Today, I am so pleased to have Susana Ellis join me on my blog to speak of one of a Christmastide’s long-lasting traditions. To celebrate her appearance, Ms. Ellis has generously offered a special giveaway to accompany her post. Enjoy the post and do not forget to comment below to be in the running for the giveaway.
Wassail, a hot mulled cider, originated in southern England (apple growing country) in pagan times, as a ritual to ensure a good apple harvest. Traditionally, wassail was made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg added to cider, often served with toast on top. As time went on, wine became the base, often with brandy or sherry added, as well as apples and/or oranges. Wassail would be served in a bowl, with slices of toast to sop it up.
The word “wassail” means “be you healthy.”
Although the traditional day to serve wassail was Twelfth Night (the evening of January 5th)*, it was not uncommon for hosts to have a bowl of wassail on the sideboard for holiday entertaining during the entire twelve days of Christmastide.
Originally, wassailing was a ceremony intended to wake up the apple trees and scare away evil spirits. A Wassail King and Queen would head a procession of revelers from orchard to orchard, where they would sing and chant, and the Queen would be lifted up into the tree to offer wassail-soaked toast as a gift to the tree spirits. Then the group will recite an incantation such as:
“Here’s to thee, old apple tree, That blooms well, bears well. Hats full, caps full, Three bushel bags full, An’ all under one tree. Hurrah! Hurrah!”
In the Middle Ages, peasants would come to the estate of the lord of the manor singing “Here We Come A-Wassailing” and the lord of the manor would reward them with food and drink in exchange for their goodwill.
“Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you
a Happy New Year”
The Christmas carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” refers to the tradition of wealthy neighbors treating the carolers with such things as “figgy pudding.” It was not uncommon for liberal drinking to cause the crowd to turn rowdy, resulting in vandalism, if their efforts were not rewarded. “We won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here.”
In A Twelfth Night Tale, Lucy Barlow and her sisters take part in the village wassailing procession, but Lucy has to leave early for Livingston Manor to dress for her part as Lady of the Manor. When the wassailers arrive there for their last stop of the evening, she and Andrew Livingston greet them with a sumptuous spread of food and drink, including wassail. When the revelers return to their home, the Livingstons and the Barlows share a private party, with a King Cake (See December 16th post) and charades. And perhaps another surprise or two.
Susana is going all out to celebrate the release of A Twelfth Night Tale!
Besides the Grand Prize—a Giant Treasure Box—she is giving away a Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated) for one random commenter on each of the twelve stops of the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter for the Giant Treasure Box!
A Twelfth Night Tale Giant Treasure Box*
- lovely gift box
- A Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated)
- Father Christmas figurine
- Three Wise Men figurine
- Thomas Kinkade photo collage
- Treasuring Theresa mug
- Treasuring Theresa necklace
- Treasuring Theresa keychain
- two Christmas ornaments from Scotland (Mary Queen of Scots and fleur-de-lys)
- two decks of Ellora’s Cave playing cards
- two perfumed soaps from Scotland
- fizzing bath salts from Scotland
- Celtic pen from Scotland
- “jeweled” soap
- nail clipper keychain from London
- stuffed toy bear
*In lieu of the treasure box, a winner from outside the U.S. will receive a gift card from the book retailer of their choice.
About A Twelfth Night Tale
A wounded soldier and the girl next door find peace and love amidst a backdrop of rural Christmas traditions.
Without dowries and the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. But when the eldest attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, suddenly it seems as though Fate is smiling upon them.
Lucy knows that she owes it to her younger sisters to encourage Lord Bexley’s attentions, since marriage to a peer will secure their futures as well as hers. The man of her dreams has always looked like Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and, in any case, is betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to put away childhood dreams and accept reality…and Lord Bexley.
Andrew has returned from the Peninsula with more emotional scars to deal with than just the lame arm. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend “Little Lucy” who shows him the way out of his melancholy. He can’t help noticing that Lucy’s grown up into a lovely young woman, but with an eligible viscount courting her, he’ll need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
A Blush® Regency romance from Ellora’s Cave
The Barlow Home
near Charlbury, Oxfordshire
23 December 1813
“It’s so kind of you to call, Lord Bexley. The flowers you sent are simply lovely, are they not, Lucy?”
Unable to miss the warning tone in her mother’s voice, Lucy sat up straight in her chair and smiled sweetly at their caller.
“Oh yes indeed. They are undoubtedly the most beautiful I’ve ever received, my lord.”
Of course, she did not mention that they were the first flowers she’d ever been sent by a gentleman. And considering that there were few opportunities to meet eligible gentlemen in the quiet little neck of the woods where the Barlows resided, the arrangement was quite likely to remain the only floral tribute to come her way.
