Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Historical Research and Twelfth Night

posted by Nancy

Today we welcome Lair regular and debut author Barbara Monajem! Barbara's novella, Notorious Eliza, is out from Harlequin Undone, and her single title debut, Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil, will be out from Dorchester this spring. Barbara's here to chat about her love of history.

When I was a kid, we stayed up late on New Year’s Eve, and at the stroke of midnight, the whole family went onto the front porch and banged pots and pans. While staying up late was in itself a real treat, getting to make a huge racket in the middle of the night was FABULOUS. I never questioned why. It was fun, and therefore good.

It turns out we were driving away evil spirits. Whoa! How cool is that?

I never would have known if it weren’t for historical research. I love doing research,
because it leads me down so many unexpected paths, most of which have nothing to do with what I’m writing at the time. It’s like being in a maze, but instead of meeting a lot of frustrating dead ends, I meander happily from one path to another, wandering in ever-widening circles, far, far from where I began.

Then reality sets in and I go back to what I was researching, but the trip was fun. And productive! A few weeks ago, I researched wassailing in connection with a recipe blog on the Harlequin community. My goal was to find a few recipes to compare with the one I already had. Instead, I got a great history lesson and pots of fun ideas.

What sprang to my mind (before tripping in research world) was carolers in Victorian garb going door-to-door, rosy-cheeked from the nippy winter air (and perhaps the frequent imbibing of wassail to keep warm). But there’s much, much more. Wassailing has pagan origins (no surprise -- don’t all fun celebrations?) and it’s been going on in one form or another for a long, long time. Door-to-door wassailing was a way of cleansing houses of evil spirits so as to start the year out right. Householders would deck their doorways with greenery. (Hence, here we go a-wassailing, among the leaves so green… Think holly and other evergreens, like we use for Christmas decorations now.) There was an exchange of sung verses at the doorway, and the wassailers would parade through the house, GOING INTO EVERY ROOM (what a cleaning nightmare for the house-proud, before and after) making a huge hullabaloo with pots, pans, musical instruments, and so on, to drive the evil spirits away.

One of my life’s great mysteries solved, all because of historical research.

In return for driving out the poor, beleaguered spirits (I can’t help but see a paranormal in this), you would feed the wassailers snacks and, of course, your home-made wassail. I won’t even start on all the bizarre ingredients your wassail might contain. Regardless, a house-wassailing scene, with all its comic possibilities, definitely belongs in a story. Or a not-so-comic situation involving thieves or smugglers, or a search for missing documents, or secret rooms where the evil spirits – or maybe irritable but well-intentioned ghosts – lurk until the foolishness is over.

Then there was the not-so-nice version, where groups of men would come a-wassailing and wreak vengeance (think curses -- more paranormal stuff! -- or vandalism) on anyone who didn’t give them enough to eat and drink.

Then there’s apple tree wassailing, which took place on Twelfth Night. (And still does in some locations – how fabulous is that? I would be in Somerset or Devon right now, begging to come along, if I had the time and money and guts.) It’s a night known for turning life topsy-turvy, for being the opposite of what you usually are, and for doing what you wouldn’t at any other time (which is of course ideal story fodder). Villagers selected a wassail king and queen, who would lead a procession from one orchard to another. The oldest tree in each orchard was given a taste of the wassail made from its fruit, to encourage it to produce abundantly the next year. A huge racket was made to drive the evil spirits from the trees. People got to kick back and have a grand old time before settling down to the business of the New Year. (And it was nighttime… perfect for illicit romance, as long as you could find someplace warm. :)

I don’t have an apple tree, but this year I’m paying homage to my antiquated pear tree, which deigns to produce now and then, and to the oaks and pecans which provide so well for our squirrels.

As for Notorious Eliza, the idea came partly from research (sort of) and partly from real life. A friend, who does fabulous trompe l’oeil work, painted scenes with a classical feel to them on his dining room walls. The same friend suggested I read William Manchester’s A World Lit Only By Fire, which contains, among other things, much mind-boggling info about the Borgias and their orgies. Put those together, and I had a ballroom with obscene murals on its walls. Add a heroine who paints nudes for a living, and a hero insisting on covering up the murals so he can marry and bring home a respectable wife, and… whee! A story which practically wrote itself.

