Thursday, December 02, 2010

Christmas Regency Style

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.

10 comments:

Claire Robyns said...

A Regency Christmas sounds a lot more romantic than anything we could rustle up nowadays, what with prying the kids loose from the telly and worrying about the hit to our bank accounts. Oh, to have lived 200 hundred years ago, sigh

Abigail-Madison Chase said...

Congrat on the new site and I love the pic above

Patricia Preston said...

Wonderful post!

Taryn Kincaid said...

Very nice inaugural!

Susanna Ives said...

Wonderful post. FYI -- If you want to learn more about Regency Christmas, check out Nancy Mayer's info on the topic.

http://www.susannaives.com/nancyregencyresearcher/pages/christmas1.html

Jenny Schwartz said...

Boxing Day is such a weird name -- here in Australia it tends to be either "Movie Day" or "Beach Day" with people either heading into the airconditioned theatres or down to the surf. Except me. I like to read :)

Congrats on the launch of Romancing the Past. It looks gorgeous.

Wendy Soliman said...

Thanks everyone for the encouraging comments. I just know this blog is going to go from strength to strength.

Alice Gaines said...

Great debut for the blog, Wendy.

Heather Boyd said...

*looking around* Pretty new blog... Can I sit awhile?

Just found you today thanks to a Jenny Schwartz twitter post. But unlike Jenny (a fellow Aussie) everyone I know uses the term Boxing day (even if they're off to the beach LOL). Wonderful post.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Hi Heather! *waves*