Today, fellow Regency romance writer Regan Walker is joining me to discuss Christmas in the Regency era. If you love the elegance of Jane Austen's time and the sparkle and magic of Christmas, you'll love this post. Once you've taken a peek into Christmas past, please check out Regan's Regency Christmas novella The Twelfth Night Wager and her Regency Christmas short story The Holly and the Thistle.
Preparing for Christmas Regency Style
By Regan Walker
In America, we often prepare for the Christmas holiday by buying a Christmas tree, decorating theMost of the traditions were steeped in the Christian faith.
For one thing, they didn’t decorate their homes with Christmas trees, at least not until the Victoria period, however they did bring in greenery—on Christmas Eve. Decorations went up that night and stayed up until Epiphany when the greens would be burned in the fireplace. Evergreens were the central part of the decoration, with boughs of holly, ivy, hawthorn, rosemary, and Christmas Rose (hellebore), depending on where you were in England. Of course, there was also mistletoe, although it grows mostly in the western and southwestern parts of Britain. (Friends or relatives in other parts of the country might send you some by the mail coach.) The mistletoe would more likely have been a “kissing bough”—a hanging structure of evergreens, apples, paper flowers, and dolls representing Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.
On Christmas, it would be the children who might get a small toy as the adults did not exchange gifts as we do. Typically, Christmas Day would begin with a trip to church. After, there would be a great feast of roast goose, boar’s head (really the head of a pig, as wild boars became extinct in England as of 1185), and perhaps turkey (brought to England from the New World in 1550). Vegetables such as potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts and carrots were also served, along with stuffing for the fowl. Wonderful desserts ended the meal, including march pane (what we call marzipan), and gingerbread. Another favorite dessert was Christmas plum pudding, a mixture of 13 ingredients (representing Christ and the twelve apostles): suet, brown sugar, raisins, currants, citron, lemon and orange peels, spices, crumbs, flour, eggs, milk and brandy.
The day after Christmas was Boxing Day, when you gave presents or “boxes” to those who had given you good service during the previous year. It was also a traditional day for fox hunting. You did not necessarily have to worry about snow near Christmas, despite the story of Good King Wenceslaus. According to several sources, weather in most parts of England is often warm and damp. The winter of 1818, the year in which my novella The Twelfth Night Wager and my short story The Holly & The Thistle are set, was a particularly warm one.
The day and night of the 5th – Twelfth Night – was a time for masks and playacting. Cakes were part of this day, not Christmas. Twelfth day cakes were light and covered with colored sugar, and they contained a bean and a pea. The man who found the bean would become king for the night; the woman who found the pea would become queen. Another similar Twelfth Night tradition was for the ladies to pick a man’s name from a hat, and he would be her partner for the night. At the end of Twelfth Night, all the decorations should be taken down, and the greenery burned (or the house risked bad luck). The Yule log would have burned until this day.
To find out more about Regan and her novels, please follow the links below.
Author website: http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com/
Regan’s Romance Reviews blog: http://reganromancereview.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @RegansReview (https://twitter.com/RegansReview)