Happy Twelfth Night and Day to you!

Barbara is giving away a $10 gift certificate at Barnes and Noble to one commenter today, so tell us: What's your favorite obscure fact? Your favorite holiday custom, the one you can't wait to celebrate? Or a bit of historical trivia that you were surprised to learn was true?

109 comments:

mariska said...

come to me GR !

Jane said...

Hi Barbara,
Congrats on the release of Notorious Eliza. One of our traditions for New Year's is to eat noodles because they represent longevity. Can't think of any obscure facts at this moment.

Helen said...

Congrats Mariska have fun with him

Congrats on the release Barbara sounds really good another one to add to my must have list I love it LOL. I loved the post how intresting I don't have any fruit trees to give wassil to maybe I had better plant one LOL.

One of our favourite customs is that everyone who is home while I am mixing up the Christmas cake and pudding gets to have a stir and make a wish. I have no idea where this started but I know my Mum and Grandmother used to do it when they were children and it has just been passed along in the family for a long time this year even my 3 and 2 year old grandchildren had a stir and made a wish and my 2 1 year old grandchildren had a stir but of course no wish yet LOL.

Have Fun
Helen

gigi said...

Hi Barbara,
What an informative blog. I never knew where the tradition on caroling came from and the other tradition.
I don't know any weird facts or traditions except for Santa Claus.
I guess I had a boring family with no old traditions. Sorry.

But your book looks to be really good. I will have to check it out this year and put it on my list to get.

Deb Marlowe said...

Hi Barbara! I'm excited that it's finally time for your first book to come out!

We don't practice too many odd traditions, although we do eat pork and sauerkraut at New Year's ( a Northern thing) while all of our neighbors are convinced we won't have good luck without collards and black eyed peas!

Theresa N. said...

We hide a glass pickle ornament on our tree, “A very old Christmas eve tradition in Germany was to hide a pickle [ornament] deep in the branches of the family Christmas Tree. The parents hung the pickle last after all the other ornaments were in place. In the morning they knew the most observant child would receive an extra gift from St. Nicholas. The first adult who finds the pickle traditionally gets good luck for the whole year.”
Theresa N
weceno(at)yahoo(dot)com

Nancy said...

Mariska, congrats on the GR. I hope your holiday trip went well.

Nancy said...

Jane, I hadn't heard that about noodles. That's interesting. Do you know where the custom originates?

Nancy said...

Hi, Helen--

We don't have fruit trees, either. My uncle had little trees that produced something called sickle pears when I was growing up.

The Christmas pudding custom sounds fun. We make fruit cake, as I've mentioned, but it's mostly the dh's project.

Laurie said...

Obscure fact: In 1881, the first ice cream sundae was made in my hometown of Two Rivers,Wisconsin. It cost 5 cents and was at first only served on Sundays. See link below.
http://www.tworiverseconomicdevelopment.org/relocation/history-sundae.htm

Old tradition: We always attended Midnight Mass as a family.

Nancy said...

Hi, Gigi--

At our house, we love Santa Claus. The dh and I
"do" Santa for each other as well as for the boy.

Nancy said...

Deb, I wasn't aware of the regional difference in New Year's food. Pork and sauerkraut sounds German. I grew up in the South and am the only person in my house who eats black-eyed peas. I draw the line at collards and their ilk, though. They always taste bitter to me.

Nancy said...

Teresa, the pickle hunt sounds like lots of fun. There used to be a shop near us that sold Christmas ornaments, including pickles. We once asked why people would buy pickles at Christmas. The owner told us it was a German tradition but didn't explain further. Thanks!

Nancy said...

Laurie, I've loved sundaes my whole life but never heard where they came from. That's neat!

Barbara Monajem said...

Congrats on getting the GR, Mariska! My one experience with him was... hmm. How shall I put it? Memorable, very memorable.

