header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); Holidays Archives – Kristen Koster
Dec 202015

Cover image for 3 YULETIDE WISHES, an anthology by Deneane Clark, Alanna Lucas and Charlotte RussellThere’s less than a week until Christmas Day and if you’re like me, you’re not done shopping yet! If you’ve got a reader of Regency Romance on your list, we’ve got something that might just be a perfect fit. Join us in celebrating the holiday release from Boroughs Publishing, 3 YULETIDE WISHES, an anthology by Deneane Clark, Alanna Lucas and Charlotte Russell. I know Charlotte and Alanna through The Beau Monde chapter of RWA® and I hope to get to know Deneane Clark better in the future. I’m looking forward to some holiday reading after downloading this to my e-reader and I hope you will too!

3 Yuletide Wishes
an anthology by Deneane Clark, Alanna Lucas and Charlotte Russell

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Nov 112015
Poppy Installation at the Tower of London, August 10th, 2014.

Poppy Installation commemorating the centenary of WWI at the Tower of London, August 10th, 2014.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Armistice Day. End of the war to end all wars.

Veteran’s Day.

My uncle turned 91 this fall and served as a WWII Marine. He’s always out every Memorial Day with the VFW selling poppies and impressing upon today’s youth (yup, that would be anyone younger than him!) the significance of the poppies and Flanders Fields. He’s genuinely disgusted when someone doesn’t know the importance of either. So if you’re asked to buy a poppy, be patient and appreciative for all the sacrifices our veterans have made over the years.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, May 3, 1915.

My uncle was just 18 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. His brother (younger by almost two years) lied about his age and went into the Navy right after. My uncle refuses to go to DC through the Honor Flight program. I had to take photos of the WWII Memorial while there to send to him. He doesn’t want any thanks or special recognition for what he did (a sentiment many vets share, they were just doing their duty to their country), but he believes in not just marking the cost of freedom, but that the poppies serve as a reminder.

Lest we forget.


National WWII Memorial, Washington, D.C. April 2011.

Happy Easter, Everyone!

 The Writer  Comments Off on Happy Easter, Everyone!
Apr 052015

eggs2I realized this morning just how much I missed all the fun of holidays that comes with having younger kids now that mine are on the upper side of their teen years. The joy and wonder are not as easy to draw out these days. There’s nothing worse than a jaded teenager, right?

Does this mean I’m ready to be a grandmother?

Oh, hell no!


I’m happy to sit and look at old photos from when my kids got caught up in those moments of joy. Easter egg hunts used to be one of my favorite things about Easter at my grandparent’s with my cousins. There were so many great hiding places there. And I tried to continue that sense of fun and wonder for my kids often getting up at the crack of dawn to go hide eggs before they woke up and found their baskets. It was always a challenge to make sure there were enough easy to find ones, but not TOO many so they both had a chance.

Anyway, times change and I hope they’ll pass the magic along one day, but for now, I’m gonna go hug them and embarrass them with sloppy sentimental mom-kisses. =)


Nov 052013

In Britain, today is Guy Fawkes Day. You might recognize him better as the face of Anonymous or that fellow in V for Vendetta. There’s a reason for that.

This post was originally published here on 11/5/2010, but I think it bears repeating in the current political and economic climates. People are unhappy and they’re always looking for someone to blame. Most will not take it upon themselves to act for the better of all, but some will take it into their heads that Fate has tapped them on the shoulder and they must act. Unfortunately, these aren’t the type of actions that will help. Many of us enjoy the right to vote. Some harder fought to gain than others. If you’ve got an upcoming election, exercise your right. If you don’t, take advantage of the opportunities to contact your elected officials and let them know how they’re doing and what needs doing in their area.

Guy Fawkes Day: Conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot: November 5, 1605
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!

I’d never heard of Guy Fawkes’ Day/Night while I was growing up in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. And, Bonfire Night was the night before Homecoming when an effigy of the other team was offered up as a ritual sacrifice to the almighty football gods. I do remember my mother often saying “Remember, remember, the 5th of November” on that day and seeing references to it in the Regency and Victorian romance novels I read over the years, so I was curious to what this holiday was all about since it’s cropped up in pop culture recently with movies like V for Vendetta and thanks to 4-Chan many different groups of protesters have adopted the traditional Guy mask as a show of solidarity and a way to preserve their anonymity.

