The Victorian Christmas

Who doesn’t love Christmas traditions? And yet the way we celebrate the season now is relatively new. Before Queen Victoria’s time, Christmas was barely celebrated at all and gift giving was usually done at the New Year.

Contrary to popular belief, Mr Charles Dickens did not invent Christmas. However, he took the idea and ran with it, creating one of the most iconic ghost stories of our time, A Christmas Carol. Most of us associate the book, and the marvellous film versions of it, with a typical Victorian Christmas, but the commercialisation of the season came about due to two main influences; Queen Victoria marrying her German first cousin, Prince Albert; and the mass production of cheap goods due to the Industrial Revolution.

So, what did the Victorians do for our Christmas traditions?

Mother and daughter prepare the Christmas tree
Illustration Credit: ©iStock.com/clu

The Christmas Tree

Prince Albert brought many of the German Christmas traditions with him to England, including the Christmas tree. The first one was erected in Windsor Castle in 1841 and when the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal family celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree in 1848, the public went crazy for the idea. It wasn’t long before every home had a tree decked with homemade decorations and small gifts. The ‘traditional’ tree as we know it, free-standing on the floor, evolved with the German tradition of table-top Christmas trees.

Christmas Gifts & Santa Claus

Gradually as the season gained popularity, the exchange of gifts moved from the New Year to Christmas. Initially these were small items such as fruit, nuts, sweets and small handmade gifts which were hung on the Christmas tree. However, as gift giving became more popular, and the gifts became bigger, they moved under the tree.

As technology advanced, mass production became the norm in all industries and toy manufacture was no different. Cheap dolls, bears and clock-work toys were suddenly affordable for middle-class families with their new-found disposable income. However, in poorer households, a child would usually get an apple or an orange and maybe a few nuts.

Normally associated with the giving of gifts, is Father Christmas or Santa Claus. An old English midwinter festival featured Father Christmas who was normally dressed in green. He first appeared in the mid 17th century but fell foul of the Puritan controlled English government who legislated against Christmas, considering it papist! However, the origins of Santa Claus or St Nicholas were Dutch (Sinter Klaas in Holland). The American myth of Santa arrived in the 1850s with Father Christmas taking on Santa’s attributes. By the 1880s, the nocturnal visitor was referred to as both Santa Claus and Father Christmas.

The Christmas Cracker

Another item which was mass produced was the Christmas cracker. A sweetshop owner by the name of Tom Smith had the idea in the 1840s, having been inspired by the French tradition of wrapping sweets in twists of paper. By the 1860s, he had perfected the explosive bang and the Christmas cracker was soon a very popular item in Victorian homes.

The Christmas Card

Christmas greetings card, 1885
Illustration credit: ©iStock.com/Whitemay

Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), commissioned the artist J.C. Horsley to design a festive scene for his seasonal greeting cards in 1843. He had 1,000 printed and the left-over cards were sold to the public. Luckily, Rowland Hill had introduced the “Penny Post” in Britain in 1840, however, the price of one shilling for the cards meant they were not really accessible to most ordinary people. As a result, children were encouraged to make their own Christmas cards at home.

But industrialisation of colour printing technology quickly became more advanced and the price of card production dropped significantly. The popularity of sending cards was helped when a halfpenny postage rate was introduced in 1870 as a result of the efficiencies brought about by the vast network of railways. By the 1880s, the sending of cards had become hugely popular, with 11.5 million cards produced in 1880 alone.

Christmas Dinner

The origins of the meal date back to the Middle Ages but it was the Victorians who developed it to what it is today. The traditional meat at Christmas had been boar (in Medieval times) then goose and beef, but as the well-to-do Victorians began to consume turkey instead, the lower classes followed suit. Plum pudding and mince pies also gained huge popularity at this time. The Victorian love of lengthy meals with many courses still has echoes in our Christmas dinners today, when we generally eat and drink far too much.

19th century engraving of children 'The Christmas Carollers'; Artist Robert Barnes, engraver Joseph Swain; Victorian Christmas 1890
Illustration credit: ©iStock.com/Cannasue

Christmas Entertainment

Christmas was seen by the Victorians as a time for family and friends and they entertained lavishly. After dinner, they would sit around the piano and sing or play parlour games. Rail travel meant that loved ones from far and wide could come home to enjoy Christmas with the family.