So don't let him read this blog!! It'll put ideas in his head. He's a great one for making a ruckus, and won't care whether it's the right day or time. Anytime is the right time for the GR!

Keira Soleore said...

Barbara, welcome to The Lair. A huge congratulations to you on your first HH Undone and also a debut print release later this year.

It was fun reading how the story for your Undone evolved. What was your Call Story for the Undone? For Dorchester?

Mariska have a great time with the chook.

Laurie, I'm from Milwaukee but didn't know that the sundae was discovered close by.

Keira Soleore said...

To commemorate the Twelfth Day, I put together a very silly A Romance Lover's Christmas poem.

Susan Sey said...

Hi, Barbara! Congrats on the release! I can't wait to get my hands on the Notorious Eliza! I love the way research informed the direction of your story rather than the other way around.

I did a bunch of research on neo-pagans for the book I just finished & it was fascinating. Once you know a little something about earth religions, it's really hard to look at modern religion without seeing all the roots. :)

congrats again on the release! another one of my TBR pile!

Barbara Monajem said...

Hi, Jane -- I love the idea of noodles for longevity. Well, I love the idea of noodles anyway. That's a delicious custom.

Barbara Monajem said...

Helen - When I was a kid, we all took a turn stirring the Christmas cake, too (and believe it or not, I'd forgotten until just now - gasp). Thanks for reminding me.

Maybe if you plant an apple seed and wassail the earth, the tree will grow strong and fruitful! LOL. It's worth a try.

Barbara Monajem said...

Gigi - The great thing about old customs is you can revive them, if you feel like it. Or make them up! (Or not. Sometimes traditions are fun, but just as often they're a lot of work. Sometimes I can be quite a grump when it comes to traditions. I'd much rather write a book where my characters have to do all that work, LOL.)

Barbara Monajem said...

Hi, Deb! We spent New Year's Day with friends from Pennsylvania, and what did we have? Pork and sauerkraut! It was scrumptious. And very, very filling! After that, we had strawberry cake with chocolate ganache. I don't think the cake was part of the good luck tradition, but yum!

Maureen said...

Hi Barbara,
Your blog was so interesting. I live in a suburb of Philadelphia and on New Year's Day Philadelphia always has the Mummer's parade. I had never heard of it until I moved here but apparently it's from an old English custom of mummering which is something like putting on plays.

Deb said...

Hello, Barbara. Thanks for your post today. I love history and all the little facts that make it interesting. (That's why I love teaching Iowa History to my fifth graders.)

Obscure fact: John Wayne was born in Iowa, but he actually attended kindergarten and first grade in the town where I teach (Brooklyn, IA). He is in the class pictures that are now at the local museum.

Family traditions:
Christmas--I drape garlands of little Danish flags on my tree. I give my daughter a new set of pjs on Christmas Eve along with an ornament for the tree.
Easter--After The Egg Hunt, we fly kites in the afternoon. The men have more fun than the kids doing this, I think.

Barbara Monajem said...

Theresa N. - Hiding the pickle is a great idea, and if it was a cucumber pickle, it must have been hard to see against the deep green of the tree. I always wonder how such interesting traditions came into being. I also wonder if, way back when, a real pickle was hung on the tree, and the winning child got to eat it. YUM.

Barbara Monajem said...

Laurie - Thank you, thank you to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, for a fabulous idea! YUM! (I seem to be saying 'yum' a lot today.)

Barbara Monajem said...

Keira - The call for the Dorchester paranormal came first. I had finaled in the Daphne contest, and the judging editor, Chris Keeslar, asked for the full. I finished the book and submitted it a few months later.

It sat on his shelf for THREE YEARS!
(Of course, that was partly my fault for not following up.)

Anyway, one day he emailed me to say he was going through some old materials and was it still available, in which case he would read the rest. Yes!! He read it and called at the end of the day to make an offer. I ran into the house at 6 pm to answer the phone which was ringing, and saw "Dorchester Publishing" on the display. Squee!