So when I asked my 13 year old daughter, if she knew what today was, I got a blank look. So, in explaining how Guy Fawkes was the fellow who was caught in connection with the Gunpowder Plot, she was highly amused by some of the traditions the British have kept in celebrating this holiday.

“So, that was around the time of the Declaration of Independence?” She’s studying the American Revolution and Constitution currently, so she tries to relate everything to that. Nearly two hundred years earlier, the Gunpowder Plot planned to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605 in an effort to not just protest his stance on Catholicism but to assassinate King James I. November 5th was chosen because it was the day Parliament was scheduled to reopen and the King would be present.

“People celebrate this? Why? How?” The idea was that they were happy to have avoided the disaster and also serves as a warning to Parliament to keep the desires of the people in mind as they make their decisions and laws. In England and several former British colonies, like Australia, the night is marked by bonfires, burning effigies of Guy Fawkes or other current political villains, and fireworks.

“What?! Fireworks? Really? Silly Brits.” Remember, it was also to serve as a warning of what could have happened had it not been uncovered. She was unconvinced, claiming it was rather ironic to celebrate preventing a catastrophic explosion and fire by setting off intentional ones. And then I mentioned that in one town, Ottery St. Mary in Devon, they celebrate by carrying flaming barrels of tar through the streets and how the people carrying the barrels had passed the tradition down through their families. Such a stretch for her modern imagination.

“Don’t they celebrate Halloween?” These days, it’s becoming more popular to celebrate with trick or treating, American-style, but in the mid-1600s, Oliver Cromwell’s puritanical rule abolished All Hallow’s Eve and many other traditional celebrations and feasts that he associated with pagan ways. Many of the traditions such as the bonfire on November 1st was simply shifted to November 5th and stayed there. Despite the fascination of the occult, paranormal and gothic romances, the people of the extended Regency period, which gave birth to some of our most familiar Halloween icons: Frankenstein and the headless horsemen, would have been more familiar with bonfires celebrating Guy Fawkes Night and burning a “Guy”.

Guy, guy, guy
Poke him in the eye,
Put him on the bonfire,
And there let him die

“A guy? A real one?” No, not a real person! Sort of like a scarecrow dressed up to look like Guy Fawkes. Kids would make these, and in the weeks leading up to Bonfire Night, they’d sit out with them by the side of the street begging, “A penny for the Guy?” so they could defray their expenses in making this annual effigy. The practice eventually evolved into asking for money to be spent on fireworks, but modern sensibilities worry that the money will be misspent on more dangerous things and sales of fireworks to children have been limited.

So, I’m not sure I explained it well for my daughter, but she did get a taste of a different culture than the one she’s used to and I’ve been thinking about ways to incorporate it into a plot. But then I wonder if I could do it justice, not having experienced the tradition firsthand. Some day, maybe.

Weekly Photo 13/52 for 2013

 Photography  Comments Off on Weekly Photo 13/52 for 2013
Apr 022013

Weekly Photo 13/52 for 2013: Easter 2013 by Kristen Koster on FlickrI missed posting Sunday’s weekly photo, but I did take pictures last week! I didn’t like the way most of the ones of the white flowers came out, too over-exposed. I’ll have to find a better time of day for those. I’m still not happy with my candid shots of people.

Anyway, I hope everyone that celebrates had a great Easter Weekend. If you don’t celebrate, then I hope your weekend was fantastic too!

I couldn’t decide which Easter bunny I liked better, so you get both! The dog definitely found the “SPROING” noise that the ears made when squeezed on that red dot very interesting. That’s why she’s jumping up to grab the ears from off my daughter’s head. Olivia did sit still to pose with them for a bit, but only if someone sat with her to distract her from trying to paw that thing off her head.

Settings: Sony A33-SLT • Oops, I don’t have this handy since I combined the two into one.

A Regency Round-Up on Valentine’s Day

 Regency Resource  Comments Off on A Regency Round-Up on Valentine’s Day
Feb 142012

Regency Valentine: Oldest mailed Valentine's card from 1790, now at British Postal Museum.

This handmade puzzle card is from 1790, now kept at the British Postal Museum, is not for sale. Text on face of the card reads:
“My dear the Heart which you behold,
Will break when you the same unfold,
Even so my heart with lovesick pain,
Sure wounded is and breaks in twain.”

There isn’t a lot of information available regarding how Valentine’s Day was celebrated in the early 19th Century. Most Regency Valentine’s cards (mostly handmade love letters) were considered ephemera and not held onto except in rare circumstances. You’ll notice I didn’t title this post as a primer, because I didn’t feel I could speak on the topic with much authority. I could have gone with the language of flowers for today’s topic, but many others have done that as well, and I didn’t feel it was limited to Valentine’s Day as it is now.

The commercialization of Valentine’s Day, as well as Christmas, can be laid at the feet of the Victorians. Industrialization was in full-swing and mass production of cards and trinkets was easier and cheaper than ever before. The Regency swains would have had to be much more resourceful, personal and creative to present their sweethearts with something memorable. Lucky, ladies! However, in the early 19th century, it wasn’t just the upper class that was sending notes and tokens of love and affection to their sweethearts, but something that was done across all classes.

Regency Valentine: Oldest printed Valentine's Day Card from 1797.

The oldest “printed” card was published in January 1797 by John Fairburn of 146, Minories, London. The text around the edge reads:
"Since on this ever Happy day,
All Nature’s full of Love and Play
Yet harmless still if my design,
‘Tis but to be your Valentine."

Instead of distilling many similar posts down today, I’m going to link you directly to the sources I would have used in penning today’s primer.

Ruth Axtell’s Reflections on Valentine’s Day at the Christian Regency blog

Bronwen Evans’ A Regency Valentine’s Day on her blog

Elaine Golden’s Getting Ready for Valentine’s Day? post at GoodReads

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee’s Valentine’s Day! post at Risky Regencies

Loretta Chases’ Valentine’s Day in the early 19th century at Two Nerdy History Girls

Susan Holloway Scott’s post A Father Warns Against the “Depravity” of Valentines at Two Nerdy History Girls

Wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day!

Jan 242012
The Frost Fair, London 1814.

In the last entry in the Regency Primer Series we learned three ways to tie a Regency era cravat. This week, we’re going back in time to the last last frost fair. The last time the River Thames was frozen solid and the ships stood still and Londoners organized an impromptu festival in the middle of the river was in 1814.

The Little Ice Age

The Last Frost Fair: Painting of London Bridge Frost Fair in 1814.

London Bridge Frost Fair 1814

Between 1408 and 1814, the Thames River froze over 26 times in great solid sheets of ice. During this period, British winters were harsher and the river was wider and slower moving than it is today. This period was referred to as “The Little Ice Age” as a description of the severe winter weather characterized it.

The Last Frost Fair: Painting of the frozen Thames River off Three Cranes Wharf in 1814.

View of the Frozen Thames River off Three Cranes Wharf in 1814.

The Frost Fair of 1814 began on February 1st, lasted for four days. No one knew it  was to become the last Frost Fair in London, but the previous time the Thames had frozen over was in 1795. The city was ready to brave the ice and celebrate with a sprawling festival in the middle of the river.

John Ashton described the frolickers of the Frost Fair in his book, Social England under the Regency. He mentions that they drank in tents “with females,” played skittles, and danced reels. He also includes depictions of more sedate coffee-drinking and gaming booths. Printing presses were set up on the ice to print souvenir cards. The Annual Register noted that the frivolity continued until the ice began to break up forcing people scrambled for safety, not all successfully.

Old London Bridge Demolished

The Last Frost Fair: The Frost Fair, 1814 LondonIn addition to the climate growing milder, Old London Bridge was demolished in the 1830s and the new bridge supported wider arches, allowing the tide to flow more quickly and freely past. Combined with the embanking of the river that occurred during the 19th Century, this sped up the current and prevented the Thames from fully freezing over again.

The Last Frost Fair: The Frost Fair, London 1814.

The Frost Fair of 1814, by Luke Clenell.

“Gambols on the river Thames, Feby. 1814” by the famous caricaturist, George Cruikshank, shows a frost fair in the region of Blackfriars Bridge. As was his custom, no one was safe from ridicule and mockery. To the right in the foreground is a waterman with skittles and behind him a man’s wooden leg has caught in the ice. To the right is a printing press and in the center a woman has slipped on the ice next to a fiddler playing music as a couple dances.
The Last Frost Fair: Gambols on the River Thames, Feby. 1814 by George Cruikshank

Never Say Never

In true British fashion, in 2003 there was a revival of sorts of the spirit of the Frost Fairs of old. In Bankside, the one-day festival quickly grew to an event that spanned two weekends. The Bankside Winter Festival was modeled after the Christmas markets and featured many other events, including a lantern parade. Unfortunately, it looks as if 2008 was perhaps the last time it was held. I’d love to be proven wrong! It sounds like an amazing time.

