Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2013

Christmas during the Regency

When I picture an English Christmas, I think of Christmas trees, plum puddings and Jolly Old St. Nick. But all these Christmas traditions developed after the Regency period. So, how did people celebrate Christmas during the Regency?

By having a lot of fun, apparently. For the gentry, Christmas was the highlight of the year. Their homes were filled with family and friends, who expected good food and amusements for many days. Gifts were exchanged during the season (such as the needle bag Jane Austen made for a friend) and festive meals with roasted turkey and other special Christmas treats were enjoyed.
One of those treats was a plum cake, a likely precursor of the plum pudding. In his 1808 book Letters from England, Robert Southey informs us that at Christmas shops were filled with large plum cakes, crusted with sugar and decorated in “every possible way.” Sounds a lot like a Christmas cookie to me! 

Acts of charity were also customary at Christmas. In one of her letters Jane Austen said…

Frost Fair of 1814

Cold enough for you? That’s a somewhat obnoxious question people like to ask when your teeth are chattering and your fingers and toes ache from freezing temperatures.  
Where I live in Portland, Oregon, we are really feeling the cold right now with the mercury in the thermometer sinking down into the single digits. That is rare for this city, which usually enjoys a temperate climate moderated by the Pacific Ocean.
As a result of the frigid temps I've been spending a lot of time keeping my bird feeder filled with seeds and the sugar water in my hummingbird feeder thawed. Yesterday morning I barely got the hummingbird feeder on its hook (after keeping it overnight in the house so it wouldn't freeze) when a hummingbird forgot its shyness and buzz-bombed me, eager for a sweet liquid fix.

However cold it is here, though, it is nothing compared with one winter during the Regency. During the winter of 1814, London got so cold that the River Thames actually froze solid for days between L…