There was no call as such for the Undone, but rather an email from Linda Fildew in London while I was at National last year, but that didn't make it any less exciting. I'd always wanted to write Regencies, so I was thrilled.

Barbara Monajem said...

Keira - LOL. Nine thanes thrusting?? Whew.

I was reading a book of medieval poetry last night - no, I'm not that scholarly, but there it was, so I flipped it open and found a really funny poem called, "Jankin, the clerical seducer." Now I need a scholar of medieval poetry to confirm for me that it really did mean what I thought it did. ;)

Barbara Monajem said...

Susan - Yeah, I love all those pagan roots. It seems to me that the pagan parts of modern celebrations are always the most colorful and fun.

Barbara Monajem said...

Maureen - A mummer's parade! Wow! Do the mummers perform while they're marching? Mummery is another tradition that would be fun to put in a story. Sigh. It's a good thing there are lot and lots of writers out there take advantage of all the cool ideas.

Dorthy said...

I commented on that eharlequin blog on Wassail!

My favorite obscure fact?
That potato chips were invented because the cook got mad at a customer who complained her potato fries were too thick.
So the cook sliced potatoes extreemly thin fried them up and sent them out with a discusted "let her say those are too thick!"

I love that.

My favorite holiday custom? I dont' really have one. But my favorite holiday is St. Patricks day, if that helps.
I usually do a feast on that day, 6 Corned beef's (only 1 in a crock pot, the rest are roasted in the oven), irish stew, irish soda bread, colocanon (mashed potatoes with leeks), plus much much more.
We try to invite 2 or 3 people over, but on year we had 10 extra people show up. It was such a blast.

I think the bit of trivia you gave us about the Twelth Night was cool, so thank you for that bit of trivia.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Barbara! Welcome to the Lair as a guest! You're always so wonderful to hang out with us as a BB, its delightful to have you here as a guest.

Congrats on Notorious Eliza. It sounds wonderful!

I'm going to have to ponder the questions for a bit - and have more coffee, that's for sure! - then I'll come post again, but I wanted to be sure to jump on first thing (for me) and say howdy.

Beth Trissel said...

Hi Barbara! Loved your post! As a fellow history nut it was pure fascination to read. Super stuff and as you said filled with possibilities. Bravo! Your new release sounds wonderfully interesting.

Nancy said...

Hi, Keira--Isn't that a great call story?

Nancy said...

Hi, Susan--You'll have to tell us about that research sometime. I'd love to hear how that went into your book.

Joanne said...

Hi Barbara,
Great post and congrats on your new releases! One of my favorite holiday traditions centers around one of my favorite subjects...food! Our Italian tradition is eating 7 types of fish on Christmas Eve.

Nancy said...

Maureen, I saw something on the Times of London website about mummers this Christmas, but now I can't remember what it was. Henry Winkler was in a pantomime over there, but I don't think that's the same thing. The parade sounds fun.

Nancy said...

Deb, I love history, too. That's cool about John Wayne being from Iowa and in pictures at your school!

We used to fly kites, though not at Easter. The boy had one go very, very high at the beach a few years back.

Nancy said...

Dorthy, I love the potato chip story!

Your St. Pat's feast sounds wonderful. We don't do a lot for that holiday in the South, but I love hearing about what people do elsewhere.

Nancy said...

Hi, Jeanne--Coffee and pondering, huh? I tend to go with chocolate, which is probably why I need to get back to the gym.

(If you admit you need to get back to the gym, you automatically burn 1200 calories. Really.)

Nancy said...

Hi, Beth--It's always great to see a fellow history buff here!

flchen1 said...

Really, Nancy?? So does that work for just the first admittance, or each repetition thereafter? ;)

Hi, Barbara! Congrats on your Undone and on the coming Dorchester! What a thrilling year this is!

I'm terrible at remembering trivia--I'll read something and go, "hey, I've read that before!" ;) My favorite holiday custom as a kid is the giving of red envelopes at Chinese New Year to the kids--a fabulous way to score some extra spending money :) It's not quite as much fun giving the envelopes, except to see the excited faces of the kids receiving :D Which is a different treat!