Carols and caroling were extremely popular although not new by any means, having originated from the ‘waits’, an old English tradition of going from house to house and singing in exchange for food. The Victorians, revived the popularity of carols, with the first collection published in 1833. Most of the carols we sing today are ‘new’ versions of old carols which the Victorians adapted to suit their taste.

***

It was the Victorian love of homecoming and the joy of family at Yuletide which partly inspired my novelette, Christmas at Malton Manor.

Christmas At Malton Manor CoverChristmas 1884: Home is where the heart is …

Kate Hamilton is companion to the dullest and meanest woman in England, but she is looking forward to going home for Christmas and her sister Mary’s wedding. When her employer refuses to release her, Colonel Robert Woodgate comes to the rescue.

Robert now owns Malton Manor, Kate’s old home in the village of Malton. Recently returned from the Boer War and recovering from his injuries, Robert has been reclusive and morose. Clashing several times over his plans and sweeping changes in the village, their relationship has always been tempestuous.

But when Kate returns to Malton, she discovers her sister’s wedding is to take place at Malton Manor and everyone is convinced the Colonel has an ulterior motive. Can Kate resist the lure of her old home and the memories it holds? And does she have the courage to break down Robert’s defences to find happiness at last?

Buy Link: http://MyBook.to/Malton

 

I’d like to take the opportunity to wish you all a Very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Historical Fiction Cover Winner December 2018 with @Feud_writer @ros_rendle @jloakley

What draws you to a historical fiction book cover? 

During 2018, I have had the pleasure of hosting this cover competition and choosing my ‘Pam’s Pick’. I hope you have found some new books and authors who are now on your ‘must read’ list. In this last instalment, I feature the last three entrants to the 2018 competition. Hopefully, you will be intrigued enough to look beyond the covers I feature and find your next favourite author. If a cover interests you just click on the link to learn more about the book. Continue reading “Historical Fiction Cover Winner December 2018 with @Feud_writer @ros_rendle @jloakley”

Historical Fiction Cover Winner November 2018 with @carolJhedges @SuzanLauder @xtnaboyd

What draws you to a historical fiction book cover? 

Each month I will be choosing my ‘Pam’s Pick’. Hopefully, you will be intrigued enough to look beyond the covers I feature and find your next favourite author. If a cover interests you just click on the link to learn more about the book. Continue reading “Historical Fiction Cover Winner November 2018 with @carolJhedges @SuzanLauder @xtnaboyd”

A Conversation with Author Dianne Freeman

This evening in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Dianne Freeman, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

Dianne Freeman headshotA special welcome to you, Dianne. I love to chat with historical fiction authors, particularly those who write in the same time period as I do. Please tell us a little about yourself:

I’m a life-long book lover who retired from the world of corporate finance to pursue my passion for writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, I realized my true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. I also realized I didn’t like winter very much so now my husband and I pursue the endless summer by splitting our time between Michigan and Arizona.

Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

When I was about eight years old, my family moved to a house about 3 blocks from the public library and I’ve been an avid reader ever since. I don’t get to read quite as much now as I used to but while historical mystery is my favorite genre, I enjoy all varieties of historical fiction and most types of mystery.

Are you self-published or traditionally published?

I’m traditionally published with Kensington Books.

Which genre do you write in and why?

I write historical mystery with a bit of humor. I started with this genre because it’s what I love to read. I continued because I enjoy digging into the late Victorian era, plotting a crime, then creating a story around it. I love leaving clues then leading readers in the wrong direction with a scattering of red-herrings.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

I like to think if Janet Evanovich and Edith Wharton had ever been able to collaborate, they might have come up with a main character like my Frances Wynn. (I also like to think there are no calories in food eaten while standing so what do I know?) But I’ve definitely been influenced by Evanovich’s humor and the elite world of Wharton’s books.

Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?

