Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Regency Christmas

A Regency Christmas  

Jane Austen has several references to Christmas celebrations. Here is a quote from Persuasion:

"On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels 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 all the noise of the others."

The holiday season began on December 21st and ran until 12th night, January 6th :
 (Imagine having to spend so long with your families and friends nowadays. I'm sure only in the wealthier households would Christmas celebrated so thoroughly.)
December 21st is the winter solstice: on this day in the Regency a Yule log was brought in and then burned throughout the holiday. Servants would deck the Halls with boughs of holly (where have I heard that before?) and other greenery; some households considered it unlucky to have any greenery in the house before Christmas Eve. There was of course no Christmas tree as they didn't become fashionable until the 1850s.
Christmas Eve:
Friends and family would meet at the appointed house and settled in to enjoy themselves. Possibly guess would be invited to dinner and there might be dancing in games afterwards.
Christmas Day:
Everyone would have attended church in the morning and put a little extra in the poor box for the next day. Later the Regency well they would enjoy a turkey dinner (Christmas goose was a later tradition). Families tended to stay together on Christmas Day there would not been a large party after dinner.
(Imagine a Christmas Day with no television or Queen’s speech!)
Boxing Day:
Boxes (this is where the name comes from) of food and clothing were given out the tenants and it was also a tradition to give the servants a holiday bonus content of the church. Box would be distributed to the needy. There might be a foxhunt from somewhere in the neighbourhood.
December 27th to 30th :
there would have been parted and gatherings at home or nearby houses every night. Gentlemen would dance all night and then get up early to enjoy sporting activities but the ladies can have their beauty sleep and then spend the afternoon touring the countryside in an open carriage.
New Year's Eve:
A Regency family would see in the New Year at midnight with drink and song. The racier couples might find themselves embracing under the mistletoe.
January 2nd  - 5th:
yet more social gatherings and family activities. If it was cold enough there might be sledging ice skating during the day and balls and parties in the evening.
January 6th , Twelfth night:
this was the traditional day exchanging gifts, gifts could be given at any time throughout the holiday season not even over several days there might be a large ball somewhere in the neighbourhood twitched the children of the house would be invited along with the grown-ups.
January 7th :
The decorations would be taken down (it is still considered unlucky to leave them up any longer) and your guests and family will return to their own home.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Worst Christmas?

Although it's the season to be jolly and all that, I thought I would share with you a story of my worst Christmas. I'd love to hear some of your anecdotes on the same subject.
My parents divorced when I was about five years old and both remarried so my brother and I had two sets of parents. Unfortunately none of them wanted to be called 'Mum  or Dad'. We had to call them by their first names which was very unusual in those days.
One Christmas when my brother and I were in our early teens they decided we would all spend Christmas together – yes that's right – both sets of parents and my brother and I under the same roof. My mother and stepfather (with whom we lived) provided a turkey, cake and mince pies  whilst my step mother and father were supposed to provide the alcohol and everything else.
You can imagine the atmosphere – my brother retreated to his bedroom and left me to be piggy in the middle  and keep the peace. Christmas lunch we got one slice of turkey and no gravy - my step mother and father didn't like gravy so we had to do without as well. We never saw the pudding, mince pies or cake.
After that the turkey and trimmings vanished and I remember we had to find our way to Chelsea (we were in Kilburn) where my step uncle and his wife were staying with his in-laws in order to get something to eat.
Can anyone top that?

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Duke's Dilemma

This is the large print cover.
This is the original cover.
Out 8th December 2012

I'm delighted with my cover, done as always by Jane Dickson-Smith, and think this new one complements the other five perfectly. What do you think? This book will be out on Amazon weekend just in time for Christmas.
The original cover (it was originally published as "The Ghosts of Neddingfield Hall" by Robert Hale ) and shows a perfect winter's day - very seasonal with the knee deep snow. The LP cover is not one that I especially like -although all the other coves from Ulverscroft/Linford are excellent. Which do you prefer?
I wanted to re-release this title in time for Christmas because it has a winter landscape – ideal for this time of year.I was tempted to ask Jane for a more festive feel to the cover but decided against it – do you think I made the right decision?