Congrats on the GR, Mariska!

Nancy said...

Hi, Joanne--Seven kinds of fish at dinner? Sounds yummy!

Linsey Lanier said...

Terrific post, Barbara.

My family used to bang pots and pans at New Year's, too. Poor man's fireworks.

I'm sure glad they don't do the wassailing the way you described today. I'd have to kick everyone out. :)

I thoroughly agree with you about research. I write contemporary romantic suspense, and my research always triggers new ideas. Couldn't write without it.

Something I just learned from research? Jumping out of an airplane doesn't feel like falling. It feels like floating.

Linsey

Lois said...

Hmm, well, the first thing to pop in my head with obscure fact is my favorite number. It's obscure to most people, but not most science students (where I learned it, actually LOL). I just love this number that I know it by heart, though through typing here, I guess you can't tell that I'm not copying and pasting. It's the gravitational constant of the universe, the big G in the equation it is from -- 6.67259x10^-11 Nm^2/km^2. Boy do I love that number, and I have no freaking idea why. ;) Oh, and most books and calculations use only 6.67x10^-11. . . somewhere along the way I memorized the others. Don't know why. :)

Lois, the nut, yep, I can admit it :)

Mary Marvella said...

What fascinating information, Barbara!

Hey, Nancy!

When my daughter was small, her photographer father asked her to wait to see her first Santa gifts and Easter basket. She did with few complaints.

Every year she would wake us and wait for her dad to get that look of joy when she saw her prizes for the first time! We have a series of those prized images. I'm amazed she had that much discipline and wanted that much to please him.

Virginia said...

Congrat mariska on getting the rooster! I think you two have a thing going on!

Great post Barbara, very interesting about banging on the pots and such! We did things like that as a kid, not sure why but it was fun, now I know!

I am not sure we had in customs that we did every year, can't think of any!

Congrat on you release, sounds like an awesome read!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Welcome to the 'other side' of the Lair, Barbara! And SUPER CONGRATS on your TWO releases!

I bought a pickle Christmas ornament once simply because I thought it was unique. I had no idea there was a tradition of hanging actual pickles on the tree!

That's what I LOVE about research, ya never know what you'll learn...

And Nancy, I think the collards are supposed to be a bit on the bitter side... for the symbolism. Not that I like them, mind you.

AC

Barbara Monajem said...

Dorthy - I remember you from the Wassail blog. I hope you enjoyed making and drinking wassail. And I love how you spell your name!

Your Irish feast sounds wonderful. I sometimes make a version of colcannon from potatoes and cabbage. Yum again.

Mona Risk said...

Great infornmation in your post, Barbara. To keep the evil spirits away, we wear a blue eye made of China or crystal. As family tradition, we gather the family, extended family, in-laws of each member for a big dinner. Congrats on the release of Notorious Eliza.

Barbara Monajem said...

Hi, Jeanne la Duchesse! It's always fun to hang out here... It's my daily entertainment, LOL.

Barbara Monajem said...

Hi, Beth -- I've read many of your blogs, and they're always full of fascinating facts. (And poetry, lately!) There is no limit to the good stories out there just waiting to be told.

Barbara Monajem said...

Joanne - LOL, food is one of my favorite subjects, too. Seven types of fish... Hmm. Which types? What's the reason behind this custom? Enquiring minds and all that...

Barbara Monajem said...

Nancy -- So. Admitting I need to go to the gym means I can also eat a bunch of chocolate? Because if I'm automatically burning off 1200 calories, I can afford to consume at least another 300 or so. Yes!! (Yum AGAIN.)

That sounds a lot having a pig wand. Just wave it over the food and calories magically disappear.

Thank you so much for having me as a guest.

Lady_Graeye said...

Hello Barbara,
Congrats on your new release! Our traditions start on Christmas eve, we are Polish so we eat a course of seven meatless dishes. My family is also Catholic so we take a piece of blessed holy wafer/bread/eucharist kiss and wish each other a great New Year then we each take a bite off the other person's wafer.
On New Year's eve instead of going out plus to be safe we stay at home, put on our P.J.'s, veg out on the floor with blankets and pillow, watch our favorite movies like You Got Mail or Sleepless in Seattle and eat, eat, eat...

