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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Abbott

Welcome to Abbey Mead - Vol. 5

Welcome to Abbey Mead / Letter 5 / December 2018

Dear Friends of Abbey Mead,

I hope that all of you have obtained your own copy of The Lady’s Desire.

Both the ebook and the paperback are available via

The paperback is also now available at Barnes & Noble online!

And several libraries in Allegheny County have purchased copies, although they all appear to be checked out!!! How nice!

I hope that you all have placed a review of the book on Amazon and/or Goodreads!

Also, I am now on Twitter: Follow me @AudreyHerself !

A suggestion: a romance novel would make a nice Christmas gift for someone on your list. I will be happy to personalize and sign the book for you. Send me an email and we can arrange a meeting. I already have books available for sale or you can order one from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or just attend my Author Talk at CLP Carrick on December 15th – see below.

Upcoming Local Author Talks and Events in December:

1. Book Club Gathering / December 10 / I am deeply honored and delighted to be invited to this event! What a treat for an author! I look forward to hearing the members’ comments and answering their questions. And the hostess is planning on serving Raspberry Tarts!* Also, I have a special surprise for the book club members….

2. Library Author Talk and Book Sale & Signing / Saturday, December 15 / 1:00 PM / Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh / Carrick Branch / 1811 Brownsville Road Pgh 15210 / 412-882-3897 / Come see this newly renovated and spacious CLP Branch! WOW!!!

With the holidays approaching, you too might wish to consider serving Mrs. Clarke’s Raspberry Tarts. As I have stated before, dear Mrs. Clarke has not yet shared with me her recipe. So I have created a simple, but tasty version. I use Scottish shortbread cookies (Lorna Doone or Walkers*) and spread them with tart Raspberry Jam! YUM! Fortunately, I have a dear friend, Carol, who makes her own awesome Raspberry Jam from bushes grown in her backyard in Beechview – a Pittsburgh neighborhood. (*PS - Walkers is the better choice)

For December’s Newsletter, I thought it would be fun to share some highlights of a Regency (or late Georgian) Christmas. So many of our modern Christmas traditions have evolved from English customs and many are reflected in English novels. You are probably familiar with Charles Dickens and his wonderful story, A Christmas Carol, first published in 1843. I reread this treasured classic every year. There are so many, many, many film and TV adaptations of this book, but my favorite is the 1938 B&W movie version starring Reginald Owen as Scrooge.

Of course, the Abbey Mead series is set during the Regency period (1811-1820). During this time, King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son (the Prince Regent) ruled as his proxy until he became king in his own right as King George IV. Many, many, many romance novels are set in this time period.

When searching for details on a Regency Christmas, who better to consult than Jane Austen (1775-1817). In her novel, Mansfield Park, Sir Thomas gives a ball for Fanny and William. In Pride and Prejudice, the Bennets play host to relatives. In Sense and Sensibility, John Willoughby dances the night away from eight o’clock until four in the morning. In Emma, the Westons host a party.

And so it would appear that a Regency Christmas was very much all about parties, balls, and family get-togethers - not too different from today! But back then, the Christmas season ran from December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) to January 6th (Twelfth Night). On St. Nicholas Day, it was traditional for friends to exchange presents.

Christmas Day was a national holiday, spent by the gentry in their country houses and estates. People went to church and returned to a celebratory Christmas dinner. Food played a very important role in a Regency Christmas just as it does today! Guests and parties meant that a tremendous amount of food had to be prepared, and dishes that could be prepared ahead of time and served cold were popular.

For Christmas dinner, there was always a turkey or goose, though venison was the meat of choice for the gentry. This was followed by a Christmas Pudding. Christmas Puddings were also called plum puddings because one of the main ingredients was dried plums or prunes.

Traditional decorations included holly and evergreens. The decorating of homes was not just for the gentry. Poor families also brought greenery indoors to decorate their humble cottages, but not until Christmas Eve. It was considered bad luck to bring greenery into the house before then. By the late 18th century, kissing boughs and balls were popular, usually made from holly, ivy, mistletoe, and rosemary. These were often also decorated with spices, apples, oranges, candles, or ribbons. In very religious households, the mistletoe was omitted.

The tradition of placing a Christmas Tree in the house was a German custom and apparently brought to the English Court in 1800 by Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. However it was not until the Victorian period (1837-1901) that the British adopted the tradition, after the Illustrated London News printed an engraving of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their family gathered around their Christmas tree in 1848. Prince Albert was from the German Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

For many, a great blazing fire was the centerpiece of a family Christmas. The Yule log was chosen on Christmas Eve. It was wrapped in hazel twigs and dragged home, to burn in the fireplace as long as possible throughout the Christmas season. The tradition was to keep back a piece of the Yule log to light the following year’s Yule log. Today, it seems that the Yule log has been replaced by an edible chocolate version!

So a Christmas Tree would not be found in Anne Tuttle Westmeare’s home in Surrey in 1812 when our story begins, but holly, ivy, and a Yule log most certainly would! And a roasted goose (or perhaps venison) and a Christmas pudding would be on the menu!

On the day after Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day, people gave to charity and the gentry presented their servants and staff with their “Christmas Boxes.” That is why today, St. Stephen’s Day is called Boxing Day. There was an episode of Downton Abbey that showed the members of the Crawley family giving gifts to their servants on Boxing Day!

Dear Friends of Abbey Mead, William and Anne join me in wishing you all a verra Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As always, Audrey

PS Fun dates in December:

December 2 Hanukkah begins at sundown

December 8 Brownie Day

December 16 Celebrate Chocolate Covered Anything Day! Yippee!! My personal favorite!!!

December 24 ‘Twas the night before Christmas…

December 25 Merry Christmas!

December 27: Fruitcake Day (For Tony!)

December 31 New Year’s Eve / Please celebrate with care!

PPS Past Abbey Mead newsletters (1 - 4) can be found on my website: .

PPPS Should you wish to be removed from the Abbey Mead email list, just send me an email with “Unsubscribe” as the subject heading by clicking UNSUBSCRIBE.

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