 I’d imagine it must have, but not in anyway I could define.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

I write in drafts, so every time I have to return to page one and start the next draft I have a moment of dread that I won’t be able to fix whatever is wrong. I’ve found if I print the draft and read it through first, maybe jotting a few (hundred) notes, I realize it’s not that bad and I can tackle whatever problems it presents.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

Late afternoon is my favorite time, but I like to take a walk to think about what I need to write before I sit down and actually do it, so sometimes weather can interfere with my writing schedule.

What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?

I have a feeling this is a common answer, but I love the whole process of writing—the research, plotting, spinning a tale—it’s like traveling to another world. Marketing and promoting aren’t all bad, they can actually be fun, but they really take up a lot of time.

Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?

I do enjoy social media, but as mentioned above, it can be so time consuming. My favorite way to distract myself would be Facebook.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

I’m retired so I’d go back to doing whatever I want, which would include plenty of reading, gardening, and maybe I’d even learn how to cook.

It’s the last day and the earth is facing oblivion – what book would you read?

Pride and Prejudice – again. At least I already know how it ends in case I don’t get to finish it.

A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder 600px widePlease tell us what you are working on and your latest published work.  

I’m currently working on book three of The Countess of Harleigh Mysteries. Book one, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder released in June, 2018.

The story takes place in London in 1899. Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, is a widow dealing with a high society burglar, a marriage-mad sister, and a murder. When the London season turns deadly, she fears one of her sister’s suitors may be the killer. Frances must rally her wits and a circle of gossiping friends and enemies to unmask the culprit before she becomes his next victim.

 

Buy Link – Amazon US

Buy Link – Amazon UK

If you would like to know more about Dianne and her work, please check out her links below: 

Website:  https://difreeman.com/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DianneFreemanAuthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Difreeman001

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/diannefreemanwrites/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17347322.Dianne_Freeman

 

 

 

A Conversation with Author Mary Anne Yarde @maryanneyarde

This evening in the Library we have ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Mary Anne Yarde, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.

You are very welcome, Mary Anne, please introduce yourself:

image002Hello everyone, and thank you, Pam, for inviting me on to your fabulous blog! My name is Mary Anne Yarde, and I hail from a village just outside of Bath, England. I grew up surrounded by the rolling Mendip Hills in Somerset.

I have been writing for around 14 years. But I didn’t really take my writing very seriously until four years ago. I published my debut novel, The Du lac Chronicles, in 2016.

Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

I was the child that always had a book in her hand, and that has not changed. As a teenager, I devoured books by Austen, Hardy and Dickens. Now, I like to read a broad genre of books. But my preferred choice would always be historical fiction, although I don’t mind a good thriller or romance now and then!

Are you self-published or traditionally published?

I am self-published. I love the freedom and the control that this gives me.

Which genre do you write in and why?

I write historical fiction set in Dark Age Britain. My writing is heavily influenced by the folklore of that time as well. I thoroughly enjoy writing about this era.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

I grew up with the classical writers, and then I discovered Catherine Cookson. I don’t think there is one author whom I can say really influenced my writing. Perhaps it is a combination of them all.

Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?

I grew up surrounded by the rolling Mendip Hills in Somerset — the famous town of Glastonbury was a mere 15 minutes from my childhood home. Glastonbury is a little bit unique iunnamedn the sense that it screams Arthurian Legend. Even the road sign that welcomes you into Glastonbury says…

“Welcome to Glastonbury. The Ancient Isle of Avalon.”

How could I grow up in such a place and not be influenced by the stories of King Arthur?

I loved the stories of King Arthur and his Knights as a child, but I always felt let down by the ending. For those not familiar, there is a big battle at a place called Camlann. Arthur is fatally wounded. He is taken to Avalon. His famous sword is thrown back into the lake. Arthur dies. His Knights, if they are not already dead, become hermits. The end.

What an abrupt and unsatisfactory ending to such a wonderful story. I did not buy that ending. So my series came about not only because of my love for everything Arthurian, but also because I wanted to write an alternative ending. I wanted to explore what happened after Arthur’s death.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

I find the beginning the most difficult. Staring at that blank screen can be pretty intimidating. The only way to overcome it is to write something. Anything. After that, I find the process a great deal easier!

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

My favourite time of day to write is in the afternoons.

What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?

