The Origin of “Silent Night”

Riedesel_Christmas_Tree

Riesdesel Christmas Tree

Christmas Eve 1818, marked the debut of the beloved Christmas carol, Silent Night. Father Josef Mohr composed the words in 1816 but waited until 1818 to present them to headmaster, Franz Gruber, and asked him to compose a melody for guitar and voice. Some historians believe it was a desperate measure to have music in church despite the damaged organ due to recent flooding. Other historians believe the organ was functional, but the clergy simply wanted something different for their congregation that year for their Christmas Service.

Regardless of their motive, they performed the song Stille Nacht on Christmas Eve on the guitar for church service in Nicola-Kirche in Oberndorf, Austria on December 24, 1818. It was, clearly, an unforgettable service with what has become one of the most popular carols of all time.

Silent Night is also known as “the carol that stopped the war,” at least briefly. One Christmas during World War II, German soldiers put down their guns and sang Stille Nacht to the British troops. After a stunned silence, British troops joined in, singing in English, resulting in an unofficial one-night cease fire and spontaneous celebrations between enemies. You can read more about that magical story here.

I can hardly listen to my favorite version of that song, Stille Nacht by Manheim Steamroller, without it bringing tears to my eyes. Here it is:

I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

Christmas stories to help get you into the holiday spirit

 

 

 

Book and gift card giveaway! My Book Cave Direct (mybookcave.com) has a little of everything for everyone. These heart-warming Christmas stories will help get you into the holiday spirit. Check the content ratings and book descriptions, make your choices, and start reading. Remember to sign up to win the gift card, too!

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Merry Christmas!

A Little Christmas Music for you

Music is a huge part of Christmas for me. It just wouldn’t be as magical without all the carols. It would take an entire page to list all my favorite versions of all my favorite Christmas songs, but Carol of the Bells is near the top.

According to Wikipedia:

Carol of the Bells” is a popular Christmas carol composed by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1914[1] with lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky. The song is based on a Ukrainian folk chant called “Shchedryk“.[2] Wilhousky’s lyrics are copyrighted, although the original musical composition is not.

It was not originally intended to be a Christmas carol, but has become a holiday favorite, with dozens of variations. I love them all!

I hope you enjoy this fun video featuring the extraordinarily talented cellist from The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson, playing his version of Carol of the Bells.

Merry Christmas!

Traditional Regency Christmas

Regency Christmas traditions varied widely from region to region and even family to family. Generally, the upper classes of Regency England didn’t treat it as a special day beyond a Christmas church service and the exchange of small, mostly hand-made gifts within the family. Ordinary household items such as pen wipers and fire spills seem to have been common gifts, as well. The middle classes made a bigger event out of Christmas than their so called “betters.” Lucky them!

The reason why Christmas became so understated is largely due to Thomas Cromwell, who served as Chief Minister during the reign of King Henry VIII. Cromwell and his cronies virtually stamped out Christmas celebrations due to their pagan licentious superstition which often resulted in drunken brawls and even vandalism. Although I seldom approve of the destruction of any holiday, I can’t really blame him for his disapproval of that sort of misbehavior. Fortunately, the Restoration revived Old Christmas into a new, toned-down version of its former bawdy revelry to one of quiet worship and time together with family. During the Regency, more and more celebratory customs cropped up. I suspect many families practiced many of those customs all along secretly. Yorkshire is an area that seemed to hold on the most tightly to the Old Christmas traditions, and the did them openly when it became permissible to do so.

While researching English Christmas customs, I found journal entries and letters describing family events at the Big House, many of which I incorporated into my newest novel, Christmas Secrets. I exercised my creative license to have the local tradition include a ball at the big house, gathering greenery including a mistletoe “kissing ball,” the Yule Log, and especially carols, along with other fun aspects of the season on Christmas Eve.