Her caller beamed with pleasure. “They were the best I could find at the florist, but of course they cannot hold a candle to your beauty and sweetness, Miss Barlow.”
Lucy swallowed and forced herself to reply. “You embarrass me with your flattery, my lord.”
“Not at all,” he insisted. “You were quite the belle of the Christmas Ball last evening, Miss Barlow. I was much envied to be allowed the honor of two dances with you when so many gentlemen had to be turned away.”
The “Christmas Ball” was merely a small celebration at the local assembly rooms. Her mother had encouraged her to favor Lord Bexley, but in truth, Lucy herself had not found him objectionable. He was an accomplished dancer and quite distinguished-looking, in spite of the fact that he had at least twenty years over her.
At eighteen, she was of an age to be out in society, and Lord Bexley, a wealthy widower from Warwickshire, was undoubtedly the most eligible gentleman in the county. Recently out of mourning, he was seeking a new wife and a mother to his three children, and as Mrs. Barlow kept telling her, Lucy should be flattered that he seemed to be favoring her for the role.
Well, she was flattered. Wasn’t she? The number of young ladies far exceeded that of eligible gentlemen, and she didn’t wish to be left on the shelf. With her family in financial difficulties and four younger sisters to be married off, Lucy knew she owed it to them to marry well and do what she could to find her sisters suitable matches as well.
She was prepared to do her duty and make the best of it, but somehow, when she thought of marriage and children, it was not the kindly Lord Bexley who came to mind. It was the face of the strapping, dark-haired Adonis with laughing gray eyes who lived on an adjoining estate with his younger sister—her bosom friend Jane—who had teased her unmercifully from the time she learned to walk. She couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been in love with Andrew Livingston—she’d even asked him to marry her at the age of five when he’d been twelve and about to leave for Eton. He’d laughed and quipped that it would be like marrying his sister, and she’d nursed a broken heart ever since.
She sighed as she frequently did when she thought of Andrew and his affianced wife, and her mother glared at her. Fortunately, Phillips wheeled in the tea cart and Mrs. Barlow’s attention was mercifully diverted.
“Please do the honors, Lucy. An excellent opportunity to practice your housewifely skills.”
Lucy flushed. Could her mother’s intentions be more obvious? But Lord Bexley did not seem to notice. He smiled kindly at her somewhat shaky inquiry as to his preferences, and thanked her graciously when she brought him his tea and a plate of cherry tarts.
“Quite charming,” he commented as he regarded her with obvious approval. It was unclear whether he was speaking to her or to her mother, and Lucy wasn’t sure how to respond.
Fortunately, there was a shriek followed by the sound of fierce arguing from the back rooms of the house. Lucy turned instinctively to the door, which was promptly thrust open and filled by the figure of her sister Lydia, who was breathing hard and wringing her hands in agitation.
“Do come, Lucy! Lila and Louisa are having one of their rows again, in the kitchen of all places. Lila broke one of Cook’s mixing bowls, and Cook swears she’ll leave if someone doesn’t stop them and you know you’re the only one who can, Lucy!” She flushed when she saw Lord Bexley and her mother’s angry face. “Oh…pardon me, I didn’t realize we had a guest.” She backed out into the hall, shooting Lucy a pleading look as she did so.
Relieved for an excuse to terminate the social call, Lucy muttered her excuses and scrambled out of the room. But not before she heard her mother’s mortified apology and Lord Bexley’s soothing reply that he found it quite agreeable to discover a young lady so accomplished in the maternal skills.
Goodness, he really was intent on courting her! She should be flattered. She was a sensible girl, and it was pointless to set her cap at Andrew Livingston, in any case. Lord Bexley would be an excellent match for her. His three daughters could not possibly be as troublesome as her two youngest sisters, after all.
She gritted her teeth and hurried to the kitchen, the ineffectual Lydia as usual trailing behind her. The second eldest Barlow daughter was as helpless as their mother at controlling the two youngest children. When Lucy married and left the house, as she would in time, her bookish middle sister Laura was going to have to take up the reins.
About the Author
A former teacher, Susana is finally living her dream of being a full-time writer. She loves all genres of romance, but historical—Regency in particular—is her favorite. There’s just something about dashing heroes and spunky heroines waltzing in ballrooms and driving through Hyde Park that appeals to her imagination.
In real life, Susana is a lifelong resident of northwest Ohio, although she has lived in Ecuador and studied in Spain, France and Mexico. More recently, she was able to travel around the UK and visit many of the places she’s read about for years, and it was awesome! She is a member of the Maumee Valley and Beau Monde chapters of Romance Writers of America.