Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Food and Fun.

Christmas Food and Fun.

Most of our present day Christmas traditions can trace their origins back to Victorian era when things like decorating a tree, sending greeting cards, and attending special church services became widely practiced. 

But before Victorian times, the Christmas season was all about food and fun. 

During the Georgian and early Regency Eras, bad weather and the prospect of impassable roads sent the upper classes scurrying away from dreary London before Christmas to family gatherings and house parties in the country.

House Parties.

Over the weeks of December and January, house guests played games, ate lavish feasts, and found ways to have fun and pass the time during snowstorms, especially in the Georgian era when rollicking parties were normal. In the early Regency years however, celebrations became a little more subdued and staid.

Before Christmas Eve, people of all classes ventured out to cut evergreens which were used to decorate churches and homes, doorways, banisters, mantles, and chandeliers.

Holly, laurel, ivy, and misteltoe were collected for 'kissing boughs'.

Celtic belief held that mistletoe had magical powers and could heal wounds and increase fertility.  Gentlemen agreed that mistletoe was magical because it allowed them to lure a woman beneath a bough, pluck a berry, and claim his one free kiss. When the berries were gone, no more kisses were given.


Games were organized to pass the time when guests were housebound and there were a lot of plays, pantomimes, and amateur theatricals. Young ladies played musical instruments to entertain and often the gentlemen would sing or assist by turning the pages of sheet music.

Apart from the usual cards, charades, and dancing, lots of games were played. Or on Christmas Eve there might have been Mummers Plays which were all-male acted stories of good triumphing over evil.

English: PD image of a Snap-dragon from Robert...
     Snap-dragon from Book of Days (1879)
  by Robert Chambers
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One favorite game for Christmas Eve was Snap Dragon.

Raisins were put into a large, shallow bowl, brandy poured over them and ignited. All the lights except the fire were put out players tried to reach through the flames to grab as many raisins possible.

This is the song for the game:

"Here he comes with flaming bowl,
Don't be mean to take his toll.
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
Take care you don't take too much
Be not greedy in your clutch.
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
With his blue and lapping tongue
Many of you will be stung.
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
For he snaps at all that comes
Snatching at his feast of plums.
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
But Old Christmas makes him come
Though he looks so fee! Fa! Fum!
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
Don't `ee fear him, be but bold.
Out he goes, his flames are cold.
Snip! Snap! Dragon!

And in between the fun came the feasting, with Georgian households making the traditional Twelfth Cake, though as the Regency progressed, Twelfth Night almost dwindled away. Regency families might still have the large cake, but elaborate costumes and excessive drinking stopped until those sort of colorful pageants returned with the Victorians.

Festive Food 

On the menu was generally mince pies and perhaps a  goose or a piece of beef, depending on the family's wealth and status. Mince pies were not made of fruit mince as we do now, but of offal or meat such as bullock's tongue cooked with spices, orange peel, and wine and then used to fill pastry cases.

Another Christmas specialty was a Yorkshire Christmas pie which would be filled with turkey, goose, a hen, or perhaps woodcocks, partridge, or pigeons.

And after the main courses, came the Plum Pudding, mixed on Stir-Up Sunday according to each family's recipe and then boiled in a cloth.

Most families had some sort of celebration, though the poorer ones, such as those in Dicken's Christmas Carol, had neither the time or money to celebrate. For many, especially the ones left in cold and miserable London, still had to work at Christmas.

The Viscount's Pleasure House 

In my new release, The Viscount's Pleasure House, Justin wants nothing more than to sell his themed pleasure houses and gather what's left of his family around him once more and lead a normal life. Perhaps he can even persuade Chrissie that he's no longer a rake, but a man who wants a family of his own.

Food or Fun For You?

What about you? Do you celebrate the Christmas season with family? 
Do you have a big gathering where you eat and play games? 

Hope you have time to enjoy some of these other articles about the customs of Christmases past. 

Merry Christmas to all.

Suzi Love

Related articles about Christmas Traditions, Food and Fun.