Largely thanks to Queen Victoria’s husband bringing his German traditions with him to England, Victorian Christmas customs grew into the ‘traditional’ Christmas we all know and love with carolers, a wider variety of gifts and recipients, Yule logs, Christmas puddings, cards, Christmas trees, many of the carols we know and love, and so forth.

Travel in winter in England during the Regency was extremely hazardous, therefore it was rarely done. Christmas house parties had to wait until railroads made winter journeys more feasible which happened after 1840. Of course, I and every other author I have read largely ignores this, although I did make mention of people not wishing to travel far due to the weather.

A odd custom that dates back centuries is telling scary ghost stories. This age-old tradition dates so far back that I couldn’t find its origin. Aside from the traditional Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, I’m happy that telling ghost stories is no longer part of our Christmas customs. Can you imagine getting a child to bed who is both excited about presents and frightened of the ghosts? Now that is scary!

What are some of your favorite Christmas customs?

 

Christmas Ghost Stories

by Donna Hatch

An odd Christmas custom that dates back centuries is telling scary ghost stories. Have you noticed in the popular Christmas Song, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” the verse that says: “Tales of the glories and scary ghost stories of Christmases long, long ago” and wondered over it?

Telling ghost stories is an age-old tradition that many claim cropped up in the Victorian Era, including the traditional Christmas story, A Christmas Carol. However, this custom dates farther back than that.

Washington Irving penned a novel in 1819 called  The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The hero in the story visits friends in an English country house during Christmas season in a section entitled Old Christmas. While visiting Bracebridge Hall, our hero basks in the hospitality of the squire and a traditional English Christmas, which includes telling scary “winter tales.” Winter tales have long included tales of ghosts, witches, monsters, and other creatures of darkness.

In A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof the author, Roger Clarke, tells of a popular story claiming that shepherds saw ghostly civil war soldiers battling in the skies just before Christmas 1642.

Even earlier, the Bard, William Shakespeare, penned a collection of scary stories entitled Winter Tales.” This romance weaves a tale of tangled identities and apparent death and revival. This suggests that telling weird or bizarre stories whilst gathered around a winter’s evening fire was a wide-spread tradition long before the Bard’s time.

A predecessor of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe wrote a play entitled The Jew of Malta  in 1589 in which a character Barnabus states:

Now I remember those old women’s words,
Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales,
And speak of spirits and ghosts that glide by night

Since traditions such as this have roots in pagan practices dating back to medieval times, I assume winter tales including ghost stories have been a Christmas tradition since the days of cloak and dagger. But at the very least, the practice of telling ghost stories at Christmas has been in practice since the 1500s.

However, I’m happy that telling ghost stories, except for watching the movie or reading the book, A Christmas Carol, is no longer a major part of American Christmas customs. Can you imagine getting a child to bed who is both excited about presents and frightened of ghosts? Now that is scary!

Still, this practice of telling ghost stories is a plot point that works well for my Christmas novel, A Christmas Secret.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; to finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl with an impeccable reputation, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.

Christmas Secrets released November 9, 2017 and you can download it to read instantly here

 on Kindle!

Sources:

http://www.hypnogoria.com/html/ghoststoriesforchristmas.html

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/705363363/Telling-ghost-stories-is-a-lost-tradition-on-Christmas-Eve.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/dec/23/ghost-stories-victorians-spookily-good

http://theconversation.com/why-ghosts-haunt-england-at-christmas-but-steer-clear-of-america-34629

Christmas Ghost Stories: The Ghost of Christmas Past Goes Further Back Than You Might Realize

Excerpt from Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

Christmas Secrets

Announcing a new release! My newest novel, Christmas Secrets, is coming November 9, 2017. You can pre-order your copy of this clean and wholesome short novel today and have it instantly delivered to your ebook device.

Here is the back cover blurb of my new short Regency Christmas novel:

A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless…

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.

A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together…or divide them forever.

