Have a joyous holiday season. See you next week with my first blog posting of the new year—2017.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Early Europeans celebrated light in the darkest days of winter. They rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to extended hours of sunlight.
In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from the Winter Solstice on December 21 through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs and set them on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out which could be as long as twelve days.
In Germany, people honored the pagan god Odin during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Odin. They believed he made night flights through the sky to observe his people and then decide who would prosper or perish.
In Rome, where winters weren't as harsh as in the far north, Saturnalia was celebrated beginning the week before winter solstice and continuing for a full month. It was a hedonistic time with lots of food and drink. For that month the social order was turned upside down with slaves becoming masters and peasants in charge of the city. Business and schools were closed so everyone could join in.
Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, on December 25 members of the upper classes celebrated the birthday of Mithras, the god of the unconquerable sun.
It wasn't until the fourth century that Christian church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. The Puritans denied the legitimacy of the celebration, pointing out that the Bible does not mention a date for his birth. Pope Julius I chose December 25. The common belief is that the church chose the date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia.
By the Middle Ages, Christianity had mostly replaced pagan religion. Christmas was celebrated by attending church then celebrating in a drunken carnival type of atmosphere similar to today's Mardi Gras celebration.
In the early seventeenth century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. In 1645, Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces gained control in England and vowed to do away with decadence. As part of their agenda, they cancelled Christmas. When Charles II regained the throne, he restored the holiday.
The pilgrims who came to America in 1620 were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. In fact, from 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston. In contrast, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all in the Jamestown settlement.
Some Christmas facts:
Each year 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States.
Christmas wasn't officially a holiday in early America until June 26, 1870, when Congress declared it a federal holiday.
The first eggnog made in the United States was in 1607 in the Jamestown settlement.
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was created by Robert L. May in 1939 as part of an advertising campaign to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.
The first tinsel decoration was made from real silver and originally used to reflect light from candles placed on Christmas trees (in the days before electric lights replaced candles). Tinsel came into popularity in 1610 in Germany. Silver was hammered out and cut into thin strips to hang on the tree. Real silver tarnished, so the tinsel rarely lasted more than one season. Silver tinsel was used until the early 1900s and was seen as a status symbol. Today's tinsel is made of PVC. Due to its environmentally unfriendly nature, it has mostly gone out of style.
Wishing everyone a happy holiday season. And most of all—
PEACE OF EARTH.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
We all know Charles Dickens' story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his visits from the three ghosts on Christmas Eve. A story of redemption—a miserly man whose concept of the Christmas spirit is "Bah, Humbug!" Then his life is turned around after a visit from three Christmas ghosts—one from his past to remind him of what was and the promise of what could have been, one from his present to open his eyes to what he had become and how others felt about him, and one from the future to show him where he was headed if he didn't change his ways.
From a writer's perspective, it was the first time a story had been told from the point-of-view of a character within that story rather than an omniscient point-of-view. Point-of-view—something vital for today's writer of fiction.
The novella, first published in London on December 9, 1843, has been a staple of the Christmas season as a movie, television show, or play for well over a century.
This year, Hallmark's cable movie channel started showing non-stop Christmas movies the first of November. I wondered how many different versions of Dickens' story there were. So, I did what I usually do when I want a quick answer to something…I Googled it.
And the results came as quite a surprise. Things I knew, things I had known but forgotten, and things I never knew. Twenty-eight films, twenty-three television productions, plus other miscellaneous offerings such as staged plays. Live action, animation, a 3D computer generated images version from Disney in 2009, one set in America during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and even a couple where the character of Scrooge was portrayed as being female.
The first filming of A CHRISTMAS CAROL was a fifteen minute silent movie made in 1908 followed by two other silent versions made in 1910 and 1913. There have been the straight theatrical films, musical versions, and animated versions with favorite and very familiar cartoon characters taking on the roles of Dickens' famous characters. Of the twenty-eight movies, ten were released under Dickens' exact original title of A CHRISTMAS CAROL as were six of the twenty-three television productions.
Even though all the various productions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL tell Dickens' story of Scrooge and the visits from the three ghosts, many had their own unique twist and flavor on the original. I think my favorite is a 1970 theatrical musical version titled SCROOGE which stars Albert Finney as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who learns the lessons of the spirit of the Christmas season.
Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season, happy new year,
and most of all
and most of all
PEACE ON EARTH
Sunday, December 4, 2016
It's less than four weeks until Christmas and by an incredible coincidence I just happen to have a Christmas romance eBook available.
OPEN IN PRIVATE by Samantha Gentry is an erotic Christmas romance novella at The Wilder Roses, the Scarlet Rose line of erotic romance from The Wild Rose Press.
I was fortunate to be able to snag a few minutes with Charlene Vance and Parker Simmons who agreed to sit down with me and share a little bit about their Christmas story.
Thank you Parker and Charlene for taking time from your busy schedule. Especially you, Charlene. As a professional personal shopper, this is definitely your most hectic time of year.
Carli: Thank you for inviting us, Samantha. And please…call me Carli.
Parker: (grins at Carli) She's so well organized that even with this being her busy season she's able to make time in her schedule. As for me, I'm happy to tackle any questions you want to throw my way.
Carli: You're right about this being my busy time. In addition to individuals, I have several corporate clients whose shopping lists include employees and business associates in addition to family and friends.