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Monday, December 17, 2012


As the first of my spy series, released in the US in March with A Baron in Her Bed - The Spies of Mayfair Series Book One, involves some aspects of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, I thought I'd share some of my research.
A Philosopher Giving that Lecture on the Orrery, in which a Lamp is put in place of the Sun (sometimes called simply The Orrery) is a painting (oil on canvas, ca. 1766) by Joseph Wright of Derby depicting a public lecture about a model solar system, with a lamp—in place of the sun—illuminating the faces of the audience. Wright captures the spirit of the Enlightenment, with knowledge as a force of moral uplift for the audience of commoners under the tutelage of the natural philosopher.

A visitor to England in 1760, the year George III came to the throne would have found a nation which drew most of its living from the land. Farm workers, tenants and landowners raised sheep and cattle, grew crops or sold market garden or dairy produce.  Many people took to rural crafts – as blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, wheelwrights, carters, fencers, or thatchers – to name but a few.
Local markets were the hub of life as the roads were poor.
If that visitor returned to England in 1837, the year Victoria became Queen, they would have found many great changes, especially in the midland shires. There were canals and barges laden with coal, iron and manufactured goods moving slowly through the open countryside. There were new roads linking many of the main towns, cities and ports.  There were even some iron bridges. Peasants continued to weave in their cottages, as they had done for centuries – but many had new fangled steam engines in their backyards. Above all there were the huge new industrial towns such as Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield. Clouds of smoke from ironworks or mills hung over the countryside.
More and more people were drawn away from the countryside towards the towns. Here, they were often crowded into ramshackle houses built by speculators; they worked very long hours for very low wages. In many of these factories and workshops new kinds of machinery could often be seen. Usually these machines were made of iron and powered by steam engines. They were often highly dangerous for the people working them.
The changes listed above really gathered pace during the reign of George III (1760-1820). The period saw many wonderful new inventions. In this area, Great Britain led the world. Some industries such as textiles and iron-making were changed and enlarged almost beyond belief. 

 This was the age of some of the greatest names in British industrial history – James Watt, Edmund Cartwright, Thomas Telford, Richard Arkright, Samuel Crompton, Josiah Wedgwood, Henry Cort, the Darbys of Coalbrookdale, James Hargreaves and Richard Trevithick.
These changes came about in a relatively short period of time and were due to many factors:
·        The work of scientists in many areas: on atmospheric pressure, on accurate measurement and in chemistry.
·        Politics – the so-called “age of enlightenment” in the eighteenth century: Revolutionary new ideas put into practice in France and in America, which declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776.
·        In religion, there was more freedom for dissenting or non-conformist groups such as the Methodists and Quakers.
·        Invention was encouraged by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce which offered high payments to any inventor who agreed to open his invention to the public. Parliament too was supportive financially.
·        The increase in population not due to an increase in the birth rate, but the big fall in death rates, especially among infants.
·        Britain had a huge overseas empire. This provided a basic market for new products Also the empire had many of the raw materials needed by Britain, including iron ore, coal deposits and cotton. All of this international sea trade was protected by the greatest navy in the world.

Research: The Industrial Revolution, R.W. Hart.
Maggi Andersen is an author of Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense and Young Adult novels. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Medieval Christmas

I’ve been doing a little research and delving into the sometimes weird, but kind of cool Medieval Christmas. I thought I would share a few points.

The word 'Christmas' was first recorded as ‘Cristes Maesse’ in 1038 AD in a book from Saxon England.

Holy Innocents Day also known as Childermass falls on the 28th December. Religious tradition says it marks the Massacre of the Innocents, and how King Herod ordered the slaughter of all the male children in Bethlehem. In medieval England, children were often beaten on this day, in remembrance of Herod’s cruelty. Yep, I can really see how that would make for a happy Christmas celebration! Anyway, the 28th December was seen as a day of bad luck. So much so, Edward IV refused to be crowned on the day and no one would enter into marriage, begin building or any new venture.
Wassail comes from the Old English words waes hael, which means ‘be well,’ ‘be hale,’ or ‘good health.’ A strong, hot drink (usually a mixture of ale, honey, and spices) would be put in a large bowl, and the host would lift it and greet his companions with ‘waes hael,’ to which they would reply ‘drinc hael,’ which meant 'drink and be well'.