Here is an excerpt from Christmas Secrets. This scene takes place on Christmas Day when the everyone takes turn a kissing their spouse or sweetheart underneath the mistletoe ball. Now the group is coaxing Will and Holly, who have only known each other a few days, into sharing a mistletoe kiss.

“Come now, don’t be shy,” her sister called. “It’s tradition.”

The others called out encouragements.

Apology edged into Will’s uncertain expression. “Do you mind?”

Holly’s palms grew sweaty inside her gloves, and her smile probably came out wobbly. “Who are we to go against tradition?” Did she sound desperate in her desire to kiss him?

Will held out a hand. She placed hers in it and walked at his side to the kissing ball. They stood, hand in hand, facing each other. His neck cloth shifted as he swallowed. He leaned in. Her heart stumbled and her knees shook. She closed her eyes. Aching, she lifted her face. His cinnamon-spiced breath warmed her mouth.

He kissed her cheek.

Stunned, she opened her eyes. The watching guests groaned and some chuckled.

“No, no, that won’t do at all,” Joseph’s voice rang out. “Give her a proper kiss.”

Will froze. That intensity she occasionally saw in him returned. “Holly.” He swallowed again but instead of nervousness, a hunger that sent a flurry of shivers through her overtook his expression. “May I?”

She nodded. It didn’t matter if he saw how much she wanted this, wanted him. Let him know. Let the whole world know.

 He touched her chin, lifted it, and leaned in. Again, she closed her eyes. This time his lips touched hers, pliant and unbelievably gentle. Heat exploded at the contact and shot through her all the way down to her tingling toes. Different from her mystery kiss, this one sang of affection and respect and a deep longing to be accepted. Sweeter, more chaste, more filled with caring, Will’s kiss brought her a level of joy she’d never known. All the world faded away leaving Will and the power of his affection, his touch, his kiss. Every moment of her life seemed to have been designed to bring her to this single, perfect moment of bliss and wholeness.

“Ahem.” Father cleared his throat conspicuously.

Will pulled away all too quickly. A tiny sound of distress caught in Holly’s throat. It was over too soon. But oh, what a glorious kiss!

 

Pre-order your copy of Christmas Secrets today!

If the above link doesn’t work, try copying and pasting this into your search bar: https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Secrets-Donna-Hatch-ebook/dp/B076B6Z7GZ/

Mistletoe Magic and Wassail

20161202_141654Remember the holiday tune “Here we come a-wassailing?”

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand’ring so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you, And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a happy New Year.  And God bless you a happy New Year.

Ever wonder what a-wassailing means?

It means to sing for some wassail. I guess it’s kinda like singing for your supper, only the carolers go from place to place hoping for a nip of the traditional hot beverage.

One of my winter and holiday favorites is Wassail, also know as spiced hot apple cider. It’s one of those things it’s hard to get wrong. All the recipes I’ve tried are yummy and satisfying. Some include citrus such as lemon and orange. Traditionally, it contains alcohol such as wine or rum or even ale, but I don’t drink alcohol so I make it without.  No matter how you make it, wassail is a comfort for cold winter nights as well as a solution for a sweet craving. A few years ago, a friend shared with me her trick: apricot juice. It adds a richness and complexity other recipes don’t have.

wassailHere it is:

1 large jug of apple cider

1 can of apricot juice

3 cinnamon sticks

4 nutmeg cloves

a dash of nutmeg

a dash of allspice

Optional: orange or lemon slices

All of these can be adjusted according to taste so you may want to experiment.

Simmer for at least an hour but you can simmer all day. It does get stronger and stronger so after several hours, you may want to tone it down with a bit more apple cider. It makes the house smell heavenly!

mistletoe-magic2In my Christmas novella, Mistletoe Magic, the heroine adores the wassail her friend’s mother makes and will go to great lengths to get the recipe…as well as take advantage of the mistletoe at the annual Christmas ball.

Order here on Amazon

Order here on Smashwords

 

Note: The Colonial Williamsburg blog has lots of fun history behind this traditional drink.

