we of this century would expect.
In creating my Austenesque novel, Christmas at Pemberley, the challenge was to tell a tale of “Christmas” for a modern audience, but to stay true to the Regency Period’s practices. In the novel, Christmas arrives on a Sunday. It is 25 December 1814, the time period between Napoleon’s arrival on Elba and his escape in March 1815. I shifted the story’s emphasis from the expected symbols of Christmas (gifts, carols, trees, etc.) to the birth of two children and how each child’s entrance into this world changes the family into which he is introduced. I used the holiday’s practices as the framework through which the story is told. [Leaving a comment below will enter you into a giveaway of a signed copy of “Christmas at Pemberley.” – Deadline midnight 26 December 2014]
It’s Christmastime at Pemberley and the Darcys and Bennets have gathered to celebrate. With such a mix of eclectic characters under one roof, bitter feuds, old jealousies, and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Stubborn Lady Catherine seeks forgiveness, shallow Caroline Bingley finds love, and immature Kitty pursues a vicar. Forced into playing hostess, Georgiana Darcy tries desperately to manage the chaos while wishing Darcy and Elizabeth would return from their journey.
Enroute home, Darcy and Elizabeth are waylaid by blizzard-like conditions that forces them to take shelter in a nearby inn. Elizabeth is tormented with the prospect of their spending Christmas away from their families, but when a young couple arrives at the inn in need of a place for the night, Elizabeth’s concern turns to the pregnant girl. As Elizabeth and Darcy comfort and soothe the stranger through a long and painful labor, they’re reminded of the love, family spirit, and generosity that lie at the heart of Christmas and which serve as the basis of what they have built at Pemberley.
“A small gift from Nan,” Elizabeth said as she handed the hastily-made dressing gown to Mary. With Mrs. Washington’s assistance, Elizabeth had assisted Mary into fresh clothes. Now, the new mother rested once more in the bed. She held the sleeping child in the bend of her arm.
“I will thank the girl properly,” Mrs. Joseph assured.
Elizabeth patted the back of the lady’s hand. “Why do you not rest?”
“You require your rest as much as I,” Mrs. Joseph protested.
Elizabeth shook off the suggestion. “First, I believe I shall go downstairs and have a proper supper with Mr. Darcy. My back is tight.” She stretched her arms over her head. “I shall send Mr. Joseph to sit with you.”
“It is not necessary for someone to watch me sleep.” Mary’s eyelids closed, but then sprung open again. “That is unless you require private time with Mr. Darcy.’
Elizabeth smiled knowingly. “I never tire of the man’s company. Even after two years.”
“Then by all means send Mr. Joseph up. A woman of your great heart should have her every wish.” She caught Elizabeth’s hand in a tight grasp.
Elizabeth touched the sleeping child’s hair with her fingertip. “My wish is to possess what you have, Mary,” she whispered.
“You will, Elizabeth,” Mrs. Joseph insisted. “You shall have your own special happiness…you and Mr. Darcy.” The woman paused to suck in what appeared to be a deep steadying breath. “My child’s birth…I was never afraid, because God placed the incomparable Elizabeth Darcy in my life. My prayers, those I recited before Matthew and I departed Stoke-on-Trent, were for God to send an angel to protect my child, and on the third day of our journey, I walked into this out-of-the-way inn; and there you were. My own angel!”
Elizabeth snorted. “I have been called many things, but ‘angel’ has rarely been used in the same sentence as my Christian name.”
“That is where the world remains in error, Elizabeth. They see the defenses you erect to protect yourself from those who would think to know you. They do not see your magnificent heart…your indomitable spirit…the purity of your soul.”
Elizabeth laughed self-consciously. “Do not bestow too many exemplary qualities upon my shoulders. If I am to be known as an ‘angel,’ I shall be forced to find something of merit to say of Miss Bingley.”
Mary’s eyebrow rose in curiosity. “Miss Bingley?”
Elizabeth chuckled. “My sister Jane is married to Mr. Charles Bingley. Miss Bingley is the youngest of the gentleman’s sisters. Before Jane and Bingley were married, Miss Bingley did my poor, sweet Jane a major disservice, and the lady once had her sights set on Mr. Darcy. I am often at my wit’s end when I am called upon to be civil to the woman.”
“Angels may feel jealousy, Elizabeth.” Mary squeezed the back of Elizabeth’s hand in companionship.
“So, you believe there are ‘shades’ of angelic behavior?” Her voice rose in bemusement.
Mary smiled, a twist of her lips turning upward. “Absolutely,” she declared without a telling blink of her eyes. “God’s love is pure, but mankind’s benevolence may vary.” An appreciative leap of sardonic humor flashed in Mary’s eyes. “An ‘angel’ may have moments of weakness.”
