Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804

XMASbloghopThe Christmas Season 

(whatever your belief or religion)

 is the time for merry-making and parties…

So come and join some wonderful authors 

(and their characters)

for an Online Virtual Party!

Browse through a variety of Blogs 

(hopping forward to the next one on the list)

for a veritable feast of entertainment!

(And as with any good party, you’ll find a few giveaway prizes along the way!)

BookcoverCCC2Today, I’m officially launching my Christmas novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair. It’s available as a free download from Smashwords. They’ve been distributing to other ebookstores, and I’ll add links as the ebook hits the shelves of Barnes & Noble, Apple, and the rest. (Please note: Amazon insist on a charge of at least 99c, but you can download a mobi file for free from the Smashwords bookstore.) Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy my novella.


Now join me in Avery Hall on Twelfth Night, 5th January 1805, and let’s play a few party games

Mary, Lady Avery looked around the large ballroom with great satisfaction. Everyone was enjoying themselves.

At the head table, the Bean King, her son Randall’s guest Lieutenant Beckett, was conducting a game of snapdragon. Randall was currently trying to snatch raisins and almonds with his teeth, ducking his hand in and out of the shallow bowl of burning brandy. Beckett had ordered the candles and lamps doused, and the flickering flames of the snapdragon bowl lit Randall from below, making him look strangely sinister, particularly costumed as he was.

Snapdragon 1887All of the party wore costume of one kind or another, in the character that they’d drawn earlier in the day.

The chant of the other players came to an end, and they cheered Randall’s haul, calling out the silly nickname he’d worn since he was a tall skinny redhead just entering Eton.

“Candle, Candle, Candle!”

Randall gave his place to Miss Petherick, daughter of the local squire, and the chant started again as she darted her hand at the bowl, shying away before the flames could nip her fingers.

This had, perhaps, been the best Christmas ever. In the six weeks since Stir-up Sunday on the 25th of November, when the whole household had gathered in the kitchen to take turns in stirring the Christmas pudding, she had thrown herself wholeheartedly into every Christmas tradition she knew, and embellished them as far as she could.

Twelfth night partyShe and Myron had only had the last three Christmases together in their lifetime. Myron had gone to India before she left the nursery, and in any case, Christmas was never celebrated in her father’s house. It was, in his view, a work day like any other. Partying was frivolity, and decorating was pagan.

The snapdragon game was drawing to a close, and several of Randall’s guardsmen colleagues were pouring wassail for the young ladies. She would have to watch their consumption. She had, herself, enjoyed a warming bowl from the wassailers when they came carolling up to the Hall earlier in the evening. Theirs was based on cider, but Mary was fairly certain that the guardsmen had added brandy to the wine, apples, and spices in the Hall’s wassail bowl.

wassailing1Beckett was ordering that the lamps be relit. Some of the guardsmen did his bidding. After the wassailers and the mummers finished their entertainment, accepted their figgy cake pudding reward, and went on their way, the houseparty had split, with the gentry to the ballroom and the servants to the servants hall. They were enjoying their own Twelfth Night party, around a wassail bowl that was the counterpart to the one in the ballroom.

The young people were organising a game of Blind Man’s Buff. She moved closer to her brother Myron, out of the way of the players. Myron smiled as she came as close as she could without scorching herself. He sat almost on top of the fireplace where the remains of the giant yule log burnt. He said his years in India made him feel the cold, but she feared he was wasting away from the illness that he had not yet admitted to her.

Randall had led the team that brought the yule log in on Christmas Eve. It was Viscount Avery’s job, as head of the household, but her husband had not spent Christmas at Avery Hall for many years. Though this year he had joined them on St Nicholas Day, the 6th of December, and surprised her with a gift of bulbs for her garden. Myron had given her a length of Indian silk, and Randall, still on duty in London, had sent a ring cut in the shape of a rose, and a bottle of rose-scented perfume.

kissing boughIn many houses, the greenery and other decorations went up on Christmas Eve, too. Mary couldn’t wait. As soon as the first O Antiphon was sung, heralding the Christmas Octave, she and the servants dressed the house with evergreen branches, holly, rosemary, ivy, and mistletoe.

Yes, and ribbons and paper flowers, and cut-outs of dolls, and apples and oranges, and candles.

Every available surface was garlanded or framed, and every room had its own kissing bough, most now sadly denuded of mistletoe berries, one taken in payment for each kiss. The males in the household, of high and of low estate, had certainly done their duty this season!

Yes, it had been a wonderful Christmas; the best since Myron returned home three years before. Since Randall and his friends arrived on leave from London, the young men and women of the neighbourhood had flocked to the house every evening, and most afternoons. They had filled this Christmas season with laughter, music, games and dancing.

They had moved onto a game of Courtiers now, with the Bean King and  the Pea Queen making ridiculous gestures, while the rest of the party copied them and tried to keep their faces serious. To laugh was to be disqualified.

Fairfax-xmas-08-18Mary helped herself to a Twelfth Night pie. The food had been wonderful this year. Cook and her team had outdone themselves, filling the tables at every meal with festive dishes, such as goose, Christmas pudding, gingerbread, butter shortbread, trifle, and a whole host of vegetable, meat, and fruit dishes.

All too soon it would be over. Already, some of the parents were making moves towards leaving. And tomorrow, on the Feast of the Epiphany, the greenery would come down, the decorations would be put away, and the last of the yule log would be doused (and carefully saved to rekindle next year’s log). After church tomorrow, and an exchange of Epiphany gifts, Randall and his friends would head back to London and the new year.

Mary wondered what 1805 held for them; for the brave young men and the pretty girls; especially for her dear son.

(To find out what happens to Randall in 1805, please download Candle’s Christmas Chair.)

Thank you for joining my party

now follow on to the next enjoyable entertainment…

  1. Helen Hollick : You are Cordially Invited to a Ball (plus a giveaway prize)
  2. Alison Morton : Saturnalia surprise – a winter party tale  (plus a giveaway prize)
  3. Andrea Zuvich : No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell
  4. Ann Swinfen : Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrates
  5. Anna Belfrage :  All I want for Christmas
  6. Carol Cooper : How To Be A Party Animal
  7. Clare Flynn :  A German American Christmas
  8. Debbie Young :  Good Christmas Housekeeping (plus a giveaway prize)
  9. Derek Birks :  The Lord of Misrule – A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble
  10. Edward James : An Accidental Virgin and An Uninvited Guest
  11. Fenella J. Miller : Christmas on the Home Front (plus a giveaway prize)
  12. J. L. Oakley :  Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907 (plus a giveaway prize)
  13. Jude Knight : Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804 (you are here)
  14. Julian Stockwin: Join the Party
  15. Juliet Greenwood : Christmas 1914 on the Home Front (plus a giveaway)
  16. Lauren Johnson :  Farewell Advent, Christmas is come – Early Tudor Festive Feasts
  17. Lindsay Downs: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree (plus a giveaway)
  18. Lucienne Boyce :  A Victory Celebration
  19. Nancy Bilyeau :  Christmas After the Priory (plus a giveaway prize)
  20. Nicola Moxey : The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182
  21. Peter St John:  Dummy’s Birthday
  22. Regina Jeffers : Celebrating a Regency Christmas  (plus a giveaway prize)
  23. Richard Abbott : The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit
  24. Saralee Etter : Christmas Pudding — Part of the Christmas Feast
  25. Stephen Oram : Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement (plus a giveaway prize)
  26. Suzanne Adair : The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780 (plus a giveaway prize)

Thank you for joining us and: