Hello, dear readers! I hope all of you who celebrate enjoyed a very Happy Christmas! Mr. Bingley and I had a lovely holiday break so far – lots of time together, and we enjoyed spending the whole of yesterday with my family! Here is a little after-Christmas treat for you – a lovely guest post from Victoria Kincaid!! I absolutely adored Ms. Kincaid’s Christmas novella A Very Darcy Christmas last year. I can’t wait to read her newest release – Christmas at Darcy House. Victoria is here to share a little about the tradition of mistletoe and an excerpt from Christmas at Darcy House!!
Thank you for hosting me, Meredith! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and all your readers.
While some Regency Christmas traditions are familiar to us, many of them are not ones we practice today. Few people try to keep a Yule log burning all night, for example. However, one tradition that has survived is mistletoe, although today’s version is likely to be artificial.
The practice of gathering mistletoe began in the second century BC in ancient Britain, when the Druids saw it as a symbol of good fortune and fertility. But mistletoe did not come to be associated with kissing until the 18th century. Balls of mistletoe, tied with ribbon, would be hung in doorways and from ceilings. An unmarried woman could not refuse a kiss if she was underneath the mistletoe.
With every kiss, a man would pluck one of the mistletoe berries, and when there were no more berries, the ball was retired for the year. The superstition was that women who were never kissed could not expect to get married in the coming year. Mistletoe was not readily available in every part of England, so people would frequently send it to relatives or friends in parts of the country where it did not grow.
During the Regency era people also decorated their houses with “kissing boughs,” evergreens bound together (often in a circle) by wire and adorned with apples, candles, and paper flowers—sometimes even wax dolls to represent the nativity.
Both the kissing tradition of mistletoe and the kissing boughs represent a tradition that (to me at least) seems contradictory to many Regency social mores. At a time when an unmarried man and unmarried woman should never be alone together, it seems odd that they would decorate their houses with ornaments that basically demanded that people break these taboos. (Although the tradition does provide useful plot points for Regency romance writers!) I wonder if people during the Regency felt that the rules were so strict that they needed opportunities to loosen up—in socially sanctioned ways.
Whatever the reason, mistletoe was an important part of Regency Christmas celebrations—and intriguingly a tradition that continued from the second century B.C. to today.
~ An Excerpt from Christmas at Darcy House ~
Ordinarily Darcy would have been eager to continue with their plans, but Elizabeth Bennet’s fine eyes drew his gaze like a lodestone. Over the past month he had convinced himself that he had exaggerated her beauty in his memory. That distance and separation would lessen his ardor for the woman. Now he was dismayed to discover he was wrong.
Bingley inquired about a mutual acquaintance. Elizabeth replied, and a conversation was engaged that required the two men to take seats in the drawing room. Miss Bingley made a sour face—she was eager to separate her brother from any of the Bennet family—but Darcy could not have been more pleased.
Elizabeth’s dark curls, her delicate lips, her light and pleasing figure—everything about her was as uniformly charming as always. Not only could Darcy fail to remove his eyes from her person, but he found himself wishing she would occasionally glance at him instead of Bingley.
Naturally she is looking at Bingley; they are conversing about events in Hertfordshire, and she would like to secure him for her sister. But this awareness did not help to dispel Darcy’s disquiet over her persistent attentions to his friend.
Evidently Miss Bingley was also discomfited by the conversation, for she inserted herself into it rather abruptly. “How fortunate you are, Miss Bennet, to be in London during Christmastide. It is delightful. December in Hertfordshire, I would imagine, is rather…brown.”
Elizabeth blinked. Between one moment and the next a cold fury blazed in her eyes. Miss Bingley remained oblivious, but Darcy recognized the danger.
“Is that why your party departed Netherfield so suddenly?” Elizabeth asked in a deceptively innocent tone. “It was excessively brown for your tastes?”
Bingley had already given his sister a quelling glare over her snide tone; now he hastened to respond. “No. Of course not! I-I simply had pressing business back here in town.”
Elizabeth pursed her lips. “I hope it was concluded satisfactorily?”