Elizabeth puzzled over the point Mary Joseph meant to make. “You believe I have God’s attention?” The woman’s rather cryptic utterances had mystified Elizabeth.
“We all possess God’s attention, and it is up to each of us to determine how best to serve Him. That being said, it is my opinion our Maker has chosen you among His favorites.”
Before she could stifle the words, Elizabeth defensively asked, “Then how could a loving God permit my children to die before I could know them? Before I could tell them of my love?” Tears trickled from her eyes to cascade down her cheeks.
Mrs. Joseph swallowed hard. “That is the question which most frightens you, is it not? You wonder how, if you serve God faithfully, He could not honor you with a child of your own. How the rest of the world can know the happiness you have been denied? How no one other than Mr. Darcy understands the depth of your fears?”
“I have no answer which will satisfy your heart: God gives us what we require when we require it. My husband holds different ideas on such matters, but I believe that when the Bible says God created man in His image, the passage means God has His foibles, as well. He, for example, is a bit selfish. God wishes to surround himself with the most magical sound in the world, the sound of a child’s freely-given laugh. Therfore, sometimes He acts upon his selfishness and calls the child home early. It is the only explanation which makes any sense.”
Elizabeth brushed away her tears. “I shall endeavor to accept your explanation, Mary. It will serve me as well as any other.”
“You cannot argue with a woman named ‘Mary’ on the occasion of the anniversary of the Lord’s birth,” the woman teasingly reasoned.
“No. I suppose, I cannot.”
Thank you for joining my party; now, have a look at equally enjoyable entertainments…
1. Helen Hollick: “You are Cordially Invited to a Ball” (plus a giveaway prize)
2. Andrea Zuvich: “No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell” http://www.andreazuvich.com/history/no-christmas-for-you-the-holiday-under-cromwell
3. Debbie Young: “Good Christmas Housekeeping” + a Giveaway of a Virtual Party Bag Giveaway http://authordebbieyoung.com/2014/12/20/christmas/
4. Lauren Johnson: ‘”Farewell Advent, Christmas is come” – Early Tudor Festive Feasts’ http://laurenjohnson1.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/farewell-advent-christmas-is-come-early-tudor-festive-feasting-christmas-party-blog-hop/
5. Ann Swinfen: Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrate http://annswinfen.com/2014/12/christmas-party/
6. Richard Abbott: The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit
7. Edward James: AN ACCIDENTAL VIRGIN https://busywords.wordpress.com/an-accidental-virgin/
AN UNINVITED GUEST https://busywords.wordpress.com/the-birthday-party/
8. Derek Birks: The Lord of Misrule – A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble http://wp.me/p3hedh-3f
9. Jude Knight: Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804 + Giveaway of “Candle’s Christmas Chair” (novella) http://wp.me/p58yDd-az
10. Nancy Bilyeau: “Christmas After the Priory” http://bit.ly/1sHfzZG
11. Fenella J. Miller: ‘Christmas on the Home front + GIVEAWAY of “Barbara’s War.”
12. Clare Flynn: A German American Christmas http://www.clareflynn.co.uk/blog/a-german-american-christmas
13. Sarah Etter: Christmas Pudding — Part of the Christmas Feast! http://saraleeetter.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/christmas-pudding-part-of-the-christmas-feast/
14. Suzanne Adair: “The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780″ + Giveaway of “Camp Follower: A Mystery of the American Revolution.” http://www.suzanneadair.net/2014/12/20/the-british-legion-parties-down-for-yule-1780/
15. J L Oakley: Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907 + Giveaway of an audioboook of “Tree Soldier” (US and UK)
16. Anna Belfrage: All I want for Christmas + Giveaway http://tinyurl.com/okycz3o
17. Carol Cooper: How To Be A Party Animal http://pillsandpillowtalk.com/2014/12/19/how-to-be-a-party-animal/
18. Julian Stockwin: Join the Party http://tinyurl.com/n8xk946
19. Juliet Greenwood: Christmas 1914 on the Home Front (plus a giveaway) http://tinyurl.com/q6e9vnp
20. Lucienne Boyce: A Victory Celebration http://tinyurl.com/ovl4sus
21. Nicola Moxey: The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182 http://tinyurl.com/qbkj6b9
22. Peter St John: Dummy’s Birthday http://tinyurl.com/nsqedvv
23. Stephen Oram : Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement… (plus a giveaway prize) http://stephenoram.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/living-in-your-dystopia-13-you-need-a-festival-of-enhancement/
24. Alison Morton: “Saturnalia surprise – a winter party tale” + Giveaway of “Perfiditas” - http://alison-morton.com/2014/12/20/saturnalia-surprise-a-winter-party-tale-and-giveaway/
25. Lindsay Downs : O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree + Giveaway
26. A Bonus Post from Ann Swinfen: The Real Richard (Dick) Whittington http://the-history-girls.blogspot.co.uk/