Shannon here: Historical romantic suspense author, Nike Chillemi shares traditions from Christmas past and a chance to win an Advanced Reader Copy of her latest release, Goodbye Noel. Comment on this post to enter the drawing. Deadline: Jan 11th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Nike:
Christmas in the American Colonies by Nike Chillemi
I first began researching Christmas in the colonies several years go for the social studies portion of my daughters’ homeschooling lessons. I became so taken with the subject, I’ve continued to delving into it over the years.
I wasn’t surprised when I learned the Puritans frowned on Christmas celebrations and actually banned them in the New England Colonies because it was a reminder of Church of England traditions and smacked of degenerative frivolity, as caroling usually ended on a cold night with a wee snort of grog or a tankard of beer. However, by the French and Indian War, French and British soldiers who remained and became permanent residents tended to celebrate Christmas. They enjoyed caroling, gift giving, and fruit cake.
During the American Revolution, middle and southern colony soldiers came to assist New England patriots in the war and these men observed Christmas and brought their holiday practices with them. The New England colony most lenient toward Christmas was Connecticut. There are Connecticut Christmas sermons and stories dating to 1774, and perhaps even before that. In addition, some Dutch settled in Connecticut, but their big day of celebration was Epiphany (Three Kings Day). The tradition of decorating indoor Christmas trees, then called paradise trees, was brought to New Jersey by Hessian German soldiers fighting for the British in the American Revolution. The ornaments were handmade bits of colorful cloth or yarn, pinecones, and the like. Of course, in the 1800s, Prince Albert of German married the love of his life, the young Queen Victoria and popularized the Christmas tree in England. It then came to America and spread like wildfire across the country.
Back to the colonies…the Dutch in New York celebrated Epiphany, when stockings were hung. On this day, Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas came and left small gifts for children, such as a hair ribbon, a small flute, socks, nuts, or bits of chocolate. The American Santa Claus comes from this tradition rather than the more pagan Father Christmas of Celtic origin who was originally called Father Winter or Old Man Winter. For the Dutch, Christmas day activities included ice-skating on frozen ponds and streams.
In the middle colonies Christmas celebration started on Christmas Eve and lasted 12 days until Epiphany. Food was very important, but it was a light meal on Christmas Eve and then off to church, as this was mainly a religious holiday. For those in the oyster rich Chesapeake Bay area, naturally oyster stew was on the menu for Christmas Eve. Most folks were Anglicans or Roman Catholic in these colonies and on Christmas morning, it was church again, then a big feast at home later. Captain John Smith of the Jamestown colony wrote in 1609 that he surely kept Christmas and that is the first known date for the creation of holiday eggnog. The Quakers did not celebrate Christmas, nor did the Baptists. Middle colony homes were decorated with bits of holly on mantles and in windows. The richer homes displayed a lit candle in every window at night. There might also be entertainment hired such as jugglers and acrobats. If you visit modern day Colonial Williamsburg you will see this display of lit candles.
With the exception of the Dutch, Christmas giving was not aimed at children. It was a time for masters to give to servants, for employers to give to employees, for craftsmen to give to apprentices, and usually it was a small gift in coins. Christmas day meals included wild turkey, goose, deer meat, rabbit stew, fresh fish, a fruited Christmas loaf (the preverbal fruit cake), spiced cookies, apple cider, and beer.
In the southern colonies, as in the middle colonies, the celebration began on Christmas Eve and lasted 12 days through Epiphany. Most folks were Anglicans and they had a light Christmas Eve meal then went to church. Christmas morning meant church services followed by an early feast at home on Christmas Day. In the evening, they went caroling and visiting. In the southern colonies, Christmas celebrations often included a public dance. Richer people had balls in their mansions and held fox hunts during the 12 days of Christmas. Homes were decorated with bits of holly on mantles and candles in windows as in the middle colonies. This was a time for the richer to give to the poorer, not a children’s holiday. The gift, often a few coins. Typical Christmas day meals included wild turkey, beef, mutton, pork, goose, deer meat, rabbit stew, fresh fish, apple dumplings, gingerbread cookies, nuts, wine, and spirits.
About Nike: Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started putting word on paper at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (colored might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is murder, of the fiction variety. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better. Nike is also wild about Christmas…the cooking and baking, the decorating, the music. She has a collection of Christmas movies. With all this interest in Christmas, it’s no wonder she wrote GOODBYE NOEL, her Christmas whodunit, set on the south shore of Long Island in the mid-1940s. For more information about nike: http://nikechillemi.wordpress.com/
About the book – Goodbye Noel: The first body is found under a trimmed Christmas tree, the second as they ring in New Year 1947, the third goes head long out a window.
Pediatric nurse Katrina Lenart stumbles into a dangerous situation when she finds the murdered body of her neighbor Noel Bauer, but the cries of Noel’s infant tug at Katrina’s heart. Put in charge of caring for the orphaned baby, she’s willing to fight anyone to protect the child, even the detective sworn to find the killer.
Detective Ian Daltry, a widower with a child of his own, is committed to bringing the killer to justice no matter what it takes. What he’s not interested in is falling in love. Still, he can’t help feeling drawn to the strong willed and independent minded Katrina.
With thugs from out of town lurking about, an unscrupulous officer from another precinct causing trouble, and clues that don’t make sense, time is running out — especially when a second body is found.
Come back Jan 1st for Diane Price!