Happy Birthday, Mary!
Merry Christmas, Everybody!
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Christmas in Regency Times
Celebrated since medieval times, the Twelve Days of Christmas was a time of celebration, feasting and dancing that began on December 26 and ended on January 6 (which much later become known as Epiphany). (Christmas Day is not part of the Twelve Days because it is considered a holy day and meant for solemn reflection instead of wild partying.)
Where did the Twelve Days come from? Apparently it took the Three Kings twelve days to find the Christ Child…and the twelfth day—January 6th—is when they gave Him their gifts. In Hispanic countries, January 6—el Día de los Reyes Magos—is when people exchange gifts, not on December 25th.
During the Twelve Days, neighbors would visit each other and share traditional holiday foods such as mince pie and wassail, and entertain themselves with games and songs. Other than caring for livestock, farm laborers and peasants took this time off as well to celebrate with their families and friends.
Many Christmas traditions were pagan in origin, however. Wassail, which was an ale-based drink with spices and honey, was used in a ceremony to sprinkle on the roots of apple trees to ensure a good crop. People would shoot off guns and make a lot of noise to scare away the demons and wake up the tree spirit. A pretty girl was selected to place cider-soaked pieces of toast in the tree branches. Then everyone would chant and sing traditional wassail songs. Although this is still practiced today in some areas, wassailing in the Regency had evolved into more of a “caroling”-type event, which you will see in my novella, A Twelfth Night Tale.
Regency Christmases tended to be more laid-back and relationship-oriented than our Christmases today. Decorations of holly and greenery, candles, roaring fires, the smells of Christmas goose and pudding, games of hoodman blind and charades, singing carols around the pianoforte, King Cake, helping others less fortunate, and engaging in lots of interaction with family and friends were the heart of Regency Christmas traditions.
No frenzied shopping, constant pressure to outdo everyone else, wearing oneself out so as to be too exhausted to enjoy the actual event. Also no Christmas trees or stockings (German traditions that came to England much later) or Christmas cards.
Wouldn’t it be great if Christmas were to return to the relaxed, people-oriented celebration it once was instead of the commercial hustle-bustle that causes stress and, eventually, credit-card shock? Or do you think it’s too late for that?
A random commenter on this post will win a Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet.
About A Twelfth Night Tale
A wounded soldier and the girl next door find peace and love amidst a backdrop of rural Christmas traditions
Without dowries and the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. But when the eldest attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, suddenly it seems as though Fate is smiling upon them.
Lucy knows that she owes it to her younger sisters to encourage Lord Bexley’s attentions, since marriage to a peer will secure their futures as well as hers. The man of her dreams has always looked like Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and, in any case, is betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to put away childhood dreams and accept reality…and Lord Bexley.
Andrew has returned from the Peninsula with more emotional scars to deal with than just the lame arm. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend “Little Lucy” who shows him the way out of his melancholy. He can’t help noticing that Lucy’s grown up into a lovely young woman, but with an eligible viscount courting her, he’ll need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.