I love the creative journey that each book takes me on. For me, it is little like being Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit — I know where I have to get to, I am just not sure as to what kind of adventures I shall encounter along the way. What a great way to earn a living. I go on an adventure every day, and I don’t have to leave the house! The flipside… I enjoy the promoting side of being a writer, but it does take up a considerable amount of time. Unfortunately, it goes hand in hand with publishing.

Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?

I think social media is essential for all authors, no matter how they are published. It is a great way to connect with readers. I have certainly met some really lovely people, especially in the author community, through social media. My preferred forum is Twitter, and you can usually find me on there.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?

I also tutor history and music. So if you took away the writing, I would still be a tutor.

Please tell us about your latest published work. 

I have just released The Du Lac Prophecy (Book 4 of The Du Lac Chronicles), and I am now starting work on Book 5 which is taking me to Jerusalem in the late 5th Century. I am really enjoying researching the history of this fascinating city.

The Du Lac Prophecy: (Book 4 of The Du Lac Chronicles)

KINDLE The Du Lac Prophecy 7 August 2018 finalTwo Prophesies. Two Noble Households. One Throne.

Distrust and greed threaten to destroy the House of du Lac. Mordred Pendragon strengthens his hold on Brittany and the surrounding kingdoms while Alan, Mordred’s cousin, embarks on a desperate quest to find Arthur’s lost knights. Without the knights and the relics they hold in trust, they cannot defeat Arthur’s only son – but finding the knights is only half of the battle. Convincing them to fight on the side of the Du Lac’s, their sworn enemy, will not be easy.

If Alden, King of Cerniw, cannot bring unity there will be no need for Arthur’s knights. With Budic threatening to invade Alden’s Kingdom, Merton putting love before duty, and Garren disappearing to goodness knows where, what hope does Alden have? If Alden cannot get his House in order, Mordred will destroy them all.

Buy Links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

If you would like to know more about Mary Anne and her books please check out her social media links below:

Website/Blog: https://maryanneyarde.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maryanneyarde/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maryanneyarde

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-Anne-Yarde/e/B01C1WFATA/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15018472.Mary_Anne_Yarde

 

 

 

Historical Fiction Cover Winner October 2018 with @nicolasladeuk @nansjar @vanessainfrance

What draws you to a historical fiction book cover? 

Each month I will be choosing my ‘Pam’s Pick’. Hopefully, you will be intrigued enough to look beyond the covers I feature and find your next favourite author. If a cover interests you just click on the link to learn more about the book. Continue reading “Historical Fiction Cover Winner October 2018 with @nicolasladeuk @nansjar @vanessainfrance”

Are you #ScaredYet? Frightful Reads for #Halloween #BeAfraid

If you are a fan of ghost stories you have come to the right place. In honour of Halloween, we are pleased to introduce you to some tales from the dark side to make you shiver! A mix of short stories and novels – 10 fabulously scary reads.

The Lighthouse Keeper by Pam Lecky

The

It’s Sally and Alex’s first weekend away together and romance is definitely on Sally’s mind. But why is Alex acting so out of character? When strange things begin to happen, Sally wonders if they are alone in their coastal getaway …

Buy Link: http://MyBook.to/Lighthouse

Mayday! by Pam Lecky

Mayday!World War I is raging and German U-Boats are prowling the south coast of Ireland looking for prey. Steaming towards them is HMS Lusitania …

Valentine Lambert is facing another tedious day as an office clerk. But a premonition of disaster is the precursor to the most extraordinary day of his life.

Buy Link: Mayday!

The Flapper Affair by Tam Francis

1 Flapper_final_eBook USEThe Flapper Affair is a paranormal romance – the story of two young lovers crossed by time, space, and an unsolved murder. Eduard Hall is an odd young man. Unlike his eighteen-year-old peers, he likes black and white movies, 1920s hot jazz, and museum docents who dress in reproduction flapper dresses. So it would figure that the one girl he’d fall in love with, Mia Waverly, would be a beautiful ghost from the famous Waverly family, brutally murdered seventy years ago. Though her body was never found.

