I’m so thrilled to be hosting Kensington debut author Theresa Romain. Theresa’s Christmas-themed book, Season For Temptation, has been getting great reviews. I’m here to tell you that they’re very well deserved! I’m going to turn the blog over to Theresa now, as she tells us about Christmas traditions during the Regency era.
It’s Not Over Till the Wassail Flows
It’s no surprise that life has changed a great deal since England’s Regency (1811-1820). For the most part, the differences between us and them are clear-cut:
|Mad king?||Not usually||Yes|
|Indoor plumbing?||Yes||Not usually|
But the social differences between our societies extend beyond lunacy and cleanliness. And this becomes very apparent during the Christmas season:
|Christmas trees?||Ubiquitous||Fringe fad from Germans|
|Roasted animal eaten?||Turkey or pig (or goose if very fancy)||Goose (or peacock if very fancy)|
|Gifts given to children?||Electronic and/or expensive||Edible and/or cheap|
|Joygasm of celebration||September 15-December 25||December 24-January 6|
See that last line? That’s what we’re going to focus on. (Though if you want to learn more about roasted peacocks—and who doesn’t?—you can read it here.)
Regency England (1811-1820) didn’t heap a lot of trimmings onto Christmas Day itself. They put up greenery in their homes, but not until the day before Christmas. On Christmas Day, family members went to church together. Adults might exchange gifts, or they might not. They’d give a little something to children for a “Christmas box.” Probably the closest equivalent would be the way we use stockings now for those little extras.
That was that.
But then came the Twelve Days of Christmas, and that’s when the REAL fun started. Let’s travel through a few of those post-Christmas milestones:
Note to self: if leaving the house on Boxing Day in Regency England, bring along a purse full of coins. On Boxing Day, shoppers could plan on giving a tip (financial, not informational) to anyone who served them that day. Employers and landlords also gave gifts to their employees or tenants on this day—perhaps some food, or a small amount of money for Christmas boxes.
New Year’s Eve/Day (December 31/January 1)
New Year’s was sometimes celebrated with fireworks—yes, even two hundred years ago! Regency fireworks had a beautiful range of colors. Other traditions included bonfires, the placement of good-luck charms outside the house (such as a silver coin, to bring in prosperity), and the concept of “first footing.”
The “first-foot,” or “qualtagh” (you’ll be using that word all the time now), is the first person to enter a house upon the new year. A tall, dark-haired man was considered to be the luckiest sort of qualtagh. But then again, when is it not nice to have one of those around?
The Christmas fun culminated on Twelfth Night, which historically was celebrated on January 5, the day before Epiphany. (Today, Twelfth Night and Epiphany are sometimes considered interchangeable. It just depends on when you start counting off those twelve days.)
Twelfth Night was much more riotous than the celebrations of Christmas Day. It featured masquerades, at which guests might choose their own costumes or be assigned a character. There was wassail aplenty—a hot punch featuring ale, apples, spices, and eggs (yes, eggs) (really)—and amidst all these costumes and adult beverages, everyone took down the Christmas decorations.
In my historical romance debut, SEASON FOR TEMPTATION, my heroine, Julia, experiences the Christmas season in London for the first time. Christmas day itself is not all that heartwarming, as she has to deal with unrequited love (oops) and evil sort-of-in-laws (argh).
Twelfth Night is a new beginning, as she decides to let her hair down—or pin it up under a garish turban, as the case may be. But the best gifts come late, and most unexpectedly. A wassail-like beverage may or may not be involved.
What do you all have going on for the 12 Days of Christmas? Who will be your qualtagh? Share something fun about your post-Christmas plans, and be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of SEASON FOR TEMPTATION!
Theresa Romain holds degrees in psychology, English literature, and history, an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. Her historical romance debut, SEASON FOR TEMPTATION, was published in October 2011. She is currently at work on the sequel, SEASON FOR SURRENDER, which will be published in October 2012.
Julia Herington is overjoyed when her stepsister, Louisa, becomes engaged—to a viscount, no less. Louisa’s only hesitation is living a life under the ton’s critical gaze. But with his wry wit and unconventional ideas, Julia feels James is perfect for Louisa. She can only hope to find a man like him for herself. Exactly like him, in fact…
As the new Viscount Matheson, James wished to marry quickly and secure his title. Kind, intelligent Louisa seemed a suitable bride… Until he met her stepsister. Julia is impetuous—and irresistible. Pledged to one sister, yet captivated by another, what is he to do? As Christmas and the whirl of the London season approach, James may be caught in a most scandalous conundrum, one that only true love, a bit of spiritous punch—and a twist of fate—will solve…
Vanessa, here. Doesn’t that sound like a great story? Be sure to check out Theresa’s website for all the details and buy links. And be sure to answer her question if you want the chance to win Season For Temptation for yourself!