If I'm not mistaken, wasn't Parker one of those corporate clients?
Parker: I still am. In fact, that's how we met. Carli had been doing all my shopping, both personal and business, for five years. It had become a very comfortable and efficient working relationship. We had also become friends during that time. Then one day, everything changed.
That sounds ominous. What happened?
Carli: We had our Christmas shopping meeting, just like every year—the Friday before Thanksgiving. I give him a list of everyone I purchased a gift for on his behalf the previous Christmas, what I bought and how much it cost. The process was always the same. He would go over the list, add and delete names and approve a price range for each individual. Only this time it was different…very different. This year he hit me with a real shock that changed everything.
That's a very dramatic statement.
Parker: (laughs) It wasn't really all that dramatic. I told Carli I had gotten divorced the previous April and my ex-wife, all her family, and all her friends were off the list.
Carli: I have to admit…once I got over the shock, I was elated. (shoots a sly sideways glance at Parker) I had secretly lusted after this man the entire five years we had worked together, but he was married which made him off limits. Besides, he had never done or said anything improper that would indicate his marriage was in trouble or that he had any interest in me beyond our professional relationship. Then suddenly he was available, but second thoughts reminded me he was a client. I had always believed that it wasn't wise to mix business with personal, to possibly jeopardize an excellent working relationship for what could be a momentary mistake.
Parker: My marriage had fallen apart a year before I finally took that big step of getting a divorce. I had trouble coming to terms with what I had originally perceived as my failure. And during that year my thoughts had often gravitated to Carli, thoughts far removed from anything connected to business. So, I turned our Christmas shopping meeting into lunch…
Carli: Which resumed that evening as dinner…
Parker: Which unexpectedly exploded into one hell of a night! But the cool clear light of dawn also brought its share of doubts and concerns. The thought of jumping into a relationship, of once again becoming emotionally involved, frightened me big time. Commitment to another relationship was definitely not on my agenda. Been there…done that…was very leery about trying it again.
Carli: Everything happened so quickly. I didn't know which way to turn or what to do. I was so confused about what was happening between us. Could I be content with the no-strings-attached situation Parker seemed to prefer? I had been divorced for seven years and 'never again' for a serious commitment had been the constant in my life. But with the passage of time and the prospect of developing something real with Parker, the concept of 'never again' began to rapidly slip from priority to no longer occupying an important place in my life.
It sounds as if the two of you definitely had some problems to work out.
Carli: Smooth sailing it was NOT. For a while, I thought it was over as soon as it began. My pragmatic side also feared that I might have lost my best client.
Parker: And I have to admit that I didn't help matters. Everything seemed to be moving too quickly and I didn't know how to handle it.
I'm sure there are many couples who have had to deal with these same issues. Could you share with us how you handled it?
Carli: We certainly could, but…
Parker: We won't.
What? You're going to leave us hanging? Or worse yet, let us think that everything suddenly and miraculously turned out okay?
Parker: Nothing is that easy. You don't wake up and discover that there are no longer any problems.
Exactly. So…what happened?
Carli: (smiles) I'd love to tell you, but…
Parker: (nods his head in agreement) You'll need to read the book.
That's all you're going to tell me?
Parker: (makes an exaggerated show of looking at his watch) Oh no! I think we're out of time. (laughs)
Well, I guess there's nothing left to say except thank you, Parker and Carli, for being with us.
OPEN IN PRIVATE an erotic Christmas romance by Samantha Gentry from The Wilder Roses (the Scarlet Rose line of erotic romance at The Wild Rose Press) http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/wildcatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=182&products_id=955
Also available at Amazon for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook as well as other online vendors of eBooks.
As a personal shopper, Charlene Vance values her professional association with long time client Parker Simmons. But at the meeting to discuss the list for this year's Christmas purchases, she learns that Parker is divorced and the ex-wife is off his list. When lunch leads to dessert between the sheets, Charlene is eager to move their relationship beyond good business and incredible sex.
Parker Simmons doesn't want anything more permanent than what's on the menu for today. But Charlene's enthusiasm to experiment in bed satisfies his darker appetites and suddenly he's craving more. Parker might need her help with holiday gift ideas but he's got his own shopping agenda. On his list? Gifts only for Charlene—to open in private.
PG-EXCERPT #1: (publisher's excerpt)
"Everything looks so good. I think I'll have the shrimp salad." Carli closed her menu and set it on the table.
Everything looks good to me, too, and I don't mean the food. "I'm going to have the chicken carbonara…and a glass of wine with my lunch. Would you join me?"
"Well, I usually don't drink during business meetings, but yes," she extended a sparkling smile, "I'd like that. A chardonnay."
He placed their lunch order with the waiter, then returned his attention to her. "We've had a very nice business relationship for five years. You obviously know a lot about me from doing my shopping, but I don't really know that much about you personally, other than you have great taste, are very intelligent, and have a good sense of humor."
The waiter arrived with the bottle of wine Parker had ordered. After opening the bottle, he poured each of them a glass, put the bottle in the ice bucket, and left.
Parker raised his glass toward Carli in a toast. "Here's to another successful Christmas holiday season." He tilted his head and raised a questioning eyebrow. "And perhaps to an even closer working relationship?" Maybe something hot and naked in a big bed?
"I'd like that, too."
Be sure to check out my website for more excerpts from OPEN IN PRIVATE and information about my other books. www.samanthagentry.com