Barbara Monajem said...

fichen1 -- I get the impression that red is the Chinese lucky color -- it's the most prevalent color in stores specializing in Chinese goods. (Which suits me just fine, as it's my favorite color, too.)

Barbara Monajem said...

Linsey -- How cool to have a friend who also banged pots and pans!
Interesting info about jumping out of planes. I wonder how long you float before you realize you're actually falling, LOL.

Barbara Monajem said...

Lois - What a cool number to know by heart. I haven't done math for a zillion years, so I don't know what it means, but I guess the gravitational constant will be very useful to Linsey when she's falling -- um, floating, that is -- toward earth. LOL.

Barbara Monajem said...

Mary Marvella -- Wow. That's amazing discipline. I had so little discipline as a child that I stayed awake half the night on Christmas Eve and always snuck downstairs when everyone else was asleep so I could see everything FIRST.

Um... actually, I'm not all that disciplined now, either. I can't read a book straight through -- I HAVE to skim to the ending.

Barbara Monajem said...

Virginia -- LOL. Mariska's a very brave gal to have a thing with that exhausting rooster.

When I think about WHY we were banging pots and pans, I'm glad I didn't know the origins of the custom. (I don't think my parents knew, either.) I don't know whether I would have been amused or a little scared back then.

Minna said...

Well, some other things might change, but we always watch The Declaration of Christmas Peace on tv and go to Christmas sauna.

The Declaration of Christmas Peace 2007 -it's excactly the same every year:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v0M4RszdS8

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_Eve

Barbara Monajem said...

Thanks, Loucinda. It's great to be here.

I'm all for hanging pickles on trees!

Sorry, guys, but I really like collards, although I usually mix them with other greens, such as turnip and mustard. I love the pot liquor, too. It feels like it's GOOD for you, and not in a medicinal way.

Barbara Monajem said...

Mona - a blue eye, huh? Is it on a pendant, or a brooch, or...? I wonder if it's meant to scare the evil spirits. Do you know where the custom originated?

Barbara Monajem said...

Lady Graeye - the seven meatless dishes sound great, especially at a time of year when we tend to eat waaay too much heavy food.

I like the sharing of good wishes. That's really sweet.

Barbara Monajem said...

Minna - Christmas sauna?? That sounds fabulous!

Nancy said...

Fedora, whether the 1200-calorie charm works on repeat admissions depends on how emphatic they are. *g*

I didn't know about the red envelopes. I'll bet the kids DO love that custom!

Gannon Carr said...

Hi, Barbara!

I love discovering the origins of so many of our holiday traditions. I have the book A WORLD LIT ONLY BY FIRE on my shelf, but I haven't read it yet. After reading what you discovered about the Borgias, I need to get to it immediately! :)

Nancy said...

Linsey, what a terrific bit of information. I never would've thought it. I'm writing contemporary RS, too, and sometimes the research gets a little gritty. Interesting, but gritty.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Mariska, one chook for you! Give him some wassail - sounds like it's right up his alley!

Barbara, I 100% agree with you about the amazing things you can learn by doing historical research. And occasionally I'll come up with an obscure fact that will spark a whole new idea for a book. Love it when that happens! Loved all your info on wassailing. Congratulations on the Undone and on the new release from Dorchester! Both sound great!

Nancy said...

Lois, I love your space shuttle picture! I have a cousin who works for NASA and is my source for anything involving physics.

That really is a cool-looking number.

My son tried to explain how negative 1 could have a square root and blew my mind. You and he would probably communicate well.

catslady said...

I've started a tradition in our family of having a tree trimming party - friends, family, food and drink with lots of laughter. Now my grown daughter is doing it also.

Nancy said...

Hi, Mary! Our boy wasn't so compliant as your daughter. I always had to be poised with the camera. :-)

Nancy said...

