Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Isn’t it wonderful when two things you love are combined? Like Jane Austen and Christmas? 🙂 I love reading Jane Austen-Inspired Christmas stories, and I am so happy that so many new ones are coming out each year! But in addition to decking the halls at Longbourn, sleigh riding at Pemberley, or seeing Mr. Darcy encounter the Ghost of Christmas Past, I love learning the real practices and traditions of how Christmas was celebrated during the Regency era. I’ve previously read two books that canvassed traditions of the Christmas season during Jane Austen’s time – Jane Austen’s Christmas: The Festive Season in Georgian England by Maria Hubert and A Jane Austen Christmas by Carlo DeVito, and both while enlightening in some aspects had a fair amount that disappointed or dissatisfied.
I was excited when I saw that Austenesque author Maria Grace published her own nonfiction work that highlights and informs readers about Regency Christmas traditions. Having loved many of her fiction works and knowing her passion for history and research, I was hopeful that A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace would be the Jane Austen related nonfiction Christmas work for which I’ve been waiting!
I’m happy to say that there was much I loved and enjoyed about A Jane Austen Christmas! What I loved most was learning some things that were completely new for me about Christmas celebrations and traditions during Jane Austen’s time – I hadn’t before realized how many traditions centered around bringing luck or warding off bad luck! Talk about being a little superstitious! In addition, it warmed my heart to learn that many of the gifts given customs were charitable gifts, I like that tradition a lot. And I discovered while I most likely would need to stay away from many of the dishes traditionally prepared for Christmastide including the pies (because I’m a vegetarian), I would definitely be happy to sample wassail, punch, ratafia, and syllabub! Best be careful not to get myself foxed! 😉
Aside from all the information that I enjoyed gleaning from Ms. Grace’s research, I appreciated how all these facts and traditions were presented – the organized chapters and outlined segments, the inclusion of images, and the helpful resources – like an index and reference page. However, I did wish for more connection to Jane Austen and her novels given the title of this work. I know there isn’t recorded about Jane Austen’s family celebrating Christmas and that it is only mentioned briefly in a few of her novels, but it would have been wonderful to tie any Austen history or allusions of Christmas into this nonfiction work no matter how small they might be. In addition, I think readers should be aware that one third of this book is comprised of recipes. Which while interesting, may not be as useful to readers since they may challenging to translate to our modern cooking techniques and styles. Moreover, since there are 33 pages of recipes in a work that is 122 pages in length, perhaps it should be added to the subtitle somehow – maybe something like “Regency Christmas Traditions and Recipes.”
A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace is a brief and informative guide to Christmastide celebrations and traditions observed during Jane Austen’s time. I think I am a little critical when it comes to Jane Austen Christmas related works, but out of the three I’ve read, this one is definitely my favorite! It is a wonderful choice for readers who want to understand and learn a little bit more about Regency Christmas season celebrations, and I enjoyed imagining the Austen, Darcy, and Knightley families taking part in many of the customs and traditions outlined in this work.