The only home she’s ever known is the museum where Eduard works, but not for long. The city’s sold the land, and the building is scheduled for demolition. Why can’t she remember her death? Why is she the only ghost from her family? Why is she bound to the property? What will happen to her when her home is destroyed? With time running out and through extraordinary forces, they travel back in time to the night of the murders, setting off a chain of events that will change everything. If they can solve the mystery, they may save her and her family, but lose each other forever.

Buy Link: The Flapper Affair

Ghostoria by Tam Francis

Ghostoria_eBook_091214_newDo you like scary stories with a little romance and a vintage twist? Welcome to Ghostoria. What happens when a WWII secretary is trapped in the office with a ghost and the only way out is to make an unwelcome choice? Drive-in movies, hot rods, and jitterbugs populate Long Way Home; can one young man survive a bloody night in a historic cemetery with his girlfriend? Young residents of a cursed Texas town grapple with what they’re willing to sacrifice in order to save their crops, animals and loved ones? Can a kindergarten teacher silence the talking doll that has frightened her students by solving a fifty year old mystery? Find out what happens when a college coed gets more than she bargained for with her vintage swing dress. A lone lady hitchhiker hops a ride in a 1959 El Dorado Cadillac by a roadside grave. Who will be alive at the end of the drive? A turn of the century jail that housed murderers, liars, and thieves for over a hundred years is taken over by six teenagers on Halloween. What happens when a childhood chant turns deadly? Those are just a few haunts and haints that populate this world of unrequited love, woe and mystery. Ghostoria will gnaw the corners of your mind and challenge your ideas about life, love and death long after you leave.

Buy Link: Ghostoria

Death Comes Calling by FB Hogan

51OzbXP4eeLDeath comes calling and decides to stay. A selection of dark fiction for lovers of Gothic horror. Pull the shutters and bolt the door. Keep the fire burning and the candles lit. Something is coming. Listen for the knock at the door but whatever you do, don’t let it in.

Buy Link: Death Comes Calling

The Nightmare by FB Hogan

paperbacknightmareSeven cleverly crafted tales of Gothic and contemporary horror to keep you awake at night. An ancient creature haunts a Victorian spiritualist, an over imaginative child conjures up horrors in the dark, a boy plays a dangerous game of chance and there’s something rather nasty in the playhouse. Ghosts and devils fight for a corner in this creepy collection of dark fiction, from the imagination of the author who brought you Death Comes Calling. Do you dare?

Buy Link: The Nightmare

Beyond the Gossamer Veil by William Todd

Beyond_the_Gossamer__Cover_for_Kindle

The curtain that separates the living from the dead is never as impenetrable as we think it is. What would we see if the two worlds intermingled? Angels? Demons? Wonder? Fear? In this compilation, some stories are inspirational. Some are macabre; but all will give you a glimpse into what is Beyond the Gossamer Veil.

Buy Link: Beyond the Gossamer Veil

 

The Celtic Curse: Newgrange by DJ Doyle

NewgrangeHaunted for years by dreams of death and mysterious rituals, Jess Young travels to Ireland in search of answers. Her search becomes a race against time when her friend is abducted by Celtic Druids bent on resurrecting the Morrigan; the Celtic goddess of war and death.

Jess must seek help from an ancient Order of Christians and some unorthodox Catholic priests before time runs out for her friend . . . and the world. Whom can Jess trust while being hunted by the Celtic Druids of our time? If Jess follows her destiny, is the fate of mankind safe in her hands?

Buy Link: The Celtic Curse: Newgrange

Christ on a Bike! by DJ Doyle

Christ !A short spin-off story from The Celtic Curse: Newgrange, just for a little giggle. I hope this will be the  start of something bigger for Father Jack and his posse.  Father Jack and his pontification of priests are on their travels to conduct an exorcism. Demons can lurk in every corner. Can Father Jack overcome the demons within?

Buy Link: Christ on a Bike!

 

The Zombi of Caisteal Dun by Catherine Kullmann

The Zombi of Caisteal Dun final cover.jpgScotland, 1798. Amabel had not wanted to come to the remote highland keep of Caisteal Dun but her mother felt it was in her destiny to go there. Mamma was second-sighted but not even she could foresee the doom that threatened her daughter.

Amabel’s dead lover, Rob, calls to her in her dreams. Can she save him?

Buy Link: The Zombi of Caisteal Dun