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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday Regency: Christmas traditions--Wassail

Christmas is just around the corner! (Ducking now--anyone else not remotely ready?) At least my Christmas release is. Improper Christmas is Lillian Norwood's story. Lillian is a minor character from Improper Match who's had a very hard life and is definitely not appreciated.

One Christmas tradition is wassail (pronounced like fossil so I now hear wossal in Chekhov's voice: Nuclear Wossal...and now you do, too. You can listen here at about the 1:18 mark).

Wassail is hot mulled cider. See random picture from the internet I pasted in here. Maybe I'll try it this Christmas and see how the family likes it!

I've see a couple similar explanations for where wassail came from, all form the Anglo-Saxons and involving a toast “Waes Hael” or “Be Whole” at the start of their new year.

Holiday Wassail
1 gallon apple cider
1 large can pineapple juice (unsweetened)
3/4 cup tea (can use herb tea)
Place in a cheesecloth sack:
1 Tablespoon whole cloves
1 Tablespoon whole allspice
2 sticks cinnamon
This is great cooked in a crock pot. Let it simmer very slowly for 4 to 6 hours. You can add water if it evaporates too much. Your home will smell wonderful! Serve warm, garnish with orange slices.
Serves 20.

Improper Christmas

“Miss Norwood, I presume,” the woman said before Lillian hit upon a polite conversational opening.

“Yes,” Lillian answered, only slightly surprised. “How — ”

“Oh” — she waved a hand — “you’ve been the chatter all around the village. Lord Granville’s ward, come to live in Chesham.”

She turned slightly and guided Lillian away from the fire and the Lansdowne sisters. She didn’t slip her hand through Lillian’s arm in an overly friendly manner, but did project an air of intimacy nonetheless.

“Most of the chatter is simply speculation,” she continued. “Though I am acquainted with Lord Granville. And while you and I have never met, I have heard your name.”

Lillian nodded stiffly. What had this woman heard? Did she know all of Lillian’s past? Did she know Lillian should not be here, at this ball? That her father’s death was not as long ago as she may have implied?

She refrained from muttering about gossips and rumors and remained silent. It was her only defense against such things anymore.

“You have me at a disadvantage,” Lillian said nonchalantly. And with a possible hint of ice. Just a hint. “I do not know your name.”

The woman’s eyes, alive with humor and secrets, watched her for several long moments. Then she smiled with a wide, charming curve of her lips that made Lillian want to trust her. At the very least, she wanted to know this woman who interacted so casually with Chesham society.

“My name is Camilla Primsby,” she said with confidence, as if Lillian ought to know who she was. “And do forgive the intrusion, but no young woman should be subjected to the incessant chatter of the Lansdowne sisters.”

Lillian’s lips twitched, but she didn’t give into the temptation of a smile. Mrs. Primsby acted kind enough, but Lillian knew the sort. Most likely, she wanted to be the first with all the gossip about the new woman in the village.

“Mrs. Miller believes I should make an appropriate companion to the Lansdowne sisters,” Lillian said in that same unflappable voice.

She began to wonder if it was possible for her to speak in any other manner. She missed the days of laughter and teasing with people she believed to be friends. Lillian bit back an angry sigh. That was in the past, dead and buried.

“Oh dear heavens,” Mrs. Primsby said, and she sounded truly horrified.

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