I’m so excited for this round of What to Read Wednesday. Please help me welcome author Sophie Barnes to the blog. She’s talking Regency Christmas and sharing her release The Earl’s Complete Surrender along with a giveaway.
The link for the giveaway is toward the end of the post. Don’t forget to enter after you check out her cover and read her blurb/excerpt!
Take it away Sophie …
A REGENCY CHRISTMAS
While Christmas trees traditionally form the centerpiece of modern Christmas celebrations, they were not as common during the Regency period as they are today. Although it is true that Christmas trees were introduced to England in 1800 by Queen Charlotte (the German-born wife of King George III), they were only popular amidst the upper classes. Additionally, they were not decorated with sparkling glass balls and tinsel, but with edibles such as apples, nuts, or other foods instead.
In reference to the tree that Queen Charlotte had placed in the Queen’s Lodge at Winsor Castle, Dr. John Watkins, the Queen’s biographer wrote:
“In the middle of the room stood an immense tub with a yew tree placed in it, from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged, and the whole illuminated by small wax candles. After the company had walked around and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets which it bore together with a toy and then all returned home, quite delighted.”
Based on what I’ve found, it would seem that mistletoe was of greater importance during that period. Found on orchard and forest trees in England (as opposed to oak trees in the US), it was collected in the weeks leading up to Christmas (especially during the month of November), ornamented with ribbons and hung on chandeliers, above doorways and from the ceiling in general – any place beneath which a kiss might have been made possible. And if an unmarried girl happened to be standing beneath it, she would not have been able to refuse such a kiss. In fact, receiving a kiss beneath the mistletoe was thought to foreshadow her prospects for the coming year. In other words: no kisses = no likelihood for marriage, which might have been true since it would have probably have proven her unpopularity with the gentlemen.
Other Christmas traditions during this time period included plum-pudding (a boiled pudding consisting of dried fruit) and wassail (hot mulled cider) which would have been served during the holiday season. Collecting a Yule Log for the hearth was another popular custom, perhaps more important than the others I’ve mentioned according to an excerpt from New Monthly Magazine, December 1, 1825. Granted, this was five years after the Regency had ended, but I’m sure it would have been just as relevant ten years earlier, and, at any rate, an interesting reflection of the early 19th Century:
“I remember we had a discussion that time as to what was the great point and crowning glory of Christmas. Many were for mince-pie; some for the beef and plum-pudding; more for the wassail-bowl; a maiden lady timidly said the mistletoe; but we agreed at last, that although all these were prodigious, and some of them exclusively belonging to the season, the fire was the great indispensable. Upon which we all turned our faces towards it, and began warming our already scorched hands. A great blazing fire, too big, is the visible heart and soul of Christmas. You may do without beef and plum-pudding; even the absence of mince-pie may be tolerated; there must be a bowl, poetically speaking, but it need not be absolutely wassail. The bowl may give place to the bottle. But a huge, heaped-up, over heaped-up, all-attracting fire, with a semicircle of faces about it, is not to be denied us. It is the lar and genius of the meeting; the proof positive of the season; the representative of all our warm emotions and bright thoughts; the glorious eye of the room; the inciter to mirth, yet the retainer of order; the amalgamater of the age and sex; the universal relish. Tastes may differ even on a mince-pie; but who gainsays a fire?”
an encoded book that exposes a conspiracy within the British aristocracy. And he must do so without revealing his purpose to the clever, tempting Chloe Heartly. The lady has a knack for appearing wherever it is least convenient. In the library. In the salon. And, especially, in his arms . .
They reached the front door where the coach was being unloaded by footmen. The men who’d occupied it, however, were nowhere in sight. The butler on the other hand, was very much present, issuing orders to each of the footman as they carried trunks into the house.
“Excuse me, Mr. Caine,” Chloe said as she and Fiona walked up to him.
Raising his chin in the typical butlery manner that conveyed that his complete attention had been drawn, he spoke a succinct, “Yes, Lady Newbury?”
“My sister and I were out walking when this carriage drove past.” Angling her head, Chloe indicated the carriage in question. “I immediately recognized the Marquess of Hainsworth, but I failed to place his companion. Perhaps you can enlighten us regarding his identity?”
Mr. Caine hesitated only a moment before bowing his head in acquiescence. “I believe you must be referring to the Earl of Woodford, my lady.” A brief pause followed. “Will that be all?”
Chloe blinked. “Yes. Thank you, Mr. Caine.”
The butler nodded before turning away and resuming his duties.
“Isn’t he the one whose parents—”
“Yes,” Chloe said, silencing her sister. It was as if her heart had suddenly been filled with lead. Shaking off the melancholy that had swooped down upon her the moment she’d learned of Woodford’s identity, she placed her hand against Fiona’s elbow and guided her through the foyer and toward the hallway beyond, no longer surprised by the solemnity with which Woodford had regarded her from the carriage. Somewhere, trapped inside that man, was the little boy who’d once suffered the tragic loss of his parents, and Chloe found that her heart ached for him.
Born in Denmark, Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian. She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parsons. But, most impressive of all, she’s been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.
While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion: writing. When she’s not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.