More information regarding a variety of other Regency-themed topics can be found on my Regency Resource page. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments section below.

Jan 032012
Image of wassailing

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Conventionally on the Western Christian calendar, the twelve days begin the day after Christmas, on Boxing Day. When the tradition began, days were counted from sundown to sundown. So Christmas evening is First Night.

This means that last night, January 5th, is what has been known as Twelfth Night since the Middle Ages. The Twelfth Day of Christmas falls on January 6th and is celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany to commemorate the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem.

The wise men, who came to be known as the Three Kings – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar – who brought the Christ child gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. These gifts were traditional Epiphany gifts for centuries. Kings and queens became traditional representatives of Twelfth Night. And to this day, in predominantly Catholic cultures, Christmas presents are not given out until January 6th — something that would not have happened in England during the Regency.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Twelfth Night parties, or revels, were popular and featured games, charades, drinking punch or wassail and eating. A special Twelfth Cake, the forerunner of today’s Christmas cake, was the centerpiece of the party, and a slice distributed to all members of the household. By tradition, both a dried bean and a dried pea were baked into the cake.

The man receiving the slice with the bean was named King for the night; the pea’s presence identified the Queen. For the rest of the evening, they ruled supreme. Even if they were normally servants, their temporarily exalted position was recognized by all, including their masters.

By the early 19th century, the cakes had become very elaborate creations with sugar frosting, gilded paper trimmings, and sometimes decorated with delicate plaster of Paris or sugar paste figures, but no longer contained the dried beans and peas.

During the Regency period, the guests at the revels were expected to pick a slip of paper and maintain the role of the character written upon it for the evening. Besides the King and Queen, a variety of characters, often pulled from popular literature and plays, were put into the hat. Enterprising stationers even sold sets of characters for Twelfth Night celebrations.

One superstitious tradition that signaled the end of Christmastide was that by the End of Epiphany, all the decorations would be taken down and the greenery burned lest the household invite bad luck for the coming year.

Here We Come A-Wassailing



Many people went visiting or wassailing on Twelfth Night, a practice with roots in the Middle Ages’ custom of a reciprocal exchange between the feudal lord and their serfs. This was to distinguish this form of recipient initiated charity from begging as emphasized in the song, “Here We Come A-Wassailing”:

“we are not daily beggars that beg from door to door but we are friendly neighbours whom you have seen before.”

The lord would provide food and drink to the serfs for their blessing and goodwill, as communicated by the song. Wassailing is also the context alluded to in the English carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, which dates to sixteenth century England, which mentions the English tradition where wealthy community members hand out Christmas treats, like “figgy puddings” to carolers. The not leaving “until we get some” line refers to the rowdy groups of young men who demanded free food and drink more along the lines of extreme trick-or-treating, where refusal was met with a curse instead of a blessing and frequently included vandalism.

In the Western counties of England (notably in Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire) where cider is produced, wassailing also refers to drinking (and singing) to the health of trees in the hopes of waking the trees and scaring off the evil spirits to ensure a good harvest the next Autumn.

Orchard wassailing ceremonies vary from village to village but share common elements. A wassail King and Queen lead the song and/or a processional tune to be played/sung from one orchard to the next, the wassail Queen is then lifted into the tree where she places toast soaked in Wassail from the Clayen Cup as a gift to the tree spirits (showing the fruits created the previous year). Then an incantation is usually recited such as

Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
That blooms well, bears well.
Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full,
An’ all under one tree.
Hurrah! Hurrah!

Then the assembled crowd sings, shouts, bangs drums and pots & pans and generally make a terrible racket until the gunmen give a great final volley through the branches to make sure the bad spirits are chased away and then they’re off to the next orchard.

This ancient English tradition is still practiced today. The West Country is the most famous and largest cider producing region of the country and two of the most important wassails are held annually in Carhampton (Somerset) and Whimple (Devon), both on 17 January (old Twelfth Night before the calendar shifted).

According to several diaries from the 1800s revealed that inhabitants of Somerset practised the old Wassailing Ceremony, singing the following lyrics after drinking the cider until they were “merry and gay”:

“Apple tree, apple tree, we all come to wassail thee,
Bear this year and next year to bloom and to blow,
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three cornered sack fills,
Hip, Hip, Hip, hurrah, Holler biys, holler hurrah.”

Do the winter holidays hold special traditions for you and your family? Have you ever participated in traditions with friends or extended family from another religion or country that you’ve come to incorporate into your own celebrations?

