Welcome to Romancing the Past, the brand new blog set up by historical romance authors writing for Carina Press. Between us we cover a broad spectrum of eras and hope to bring you a few insights into the worlds in which we spend so much of our time.
Personally, my head is set firmly in the glamorous Regency period, some two-hundred years ago. Being English, I often have occasion to drive past the Pavilion in Brighton, the Prince Regent's Pleasure Palace, a testament to his hedonistic life-style. I'm not sure that he was a very likeable character but am grateful to him for cutting such a colourful dash and providing us writers with enough fictional licence to fire our imaginations and keep us going almost indefinitely.
At this time of year it's difficult for me not to imagine how Christmas was celebrated in Regency times. It didn't become a national holiday in England until the Victorian years but had been growing in popularity for some time before that. Customs and rituals were faithfully observed. Rites and superstitions surrounded the observance, along with merry-making and over-eating. (No change there then!). Like today, the church was the focal point of the entire celebration.
But there was no falling asleep in front of the telly; nor was there the lavish commercialism that plagues the modern world. Modest gifts, often home made, were exchanged and the entertainments were traditional. I've never included Christmas in any of my books but can't help feeling that I'm missing an opportunity to have some fun with a house party with a difference. A few cups of mulled wine to loosen inhibitions could well lead to stolen kisses, and who knows what else, under the mistletoe. In my fictitious world the chaperones would be too full of Christmas cheer, not to mention roast goose, to maintain their customary vigilant watch over their charges.
The Yule log has survived to this day, along with “wassailing” and decorating homes with evergreen. As now families got together and, I'm guessing here, took the opportunity to have a good bicker amongst themselves. Sound familiar? As today, parlour games, cards, stories, perhaps even a dance might well have been responsible for preventing serious rifts developing and long-held grudges being aired.
For us English, the 26th December is known as Boxing Day. The name dates back centuries and is believed to refer to the custom of the upper classes handing out gift boxes to tradesmen and servants in recognition of another year's faithful service. The servants then opened their boxes, set to and had a party of their own. I wonder if it was as eventful as the one that I'm planning in my head for the 'gentry' above stairs? Or perhaps it might be fun to switch between the two celebrations. What do you think?
Wherever you are, and however you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you all a happy and peaceful Yuletide.