The Anglo-Norman Carol is said to be one of the earliest sung carols. Reportedly it was discovered in a 13th century manuscript, and is thought to belong to a group of travelling troubadours.  Below is the modern English transcript.

Lordings, Listen to our Lay

Lordings, listen to our lay --
We have come from far away
To seek Christmas;
In this mansion we are told
He his yearly feast doth hold;
'Tis t-day!
May joy come from God above,
To all those who Christmas love.

 Lordings, I now tell you true,
Christmas bringeth unto you
Only mirth;
His house he fills with many a dish
Of bread and meat and also fish,
To grace the day.
May joy come from God above,
To all those who Christmas love.

 Lordings, through our army's band
They say -- who spends with open hand
Free and fast,
And oft regals his many friends --
God gives him double what he spends
To grace the day.
May joy come from God above,
To all those who Christmas love.

Lordings, wicked men eschew,
In them never shall you view
Aught that's good;
Cowards are the rable rout,
Kick and beat the grumblers out,
To grace the day.
May joy come from God above,
To all those who Christmas love.

 To English ale and Gascon wine,
And French, doth Christmas much incline
And Anjou's, too;
He makes his neighbour freely drink
So that in sleep his head doth sink
Often by day.
May joy come from God above,
To all those who Christmas love.

 Lords, by Christmas and the host
Of this mansion hear my toast --
Drink it well --
Each must drain his cup of wine,
And I the first will toss off mine:
Thus I advise.
Here then I bid you all Wassail,
Cursed be he who will not say, Drinkhail.
May joy come from God above,
To all those who Christmas love.

The winter festivities began on All Hallows Eve, and the medieval Christmas celebrations incorporated the twelve days of Christmas, which started on Christmas Eve and finished on the Twelfth Night, the eve of the Epiphany.

The Lord of Misrule symbolizes a world turned upside down. On this day the nobility would become the peasants and vice versa. During the Twelfth Night festival, a cake that contained a bean or trinket was eaten. The person who found the bean/trinket would rule the feast. At midnight the Lord of Misrule’s reign would end. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed. This Lord of Misrule tradition dates back to pre-Christian European festivals such as the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia.

In my latest story, I borrowed a little of the medieval Christmas cheer (whilst ignoring the odd custom of Childermass altogether). Misrule’s Mistress is set over the Twelve Days of Christmas and ends with the Feast of Misrule. Misrule’s Mistress will be released on the 20th December by Pink Petal Books.


Misrule’s Mistress

She has refused him once but with a golden ring, the Feast of Misrule and a little cunning, Lord Barric Cranley intends to catch his bride.
Sources -
The Great British Christmas by Maria Hubert.
Manner and Customs in the Middle Ages by Marsha Groves.
The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer.
Images from Public Domain

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Although I write sizzling historical romances as Christina Phillips, I also write erotic paranormal romance about fallen archangels as Christina Ashcroft. And today I'm thrilled to announce the release of the first book in my hot new Archangel series, ARCHANGEL OF MERCY!

                                     And look what just turned up! My beautiful author copies!!!

 "Ashcroft’s unique world-building blends several familiar mythologies and draws the reader in with a creative and intriguing plot… Her characters are fascinating, the story line compelling, the romance scorching – don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading this book late into the night!”
Kylie Griffin, National Bestselling Author of The Light Blade Series

Destined to fall... destined to love...
"Archangel Of Mercy would appeal to readers who enjoy Nalini Singh and JR Ward. Dark, gritty and erotic. I loved it!”
Laurie London, Author of the Sweetblood Series
When Aurora Robinson attempts to open a rift between dimensions to embrace her true heritage, an arrogant Archangel is the only one who can save her from the jaws of hell. And while she owes Gabriel her life, she’s determined not to fall at his feet-despite the desire she feels whenever they’re together.
After his wings were brutally destroyed millennia ago, Gabriel has no compassion for humans like those who ruined him and betrayed the ones he loved. But when he inexplicably finds himself defying ancient protocols to rescue a woman from a fate worse than death, he is shocked by the searing attraction he feels for a mortal.
As the ancient forces that seek to punish Aurora for her actions close in, Gabriel offers the tempting woman protection at his private sanctuary. But as they both succumb to their desires, they discover an even deeper connection-one that threatens to consume them.
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