Bingley relaxed into his chair, believing the disaster averted. “It was.”
Oh no. Bingley cannot see the trap she laid for him. “Then we shall expect the pleasure of your company back in Netherfield soon?” Bingley appeared to choke on his tongue, and his sister’s face turned a sickly red.
She knows. She knows there was something behind our departure beyond the all-purpose excuse of “business.” Darcy should be chagrined that his party had been caught being less than correct. He should be appalled that Elizabeth was drawing attention to it.
Instead he experienced an obscure sense of pride. In effect she had forced Bingley to admit they had lied, twisting the knife effortlessly. Even Caroline Bingley could not best Elizabeth at this game.
Out of loyalty to Bingley—not to mention his own sense of self-preservation—Darcy should not have focused so much attention on Elizabeth Bennet. However, his eyes had too long been starved for the sight of her face; it was like drinking water after a long trek in the desert.
Miss Bingley had recovered a modicum of her composure. “You would not have us leave town at Christmastide, would you?”
“I understood most families preferred to be in the country at Christmas.” Elizabeth remarked with wide, “innocent” eyes.
Darcy experienced a sudden fit of coughing. Elizabeth was quite correct. London at yuletide was not fashionable, although enough families of the ton remained to create some society. The Bingleys no doubt would have preferred Netherfield if not for the desire to separate Bingley from Jane Bennet.
“London has its pleasures as well at this time of year,” Miss Bingley said through gritted teeth. “There are…er…mummers, and clowns at the Drury Lane Theatre, and Astley’s Amphitheatre has a special Christmas show.”
Miss Bingley could not possibly be intending to partake in any of those entertainments. Such low-brow delights were entirely beneath her notice.
“And we have been invited to any number of balls and dinners and card parties,” she concluded with a sniff to remind Elizabeth Bennet that she had not been invited to such events.
“How lovely,” Elizabeth responded brightly. “No doubt you shall pass a happy Christmastide here. Many consider the company in Hertfordshire to be quite confined and unvarying.”
Oh, that was a shot across Darcy’s bow. Her mother had taken exception when Darcy used that phrase to describe Hertfordshire. Elizabeth shot him a sly look, perhaps daring him to object, but he did not even frown at her. Instead, he was too busy suppressing a grin.
“That is not why— We did not leave because— ! I found Netherfield, indeed all of Hertfordshire, quite charming.” Bingley insisted earnestly. “I am eagerly anticipating my return—even if my sisters choose not to accompany me.”
Miss Bingley narrowed her eyes at her brother, but did not respond.
“We would be quite happy to see you there!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “Although, of course, we would miss your sisters exceedingly.” Her tone implied the opposite. “But my whole family would be quite pleased, Mr. Bingley.” Was she deliberately leaving Darcy out of this oblique invitation? No. I am being overly sensitive. She is simply making a point to Bingley’s sisters.
“And what about you, Mr. Darcy?” Miss Bingley inquired. “No doubt you and Georgiana shall be departing for Pemberley ere long.”
Darcy had not, in fact, decided where they would pass Christmastide. Georgiana had been hoping they would stay in London since some of her friends were remaining, but in general he preferred Pemberley during the holidays. London could be bleak and dirty. However, it could offer one thing that Pemberley could not: Elizabeth Bennet.
“We will be remaining in London,” Darcy heard himself saying.
Thank you so much for sharing, Victoria! I agree with you that the traditions of kissing boughs and mistletoe do seem a little bit contradictory to the Regency era. Maybe it is like you said, this is the one allowable time to bend the rules of propriety a little. It would definitely make the Christmastide season more exciting for young lovers! 😉 I loved this teasing excerpt you shared – Elizabeth is my hero! I love how she always knows what to say! And I love that Mr. Darcy admires her for it! Can’t wait to see what happens next in Christmas at Darcy House!
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Today, Victoria brings with her ONE copy (paperback or ebook – winner’s choice!) of her newly released novel, Christmas at Darcy House, for me to giveaway to ONE lucky winner!
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, a question, or some love for Victoria!!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Victoria!
- This giveaway ends December 31st!