A REGENCY CHRISTMAS
In my novella, The Christmas Ball, I combine my favorite holiday, Christmas, with my favorite historical period, the elegant Regency world of Jane Austen – plus I throw in a pinch of my favorite Fairytale, Cinderella.
During my many visits to England and through my research I have come to love the wit, grace and romance of this period, 1800 – 1820, and discovered how many Regency customs endure in the way in which I celebrate Christmas.
The Christmas season of Regency England was a time of much merrymaking. Everybody invited their friends and family about them for festive celebrations. On Christmas Eve there was often a delightful Ball which provided an excuse for ladies to wear their best clothes and jewelry. Plus the Ball provided an opportunity for flirting among the unmarried couples and perhaps even the beginnings of serious courtships.
An unmarried young lady would wear a soft column-like dress, usually white trimmed with satin ribbon. She would have pearl combs in her hair, with a matching necklace around her slender neck and earrings dangling from her delicate ears. To this she would add a jewel inlaid fan or one painted with birds, flowers or fruit. She might practice the art of “fluttering” for months until she hardly needed to speak for the way she used her fan spoke volumes about her emotions. Obviously, the Regency young men never stood a chance against such artistry.
On Christmas Eve there would always be the singing of Carols and sometimes amusing games were played such as “Hunt the Slipper” before the evening ended with sandwiches and sweets.
On Christmas Day morning the children were given beautifully decorated boxes which contained money. Then in mid-day, usually around four o’clock, the family would gather in the dining room for a sumptuous meal of Salmon Trout, Sweetbreads, Chicken Fricassee, Roast Turkey, Ham, Buttered Lobster, Muffin Pudding, Jellies, Potatoes, Peas, Whipped Syllabub and Baskets of Pastry.
Now, two hundred years later, my festive celebrations begin on December 23th with my “Almost Christmas Eve Party” for all my friends who are alone or without their families. There is no Ball, but a DJ will be spinning tunes for dancing and yes, a few romances have started in my family room with the music blaring and young couples gazing into one another’s eyes. Since this is a family party with friends from three years old to ninety –five, I encourage a sing-a-long of familiar Carols, even though I won’t be joining in as my voice is so terrible my guests would be justified in covering their ears and fleeing the party.
The party continues on Christmas Eve with dinner for my family of twenty –two. Then we rise at dawn on Christmas morning to discover what Santa has left in all twenty-two stockings. I will try to make our Christmas Brunch as sumptuous as a Regency feast but there will be fewer courses and , alas, no Buttered Lobster, even though my children would love such extravagance.
I love discovering how others celebrate the holidays and send my wish for the days ahead to be filled with joy for all!
Xoxo Sherrill Bodine
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Diversion Books team and all of our authors. We're wishing you and yours a festive and safe holiday season. See you in 2014!