Hi, Virginia. When I was a kid, we just liked to bang on pots just because. And the boy really got into it when he was little.

The dog hated that, though.

Nancy said...

Hi, AC--

You'll never look at that pickle ornament quite the same way, will you? *g*

Symbolism is fine, but I'm not eating something on 12/31 I don't like the rest of the year. My grandfather loved greens (doused them in vinegar), so we had them a lot, but I never developed a taste for them.

Nancy said...

Mona, the blue crystal or china eyes sound beautiful. I love big family dinners, but we seldom get to have them.

Nancy said...

Barbara, I like this "pig wand" concept. Fascinating, and so useful!

Nancy said...

Lady Gra_eye, the dh is Polish, too, but I don't think he knew this 7 meatless dishes custom. Interesting. I'll share it with him.

Nancy said...

Hi, Gannon--A World Lit Only By Fire is a book I've wanted for a long time. I hear it's great.

Nancy said...

Anna, another research fiend!

Did you ever make that decadent egg nog you found the recipe for over the holidays?

Nancy said...

Catslady, we have good friends who trimmed our tree with us every year until they moved to Arizona. Now it's just us, and we miss having them.

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, given all the chocolate I ate over Christmas, I decided if I threw eggnog into the mix, it was just overkill. Maybe next year!

Barbara Monajem said...

Gannon - A World Lit Only By Fire is a fascinating read. There's some pretty bizarre stuff about Martin Luther in there, too.

Barbara Monajem said...

Anna - I hope some day an enterprising editor chooses a wassail theme for a historical Christmas anthology. That could be SO much fun.

Barbara Monajem said...

Catslady - Tree-trimming is fun, isn't it? When I was a kid, we used to make paper chains for the tree, and I also like making decorations with cranberries and popcorn.

PJ said...

Hi Barbara! Congrats on the release. Notorious Eliza sounds like a story I'd enjoy!

I can remember banging the pots and pans on New Year's Eve when we were kids but I never knew the origins of that custom nor of the carolers.

My New Year's Day custom is homemade black-eyed peas and cornbread. I skip the collards too, Nancy.

One of my favorite Christmas customs that I've done for more than 20 years is to hang two over-sized Christmas stockings and put out Santa's boot (a large red cloth boot). They are all filled with small, wrapped gifts, some handmade and some purchased. One stocking is for men, the other for women and the boot is for kids. Everyone who visits me over the holidays gets to choose a gift from the appropriate stocking/boot. The kids love it and the grown-ups do too!

Beth said...

What a fun post, Barbara! Thanks for joining us and congrats on your first release :-)

I'm researching vineyards and wineries for a trilogy I'm working on and let me tell you, I'm loving all the interesting information I'm discovering *g* It's all very interesting to me - sometimes so much that I have to force myself back to the writing!

Nancy said...

Anna, if you make that egg nog next year, let us know how it is!

Nancy said...

PJ, I love your stockings and boot idea. I'll bet kids particularly love it!

Nancy said...

Beth, research is seductive, isn't it? I sometimes have to go through a manuscript, look at little facts, and tell myself, "No one cares about this who isn't you. Cut it." So I cut it, save it to a cuts folder, and move on with a sigh.

Barbara Monajem said...

PJ -- Your stockings and boots are a great idea. You can buy stuff for those whenever you see something that grabs your fancy, or work on making things all year long. Often that's a LOT easier than buying or making gifts for specific people.

Barbara Monajem said...

Beth - All that info is wonderful, isn't it? I researched marquetry for a historical I wrote a while ago, and found it fascinating.

Barbara Monajem said...

Nancy - I bet I'd be interested in the all the stuff in your cuts folder! I love all those obscure little tidbits of info.

Danielle said...

I completely agree about how finding some forgotten piece of history can lead to a new story! Oh, the shiny things I have followed over the years...

Barbara Monajem said...

Danielle - LOL. Shiny bits followed, collected, and hoarded... and which hopefully will enliven a story some day.

chelleyreads said...

congrats on the release barbara! how exciting!!

as for historical facts being true... well i was really surprised to learn that the whole george washington cutting down the cherry tree thing WASN'T true (i found this out in high school and was shocked LOL).

