It is my pleasure to welcome ‘new-to-me’ author Regina Jeffers who considers herself a Jane Austen enthusiast and has a new yuletide story out this month entitled, CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLY: A PRIDE AND PREJUDICE CHRISTMAS SEQUEL.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: To bring a renewed sense joy to his wife’s countenance, Fitzwilliam Darcy has secretly invited the Bennets and the Bingleys to spend the Christmastide festive days at Pemberley. But as he and Elizabeth journey to their estate to join the gathered families, a blizzard blankets the English countryside. The Darcys find themselves stranded at a small out-of-the-way inn with another couple preparing for the immediate delivery of their first child, while Pemberley is inundated with friends and relations seeking shelter from the storm.
Without her brother’s strong presence, Georgiana Darcy desperately attempts to manage the chaos surrounding the arrival of six invited guests and eleven unscheduled visitors. But bitter feuds, old jealousies, and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Has Lady Catherine returned to Pemberley for forgiveness or revenge? Will the manipulative Caroline Bingley find a soul mate? Shall Kitty Bennet and Georgiana Darcy know happiness?
Written in Regency style and including Austen’s romantic entanglements and sardonic humor, CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLY places Jane Austen’s most beloved characters in an exciting yuletide story that speaks to the love, the family spirit, and the generosity that remain as the heart of Christmas.
Regina has graciously agreed to give us some details on what a Regency Christmas is really like.
When most people consider a Regency Christmas, they are really envisioning a Victorian one. During the Regency Period (1811-1820), Christmastide began on Christmas Day and ended with a Twelfth Night celebration. There are few references to Christmas traditions in Regency literature other than the occasional wish for a “Happy Christmas” among story characters and real-life accounts. Even Jane Austen made few references to the day as anything other than an acknowledgement of Jesus’ birth.
Religious observances remained the foundation of English Christmases of the time. One must remember that in the 16th Century, to prevent subversion, the government banned Christmas celebrations. According to the Jane Austen Centre Magazine, “We have accounts from early 19th Century journals of Christmas days where the writer mentions the holiday but makes absolutely no fuss about it. Likewise, there are records of newspapers, published on December 25th that do not even contain the word Christmas.”
In Chapter 14 of Austen’s Persuasion, we see how the schoolboys’ return home for the holidays is the most important event, not the celebration of Christmas itself. “Immediately surrounding Mrs. Musgrave were the little Harvilles, whom she was sedulously guarding from the tyranny of the two children from the Cottage, expressly arrived to amuse them. On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were trestles and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard in spite of the noise of the others.”
The Christmas pudding is traditionally made on Stir Up Day, the last Sunday before Advent. All family members of a household take a turn in the stirring with a special wooden spoon, which represents the Christ Child’s crib and the stable. Stirring in a clockwise direction with his eyes closed, each person makes a secret wish during his turn at the spoon – very much as one might do before blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.
In country houses, the occupants hung decorations on Christmas Eve. These remained in place until the Epiphany on January 6, when they were removed. One might hang holly, ivy, rosemary, evergreen, hawthorn and hellebore (Christmas rose).
As for the mistletoe/kissing ball, it became quite elaborate during the Victorian Period. However, many believe the tradition remained below stairs in the servants’ quarters during the Regency Period. Yet, the kissing ball and the removal of the berries for each kiss “stolen” from a lovely heroine is often found in Regency based romances.
A Yule Log to burn throughout the festive days would have been common, as well as a Christmas candle. The kindling from the previous year’s Yule Log would be used to light the current year’s find. Groups – mummers whose origins date back to the Middle Ages - sang and performed short plays, usually on Boxing Day (December 26). The actors often mixed bits of history with the heroes of the British Napoleonic Wars in their tales. Of course, Saint George remained a staple of the plays.
Parlor games entertained houseguests, but there was no caroling (except possibly in Wales), no decorated trees, no stockings hung by the chimney with care, and no Christmas cards. Gifts were few and often took the form of charitable acts by the aristocracy. A landowner’s cottagers might bestow a gift symbolizing their devotion to his generosity or representing the bounty of the estate’s harvest on the main house. A Regency Christmas was a time to reflect upon one’s religious beliefs and to enjoy the companionship of friends and family. It was not the commercialized holiday we of this century would expect.
In creating CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLY, the challenge was to tell a tale of “Christmas” for a modern audience, but to stay true to the Regency Period’s practices. In the novel, Christmas arrives on a Sunday. It is December 25, 1814, the time period between Napoleon’s arrival on Elba and his escape in March 1815. I shifted the story’s emphasis from the expected symbols of Christmas (gifts, carols, trees, etc.) to the birth of two children and how each child’s entrance into this world changes the family into which he is introduced. I used the holiday’s practices as the framework through which the story is told.
Regina, thanks so much for guest blogging. It is quite fascinating to discover how little Christmas was celebrated during this era. We sometimes get so wrapped up in how we now celebrate Christmas that we forget how it has been observed in times past.
Let me share a bit of background on Regina. As I mentioned earlier, she considers herself a Jane Austen enthusiast and was a public classroom teacher for 39 years. She is the author of several Austen-inspired novels, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, Vampire Darcy’s Desire, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Phantom of Pemberley, and the upcoming The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy. She also is a Regency romance author: The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, and The First Wives’ Club.
A Time Warner Star Teacher and Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, Regina often serves as a consultant in language arts and media literacy. Currently living outside Charlotte, North Carolina, she spends her time with her writing, gardening, and her new grandson.
For more on Regina and her writing, check out her website www.rjeffers.com, visit her blog http://reginajeffers.wordpress.com, find her at http://austenauthors.net, on Twitter – @reginajeffers, and on Facebook – Regina Jeffers. Her books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-a-Million, Joseph Beth, and Ulysses Press.
What are your thoughts on how Christmas has been observed in past eras? Do you observe any traditions that have been passed down the generations? Thank you so much for stopping by today.