A former teacher, Susana Ellis is finally living her dream of being a full-time writer. She loves all genres of romance, but historical—Regency in particular—is her favorite. Today Susana joins us to talk about Christmas decorating traditions from the Regency period. Learn more about Susana and her books, at her Website and her Susana’s Parlour and Susana’s Morning Room blogs.
Regency Christmas Traditions: Decorating the Home
Although Queen Charlotte was the first to have a Christmas tree erected in 1800 (an idea imported from Germany,) it was for private viewing and was not an idea disseminated to the public. It wasn’t until 1841 that Victoria’s husband Albert introduced the Christmas tree tradition to the English public.
So…there were no Christmas trees during the Regency.
Regency Christmas Decorations
During the Regency, Christmas was a much more subdued holiday than it is today. The emphasis was, in fact, on the season more than the actual day, beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, when one would traditionally make the Christmas pudding, and ending with Epiphany on January 6th, although the season of Christmastide didn’t begin until the day after Christmas. (Note: if you are interested in learning about other Regency Christmas traditions, check out the posts on the Holiday Tour for A Twelfth Night Tale.)
Regency homes were decorated tastefully with holly and mistletoe and evergreens—usually not until Christmas Eve—and promptly taken down on January 6th, as keeping it up longer was bad luck. Bright ribbons and paper stars and crowns were intertwined with the branches and hung from ceilings, chandeliers, and doorways to add holiday cheer. Beneath the decked-out mantel would be a roaring fire with a pot of wassail for visiting guests, since one never knew when neighbors and friends would drop by for a holiday toast and a strain or two of a well-loved Christmas carol.
From Advent on, there were card parties, house parties (for overnight guests,) balls, skating parties (if the ice was solid,) dinners, and small gatherings.
For photos of Regency-era decorations: Jane Austen and Christmas
The Kissing Bough
In the Middle Ages in Europe, the kissing bough was the top of an evergreen tree hung upside-down (a symbol of the Holy Trinity) in the doorway of the home to represent heavenly blessings for the members of the household. In addition, visitors would exchange embraces with the master and mistress of the household upon arrival to demonstrate friendship and goodwill.
In Georgian times, the kissing bough is a round ball of mistletoe (wound around a circular wire), evergreens, apples, oranges, paper flowers, ribbons, colored paper and dolls representing the Mary, Joseph and the Christ child. In many places, households would vie with each to produce the most elaborate kissing bough.
The custom of stealing kisses beneath the kissing bough, or even a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling or doorway in a place where people were certain to walk beneath it, became popular in the late eighteenth century.
In A Twelfth Night Tale, the Barlows and their guests decorate neighboring Livingston House—which had been sadly neglected since Mrs. Livingston’s death several years ago—on Christmas Day, mostly because Mrs. Barlow is anxious to find a suitable way to divert the rambunctious children away from her home furnishings. While the children eagerly make paper flowers and chains at the neighbors’ home, Lucy and Andrew spend some quality time together as they set out in search of greenery for their part of the project.
Celebrate the Holidays With a Kissing Bough
History becomes real to children when they become a part of it themselves, thus the reason for Thanksgiving and Christmas pageants and plays. Creating a kissing bough for your home is a Christmas tradition the entire family will enjoy. You can use wire or oasis balls and decorate with ribbons, paper flowers, mistletoe and greenery, holly berries, and whatever you choose.
Instructions For Making a Kissing Bough
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2006/dec/02/family.family (lots of family holiday projects here)
Susana is going all out to celebrate the release of A Twelfth Night Tale!
Besides the Grand Prize—a Giant Treasure Box—she is giving away a Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated) for one random commenter on each of the twelve stops of the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter for the Giant Treasure Box!
A Twelfth Night Tale Giant Treasure Box*
· lovely gift box
· A Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated)
· Father Christmas figurine
· Three Wise Men figurine
· Thomas Kinkade photo collage
· Treasuring Theresa mug
· Treasuring Theresa necklace
· Treasuring Theresa keychain
· two Christmas ornaments from Scotland (Mary Queen of Scots and fleur-de-lys)
· two decks of Ellora's Cave playing cards
· two perfumed soaps from Scotland
· fizzing bath salts from Scotland
· Celtic pen from Scotland
· “jeweled” soap
· nail clipper keychain from London
· stuffed toy bear
*In lieu of the treasure box, a winner from outside the U.S. will receive a gift card from the book retailer of their choice.
A Twelfth Night Tale
A wounded soldier and the girl next door find peace and love amidst a backdrop of rural Christmas traditions.
Without dowries and the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. But when the eldest attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, suddenly it seems as though Fate is smiling upon them.
Lucy knows that she owes it to her younger sisters to encourage Lord Bexley's attentions, since marriage to a peer will secure their futures as well as hers. The man of her dreams has always looked like Andrew Livingston, her best friend's brother. But he's always treated her like a child, and in any case, is betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to put away childhood dreams and accept reality…and Lord Bexley.
Andrew has returned from the Peninsula with more emotional scars to deal with than just the lame arm. Surprisingly, it's his sister's friend “Little Lucy” who shows him the way out of his melancholy. He can't help noticing that Lucy's grown up into a lovely young woman, but with an eligible viscount courting her, he'll need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.