I've never written a novel set solely around Christmas. But as I'm contemplating fun holiday stuff I could write about here, I realize that both of my last two books have Christmas on the page. Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland does in fact take place from the end of November through the end of January, so it's full of Christmasy goodness and many traditions from the day.
If you missed it last year, I blogged about many of these traditions in a post called Remember When . . . Christmas Was Banned? which also (obviously) touches on how Christmas was not an observed holiday in New England.
In Annapolis, Christmas was far from banned. Being Anglican--the only church in the city was what came to be renamed the Episcopal church when it became unpopular to name them "church of England"--the city celebrated in the style of Merry Ol' England. I had a lot of fun writing that chapter too, with mention of wassailing, of the hanging greens, and of the simple gifts they gave each other. (They certainly didn't have to check five different online stores for that remote control car their sons really, really wanted and then bite their nails when they saw it wasn't due to arrive until December 23rd . . .).
When I started writing another Colonial and did all my research, I realized this next one, too, would have to include the Christmas season--though it goes from November to October so certainly doesn't focus on it. Still, Christmas Day gets a chapter.
When I first realized that both my hero and heroine had been either living in or raised in the parts of New England that would not have observed Christmas, I had a moment of panic. Oh no! They wouldn't view Christmas like I do!!! How in the world do I capture their thoughts??
As it turns out, their views of the day came naturally to their characters and in fact really helped me form those characters. See, Winter (my heroine) grew up in a Congregationalist home on Long Island that could trace its roots back to the Puritans. In her home, Christmas was a day of quiet reflection. No gifts, no music, no parties.
Now all of a sudden she's in a home that celebrates--loudly and boisterously. Winter isn't wowed by it--she's saddened and disgusted by it, and feels far, far from home. All she wants on this holy day is to close herself into her room, read her Bible, and spend some time in quiet contemplation and prayer, thinking about what it truly means that Jesus came down as a babe.
Instead, she's forced into an elaborate gown, paraded through a drawing room full of mercenary, shallow socialites concerned only with who got the more expensive gift, and forced to listen to the drunken jolly-making of New York's elite.
Merry she isn't. Because she longs for the quiet of communion with the Lord. Much like she does through the rest of the book.
Though I've always celebrated and loved Christmas, writing that chapter really helped me understand how a different approach could be precious and beloved.
This year, no matter what your traditions are, I pray that you observe them with joy, share them with your loved ones, and come away with that unmistakable Christmas feeling--the one that says, "God has blessed them, one and all."