I’ve read quite a number of special Christmas romances set in the Regency period. My favorites have been Mary Balogh’s collection, and I looked for her new story every year. I don’t think that’s still happening, and I miss it. Even the short stories that appeared in anthologies would brighten the holiday for me. Checking the list on Amazon, there are a few that I seem to have missed, so I look forward to completing my collection.
Many people don’t think Christmas was more than a holy day in Regency England, and that was the key to the celebration. And what we think of as Christmas, with the tree, the decorations, the candles and all, came to fashion with the very dashing Prince Albert when he married the young Queen Victoria in 1840. (Although several notable persons of German origin did keep the customs before that) But there were many native traditions in England.
Oh, sure, the Puritans, bless their hearts, were against Christmas for the association with Roman Catholic ceremonies and the extravagant feasting and fooling around, sometimes in masks, the drinking, and the plays, and oh so many things to dislike. http://austenonly.com/2009/12/12/but-surely-christmas-in-england-didnt-exist-until-dickens-invented-it/ But the traditions simply went underground, they did not die out.
The Irish held on to the Yuletide customs as part of their struggle to keep their culture alive under occupation and suppression. The use of holly to decorate began long ago there, and remains a source of holiday cheer today. http://www.ireland-information.com/articles/irishchristmastraditions.htm
The Yule Log, the Decorations on a Tree, the Singing of Carols, all started long before the Victorians got involved. Pagans marked the Winter Solstice by bringing evergreens inside, bonfires were lit outside, and Saturnalia celebrations also used lots of evergreen plants. When Christianity bloomed in England, the holiday of Christmas and the same plants were given Christian significance. Except for mistletoe, because that nasty little parasite was druid through and through. The Church banned it until the early 19th century. http://austenonly.com/2009/12/14/jane-austen-and-christmas-decorating-the-georgian-home/
So back to Miss Austen, and how she celebrated. Her letters tell us more, but she did cover some traditions in the novels. And a book I must add to my collection is Jane Austen’s Christmas: The Festive Season in Georgian England. The back cover blub states “Miss Austen would have known elaborate house parties and fancy dress balls. The Mummers would surely have attended her home in Hampshire, as would the Waits, encouraging ‘good Christians’ to ‘awake’ on Christmas morning. She is also known to have enjoyed Christmas pudding, still then a fairly new dish, loved by the Georgian monarchy and copied by many families at the time.” http://www.janeausten.co.uk/jane-austens-christmas-the-festive-season-in-georgian-england/
So don we now our Regency apparel, dish up the Christmas pudding, http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1159/classic-christmas-pudding and ask Mary to sing a carol or two. I’ll be back on Sunday.