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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM Erastes and Speak Its Name!
Well here we are!
I’m so excited. Christmas has come early to my house and I already have my decorations up. The fridge is full of egg-nog (actually it’s vodka but I do have some Scotch Eggs to scoff with it) and mince pies and sausage rolls are falling out of the cupboard.
We are celebrating two years of this review site and it’s a little thank you because without the readers and the visitors there would be no point doing reviews at all. I think that – with your help and enthusiasm – we have dragged gay historical fiction and romance from a genre that – only a few years ago – simply didn’t exist as a genre, into something that now stands on its own and when there’s a list of gay fiction, historicals are there, elbowing the contemps out of the way and showing off their epaulettes and breeches. New words and phrases have been introduced into the vocabulary: Breeches rippers; OKHomo.
We have a different author blogging every day, and they’ll be offering a prize, so you have 24 chances to win! (We won’t make a rule you can only win once, either, so keep trying!) Winners will be announced on Christmas day - Plus see below for the Bumper Prize.
So to kick things off my post is going to be about the kind of Christmas that David Caverly and Jonathan Graie might have experienced in Transgressions, set in the mid-17th century.
In the 16th century, things had changed food-wise in England. With the discovery of a new continent, new foods had made its way across the ocean and people were eating potatoes, maize and turkey!
Christian rituals were still intermingled with pagan–(as they still are, in fact). Families would deck their houses with evergreens. Ivy, holly and mistletoe – all considered unlucky to bring into the house outside Christmas. The poorer families would substitute furze in the form of a ‘kissing bush’ for mistletoe. A kissing bush was made by taking a small gorse bush and dipping it in water and then sprinkling it with flour to get a snow effect. This would then be put in a pot with holly berries stuck on the furze thorns. People would then ‘kiss’ next to the kissing bush as opposed to under the mistletoe.
I rather like the idea of David trapping Jon under the mistletoe when Jacob was out of the way.
The rich would have a boar’s head as a centrepiece to the Wassail feast, but although the Caverlys weren’t dirt poor, I doubt they went to that excess. I would imagine that they had pork, boiled and pickled. Shred, or mincemeat, pies served as a special part of the dinner, white bread (a treat, as white flour was very expensive) and plum pudding, made with beef, raisins, currants and bread.
After the English Civil War, in 1657 – Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), the self-proclaimed Lord Protector of England from 1649 until 1658, detested Christmas as a pagan holiday (one not sanctioned by the Bible, that promoted gluttony and drunkenness). Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan Council abolished Christmas on December 22, 1657. In London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration. The smell of a goose being cooked could bring trouble. Cromwell considered pies as a guilty, forbidden pleasure. The traditional mincemeat pie was banned.
Bloody Cromwell. If he thought pies were sinful, imagine what he’ll do when he finds out one of his trusted officers is a sodomite. Ooops.
In the 1646 ballad, The World Turned Upside Down by Thomason Tracts, one verse of the song refers to “shred pie.” The song was written bewailing Parliament’s ban on Christmas:
To conclude, I’le tell you news that’s right,
Christmas was kil’d at Naseby fight:
Charity was slain at that same time,
Jack Tell troth too, a friend of mine,
Likewise then did die,
Rost beef and shred pie,
Pig, Goose and Capon no quarter found.
King Charles II (1630-1685) restored Christmas when he ascended the throne in 1660. Hurrah!
Advent Calendar Giveaway!
Today I’m offering a signed copy of Transgressions and all you need to do is to leave a comment here with what you think is your funniest holiday joke. Yes, it’s ok – you can cheat and use the internet. Santa isn’t reading this today. I’ll pick the funniest (and I have a warped sense of humour) and the winners will all be announced on Christmas day.
I say, I say, I say – What do reindeer hang on their Christmas trees?
THE BUMPER PRIZE: On Christmas Day itself – one lucky person will be chosen at random from all the commenters throughout the 24 days and will win a BUMPER package of goodies. Not sure what it is yet, but it will include at least 2 paper books, an ebook, some sweets, and freebies.
So what have you got to lose? Enjoy the calendar!