Kissing Under the Mistletoe

Mistletoe

Mistletoe

The fun holiday tradition of kissing under the mistletoe evolved over time, and like most holiday customs, has pagan origins. Ancient Celtic druids saw the mistletoe blooming even in the middle of winter and thought it contained magical properties of vitality. Some sources claim they thought the mistletoe was the spirit of the tree showing signs of life while the rest of the tree remained dormant and dead-looking. They completely missed that it is a parasite living off of trees. Since they thought it had such amazing powers, they often conduct fertility and healing rituals underneath a bow of mistletoe, and later gathered underneath it to negotiate peace between hostile parties. Husbands and wives made up under the mistletoe as a way of sealing their renewed love and commitment to peace within the marriage.

Eventually, people moved sprigs of the plant inside. In some locales of Europe and Great Britain, guests kissed the hand of their host under a sprig of mistletoe as they arrived. Later, the working classes and poor classes developed a custom of a maiden standing under the mistletoe, waiting for a kiss from a young man–they were expected to marry within a year. English maidservants willing to accept a kiss from a gentleman in exchange for money stood underneath the mistletoe indicating her willingness. The practice of kissing under the mistletoe worked its way up to the upper classes, becoming more of a parlor game or an excuse for behavior not normally condoned among unmarried ladies and gentleman.

Today the custom of kissing under the mistletoe during the Christmas Season exists in most of  Europe, Canada and America.

Holly

Holly

Mistletoe sometimes gets confused with holly but they are very different plants. Mistletoe (pictured above) has soft, pale green smooth leaves and white berries; holly (pictured to the right) has bright green ragged-edged leaves and red berries.

The Suspect's Daughter, book 4 of the Rogue Hearts Series

The Suspect’s Daughter, book 4 of the Rogue Hearts Series

 

My bold and determined heroine in my newest book, The Suspect’s Daughter, does not need the help of mistletoe to kiss the man of her dreams, Grant Amesbury, to show him just how much he needs her.

The Suspect’s Daughter, book 4 of the award-winning Rogue Hearts Series is available now on Amazon. Order your copy today. It would make a great last-minute gift for any romance readers on your shopping list.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/why-do-we-kiss-under-the-mistletoe

http://mentalfloss.com/article/31977/why-do-we-kiss-under-mistletoe

http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-do-people-kiss-under-mistletoe/

Today is Release Day!

My new Regency romance short story, A Christmas Reunion, the Gift of a Second Chance is available right now!!!

A Christmas Reunion new coverA Christmas Reunion, the Gift of a Second Chance

Heartbroken that her betrothed has wed another woman, Emily is determined to pick up the pieces of her life and enjoy Christmas with her family. ​

Newly returned from war, Bennett holds a secret and will do anything to ensure Emily, his only true love, never discovers it…even if it means losing her.

Fate reunites the star-crossed lovers and reveals the truth that will either unite them or drive them apart forever.

 The Gift of a Second Chance,  published by The Wild Rose Press, is available in digital format everywhere ebooks are sold.

Remember, books make great gifts! 🙂

New Release!!

I’m delighted to announce the release of my newest Regency romance short story, A Christmas Reunion, the Gift of a Second Chance available November 5, 2014. You can pre-order it on Amazon right now!

A Christmas Reunion new coverA Christmas Reunion, the Gift of a Second Chance

Heartbroken that her betrothed has wed another woman, Emily is determined to pick up the pieces of her life and enjoy Christmas with her family. ​

Newly returned from war, Bennett holds a secret and will do anything to ensure Emily, his only true love, never discovers it…even if it means losing her.

Fate reunites the star-crossed lovers and reveals the truth that will either unite them or drive them apart forever.

 The Gift of a Second Chance,  published by The Wild Rose Press (where you can also order it) will be available in digital format everywhere ebooks are sold starting November 5, 2014. Remember, you can pre-order it today on Amazon.