Nancy said...

Barbara wrote: Nancy - I bet I'd be interested in the all the stuff in your cuts folder! I love all those obscure little tidbits of info

I'll show you mine if you show me yours. *g*

Nancy said...

Danielle, reading history is sometimes like that trail of breadcrumbs, isn't it?

Nancy said...

chelleyreads, I grew up thinking that bit about Washington and the cherry tree was true, too. How disillusioning to learn it wasn't!

Louisa Cornell said...

Yay! Mariska you got him! Have fun!

Great information Barbara! And congrats on your releases! Fantastic!

I have a tradition of my own for my Christmas tree. I have a brass engraved Christmas ornament for every pet that has passed on. There have been quite a few over the years - some I owned for years, some for only hours (I did wildlife rehab and I footed the bill to have a few mortally injured strays put down with me holding them and petting them the whole time. No creature should die alone.)Each animal is memorialized with their name and their dates on the ornament. It makes my tree glow and it makes my heart glow.

I have studied voodoo for years and I have always been fascinated by the things that come out of that belief system. One belief is that if you sprinkle red brick dust across your doorways and in front of your windows evil cannot come into your house. I do know that the gris gris a voodoo priestess in New Orleans made me kept some rather unsavory looking characters from trying to rob my friend and I. They were following us and when I turned around and asked "Can I help you?" They took one look at the gris gris (a pouch made from the foot of a 100 year old snapping turtle. Don't know what all is in it. She said not to look and I haven't.)crossed themselves and begged my pardon and took off.

After doing a little research I discovered that alligators and snapping turtles are symbols of long life and revenge in New Orleans voodoo lore. Oh, and if you get to New Orleans and visit Marie LeVaux's grave leave a smooth, round stone and make a wish.

mariska said...

Hi Barbara, Congrats for the release ! Again i met some wonderful New Authors -for me- here : )

One of my favorite custom is when my sisters and me, helping my mom and my dad preparing all the foods for Hari Raya Eid.

Hi Nancy,
My Holiday Trip was awesome. I'm gonna post some pictures on my FB :)

Barbara Monajem said...

Chelleyreads - Yeah, the difference between what's recorded and what really happened would probably amaze us if we could go back in time.

Barbara Monajem said...

Hi, Louisa -- I've been planning to visit the Mardi Gras Museum in the Cabildo next time I go to N.O., but maybe I'll make a point of going to Marie Laveau's grave as well. I've heard the N.O. graveyard tour is really spooooky!

Barbara Monajem said...

Mariska -- Thanks! Hope you're having a great time with the GR.
Preparing food with family is fun, isn't it? A lovely, warm, shared experience.

Nancy said...

Louisa, I love your tree ornaments. We have an ornament for each of our dogs (except the yellow lab broke, so we need to replace it--but there's one in a table decoration).

Cool info on turtles and crocodiles!

Nancy said...

Mariska, glad your trip went well. :-)

Linda Henderson said...

Probably the strangest thing my family does every year for Christmas is pass back and forth a CD that my son in law got for Christmas about 5 years ago. My oldest daughter gave him a hard time about it so next Christmas he gave it to her. It's went back and forth now for 5 years. Nobody is allowed to open it up and play it, it's still sealed in the plastic wrap. Kind of goofy but fun. It's a real challenge to wrap it so nobody knows what it is. And nobody is exept from getting it. Last year I got the stupid thing.

Barbara Monajem said...

Linda - that's funny. Some friends of ours have a party every year with a white elephant gift exchange. Sometimes the same stuff shows up year after year!

Emma said...

Hi Barbara,
Congratulations on the release of Notorious Eliza.Have a great New year.our traditions for New Year's is to eat pork and sauerkraut.Please enter me in the giveaway.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.Thank you.Emma

Barbara Monajem said...

Emma - you're entered in the giveaway, no problem.

I had pork and sauerkraut for New Year's this year, and loved it.