Thursday, July 21, 2011

Christmas in July - a host of Christmas pasts

As part of Christmas In July I'm giving away a pdf of my historical romance, Flavia's Secret. This romance is set in Roman Britain, in and around Aquae Sulis (The Roman city of Bath) and has its climax during the ancient Roman 'Christmas' - the Saturnalia.

It may not have been Christmas exactly, but the ancient Roman Saturnalia (17th-23rd. December) was certainly an opportunity for feasting and gift-giving. Over the years, this time of merry-making, sacrifices and gift-giving expanded to a week and the poet Catullus - who knew a thing or two about parties - called it 'the best of days'.

In many ways this ancient festival was rather like Christmas:

Schools were on holiday.
Gambling was allowed.
Shopping at special markets was encouraged.
Holiday clothes were worn - the informal, colourful 'dining clothes' instead of the plain, bulky toga.
Presents were given - parrots, wax candles, dice, combs, perfumes, little pottery dolls.
Feasting was indulged, with Saturn himself in charge as Lord of Misrule.
People wished each other a merry Saturnalia with the evocation, 'io Saturnalia!' ('Yo Saturnalia!')

Some of my other stories also take in Christmas. Why? Because Christmas is a time for families and for romance: the romance of exchanging gifts and vows, the romance of walking together in crisp white snow, the romance of sitting together before a blazing fire.

My A Knight's Captive finishes at Christmas-time, too. With the heroine Sunniva and the hero Marc, we witness the Christmas-Day coronation of William of Normandy as King of England. Then we go with them to Sunniva's holding in the north of England, where, in a hut in the snow, she discovers the truth about her own dead mother.

In a lighter vein, to celebrate the fun side of Christmas, I've a short story coming out with Muse It Up in December about a beauty that just won't wake up, despite the kiss of the handsome prince....

Christmas is a time of contrasts: the dark outside contrasted with the bright fire inside, the feasting after the careful mid-winter saving of treats, the hope that finally the year has turned.

This is what draws me to writing about Christmas, and Christmas as it was celebrated in the past.

How about you? What do you find appealing about Christmas?

My latest book, by the way, is another medieval, To Touch the Knight, available now.



Linda Banche said...

Lindsay, you have so many wonderful versions of Christmas and I love them all.

Kathleen O said...

I agree with Linda, so many wonderful Christmas versions...
I think it is because Christmas brings out the child in all of us again.. The wonder of all those feelings we sometimes keep hidden... But I must say, I feel the loss of those who have left my life more...

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks, Linda! (I have some more Xmas stories in the pipeline, too, which I'm hoping will appear.)

Hi Kathleen - I agree. I miss my dad more at Christmas than at any other time. I also remember him - sneaking in with a pillowcase of presents while I was asleep (I never used to let on I was awake.) And eating the sugar lump and biscuit I left out for Father Christmas and the reindeer.

Happy times...

Savanna Kougar said...

Lindsay, I hadn't thought of it quite like that... the contrast between dark and light. But, you're right. One of the best things about Christmas time, was when dad and mom would bundle us into the car and we would drive around looking at the Christmas lights... it was nothing like the displays of today... but, it was absolute magic, truly, and I felt so magical. I felt like I was in fairyland.

Lindsay, your Saturnalia and Christmas scenes are gorgeous, lush and, yes, magical.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks, Savanna!

My parents used to take my brothers and me to see the Christmas lights in nearby towns. It was, as you say, magical.

Bekki Lynn said...

Christmas lights - oh, gosh - I still drive through the neighbor with the most lights. You're right, it's magical and has always made me feel like a kid with hope.

Get going on those other stories, Lindsay. I can't wait to read them.