More information regarding a variety of other Regency-themed topics can be found on my Regency Resource page. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments section below.

Dec 302011

Nothing like heading home right before New Year’s to either get you excited or complete exhausted for the coming year.

I’m completely exhausted, but that’s more from getting up at 4 am eastern to sneak up on the airport when my body has refused to make the switch over from pacific time. I doubt I’ll be able to sleep on the plane, but it might be a possibility today.

We’re taking the long way home. Direct flights aren’t looking very direct these days, but at least we don’t have to get off the plane and we’ll be home early afternoon. I foresee some multi-hour splattage when I reach my own bed and pillow.

My TBR pile grew over Christmas. Got a couple new historical romances and several new books on craft of writing. I don’t have the complete list handy because what’s not stuffed in my backpack is being shipped home in a box. We helped out one of the indie bookstores here by picking up several books in addition to the ones that were gifts. So expect to hear more about these later.

I think the highlight of the visit, besides spending time with family, was getting to meet Valerie Bowman (@ValerieGBowman). We spent a love hour and a half at the Starbucks near our hotel and could have stayed and talked much longer. I’m looking forward to catching up with her again at RWA Nationals in July.

Need to post this before we board… love how technology makes this possible!

Happy New Year’s to everyone in case I sleep through it! =)

Dec 272011
A 19th Century Christmas Tree


Christmastide (the Christmas season from Christmas Eve or First Night through Twelfth Night and Epiphany) during the Regency Era seems to be more easily defined by the differences in traditions and what they didn’t have or do at the time rather than the specifics of what they did or didn’t. A quick survey of what’s written up on the web reveals a few highlights that people seem to focus and mostly agree upon.

Some now familiar traditions that were not observed during the Regency include, Santa Claus (Victorian), elaborate kissing balls (although simple mistletoe boughs were popular), and stockings. Queen Charlotte, introduced the German idea of an evergreen being brought indoors and decorated to celebrate the season, but many resisted as it was thought to bring bad luck to bring greenery inside before Christmas Eve and the idea was not made popular until Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s time.

Christmastide: A 19th Century Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree and accompanying pile of presents was introduced in England by Queen Charlotte, but was not popularised until Queen Victoria's reign.

Also, during the Regency, many household hearths, especially in the city, would not have had the capacity to hold traditional Yule logs that could burn the entire twelve days, although the custom of a Christmas fire remained popular. Christmas candles, lit on Christmas Eve and expected to burn through Christmas Day were much more common during this period.

Christmas Day was a serious religious celebration with the family attending their local parish church in the morning and coming home for the Christmas Feast. The next day has come to be known as Boxing Day as old clothing and surplus items were boxed up and handed out to the servants and tradesmen who made the rounds that day.

In addition to schoolboys returning home for the holidays, visiting family or neighbors during this season was commonplace and people gave little regard to the weather as they knew they could find welcome and shelter even with strangers.

New Year’s

Christmastide: A pen & ink drawing of Father Time and Baby New Year.Celebrating New Year’s Day also held superstitions as a central part of the festivities. The family or gathering would sit around in a circle before midnight and when the clock began to strike the hour, the head of the family would go to the door and open it, “ushering out the old, and bringing in the new”. The more superstitious would cleanse the house of ashes, rags, scraps and anything perishable so that nothing was carried over from one year to the next, in order to preserve their good luck and banish any poor luck.

One thing that seems to be consistent is the emergence of the New Year’s Eve tradition of singing Old Lang Syne, which literally translates to “old long since” or colloquially to “days gone by”. After a long tradition of being sung during the Scottish celebration of Hogamany on New Year’s Eve, the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, collected and wrote down the lyrics in 1788 and it was first published in 1796. It quickly spread to much of the English-speaking world and is now sung at the stroke of midnight instead of when the guests leave the party.

Next week we’ll take a look at Twelfth Night and why it falls on January 5th, not December 25th as the marketing people have recently been pushing. Christmastide reform is not a new notion as we’ve seen with the increased nostalgic traditions that were added during the Victorian Era.

Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year and glad to be counting so many of you among those “old acquaintances”!

Do the winter holidays hold special traditions for you and your family? Have you ever participated in traditions from with friends or extended family from another religion or country that you’ve come to incorporate into your own celebrations?

More information regarding a variety of other Regency-themed topics can be found on my Regency Resource page. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments section below.

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