Update: Congrats to Ann S.! She’s the winner of my Christmas enovella, MY LADY BELOW STAIRS from my last post.
from Mia Marlowe…
One of my favorite parts of writing historical romance is the research. I love digging into how people lived in other time periods. Here’s a bit about how Christmas was celebrated during the Regency.
The Family that Plays Together…
There was no NFL football game to occupy Christmas revelers during the Regency era. People had to make their own fun, and rakish young fellows might have a good deal of fun.
But Christmas was a family holiday. Source documents record the glee of boys and young men returning home for Christmas from their boarding schools. It was almost as if they were inmates suddenly freed from prison! To celebrate their return, their families enjoyed parlor games, many with unlikely names: Shoe the Wild Mare, Hot Cockles, Steal the White Loaf, Bob Apple and Snapdragon.
Regency ideas of fun were a little different from ours. In Hot Cockles, for example, a blindfolded young gentleman would lay his head in a young lady’s lap while the other players whacked his bum. In order to win, he had to guess who’d struck him. The game of Snapdragon involved snatching raisins from burning brandy.
Clearly, these folks needed cable TV badly!
Food, Glorious Food
A pudding needed to be started before the first Sunday of Advent in order to be considered a true Christmas pudding. It was thought to improve with time. The recipe called for a mixture of thirteen ingredients (to represent Christ and the twelve apostles) which was boiled in a pudding cloth. Usual ingredients included suet, brown sugar, raisins, currants, citron, lemon and orange peels, spices, crumbs, flour, eggs, milk and brandy.
Other Christmas deserts included gingerbread, butter shortbread, trifle and syllabub (a milk, brandy and wine concoction which might be drunk or later whipped, gelled and eaten.) Children delighted in sugar plums and ginger nuts.
Making the Merriment Last
The Regency Christmas season lasted from Christmas Eve till Twelfth Night, the eve of the Epiphany (when the arrival of the magi at Christ’s side is celebrated). Each day was filled with music making, skating on frozen ponds, and gentle rustic pursuits.
The custom of the First Foot on New Years Day was particularly important. It was considered very lucky if the first visitor to “set foot” over one’s threshold was a well-favored, dark haired man. (How very practical! When isn’t a tall, dark and handsome guy at the door good luck?) Often in small villages, a fellow who fit the description would be appointed to visit every home, bringing symbolic gifts of salt for wealth, coal for warmth, and bread for food. The householders would offer him food and drink in return and an auspicious year was assured.
Twelfth Night was filled with even more revelry than Christmas Day itself. This was a time for amateur theatricals, music and games. A bean was hidden inside a cake and the person who discovered the bean was proclaimed the Lord of Misrule and might dictate the events of the evening. With wassail flowing and spirits high, Twelfth Night was a fitting end to the Regency Christmas celebration.
What’s your favorite holiday activity, game or recipe?
Share it with us and you’ll be entered in the drawing for my Christmas enovella in winner’s choice of Kindle or Nook format–MY LADY BELOW STAIRS.
Nobody misses Lord & Lady Hartwell’s Christmas Ball, but they all go for different reasons. When Lady Sybil runs off with an Italian portrait painter, her bastard half-sister Jane Tate goes in her place. Lord Eddleton plans on proposing to “Sybil” under the mistletoe. Lady Darvish is on the hunt for her fifth husband.
And Ian Michael MacGarrett, the head groom with more than horseflesh on his mind, is determined to show Jane that love doesn’t have to pretend.
“My Lady Below Stairs is the story of a bastard servant girl called in to impersonate her missing aristocratic half-sister with results worthy of Shakespeare!” ~ Library Journal
Be sure to check back on December 12th. I’ll announce the winner then. Good luck!