Thursday, December 6, 2018

English Christmas through History

The Writing Life: A Passion for Christmas through History
posted by Donna Fletcher Crow

When asked to give advice for up-coming writers the first words out of my mouth are usually, "Write from your passion." Few things in my career give a better example of that than do my Christmas novels. 

I love Christmas! I love English history! I love novels! So what greater joy than to be able to combine these loves in telling stories that give us glimpses of English Christmases through the years and have allowed me to call on my own experiences in forming the stories, such as my first English Christmas in a Cotswold village in 2000.

Glastonbury, my epic of the Christian history of England, includes a Christmas story. After all, one could hardly tell 1500 years of history without including Christmas. As a matter of fact, the book opens with a druid on Glastonbury Tor observing the Star of Bethlehem.
It is in the section on Norman England, however, that we experience a full, Medieval Christmas when young Bors returns home to the manor house from schooling in the monastery. (Although not as young as my grandson when he slew his first dragon.) The full Twelve Days of Christmas are meticulously observed, complete with yule log, wassail, a roasted boar’s head, a Lord of Misrule, and mummers performing St. George and the Dragon.
Christmas celebrations in England became more subdued after the Reformation with suspicions that many of the former festivities were pagan. In 1647, Cromwell’s Puritan government actually canceled Christmas. Not only were traditional expressions of merriment strictly forbidden, but also shops were ordered to stay open, churches were closed and ministers arrested for preaching on Christmas day.
By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, although the traditions of a full-blown Dickensian Christmas had not yet been introduced (many of them started by German-born Prince Albert) festivities had been restored. My Where There is Love series encompasses six novels of love and faith—stories of real people and stirring historic events. Where Love Restores, book 4, recounts Granville Ryder’s struggle to find his place in his illustrious family, in God’s work and in Georgiana’s heart. The book takes the reader through the seasons of a late Regency year, including Christmas on an English country estate which included a fox hunt and hunt ball, constructing an English kissing ring, midnight Christmas Eve service, and alms-giving on Boxing Day. All as it was celebrated in Georgiana's home, Badminton House, which I had the delight of visiting many years ago.

For an out-of-the ordinary contemporary English Christmas I draw on the Christmas I spent in an English monastery “helping” my daughter prepare for her Epiphany wedding. Although, I hope I wasn’t quite as pushy as my heroine’s mother.
An All-Consuming Fire, book 5 in my Monastery Murders, finds Felicity and Antony happily planning a Christmas wedding in the monastery. It’s all idyllic until Felicity’s over-bearing mother arrives and tries to turn the whole event into a royal wedding. And Antony is drafted to narrate a television documentary on the English mystics. And then Felicity takes on the challenge of directing a Christmas pageant for Kirkthorpe’s troubled youth on a long-disused stage in an abandoned quarry at the back of the monastery grounds.
At least most of the vexing disruptions occurring on the filming locations are miles away from the Community of the Transfiguration. Until the threats move closer. Close enough to threaten the joy of Felicity and Antony's Christmas wedding.

I hope that one of my stories might help enrich your Christmas season with an understanding of past traditions and provide a few leisure hours spent reading by the light of your Christmas tree. I’d love to hear of some of your favorite traditions—whether from history or all-new.

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1 comment:

  1. Do take a minute to share a favorite Christmas tradition or memory.