Friday, December 13, 2013

An Old-fashioned Christmas

~by Aileen Fish

I admit it - I'm old-fashioned. I love spending the holidays with family, as many generations as we can gather, and often friends, in-laws and roommates, depending on who is hosting the gathering that year. Our traditions are pretty basic these days, since the group seems to get larger each year. We open gifts either from youngest to oldest or the other way around. Years ago when my girls were little, my sister-in-law (who was eleven years older than my brother) insisted she was twenty-one, so each year she would be in a different spot as the rest of us aged.

That worked until my oldest was five or six and remembered the year before. After that, Sis had to start aging like the rest of us. We lost her four years ago, but every year I always pause when we're trying to determine who goes next and I want to slip her into the early-twenties crowd.

The most important part of the holiday for me is family, and we juggle our schedules each year to suit everyone's availability, and manage to squeeze as many hours together out of the day as we can. Since I write historical romance, I spent a lot of time researching how the English celebrated Christmas in Jane Austen's time. We think of Scrooge and Santa Claus, but they both cam later in Victorian England. Queen Victoria is said to have brought the Christmas tree tradition to England. So, how did Jane Austen celebrate?

From her letters we've found it was a quiet celebration, church in the morning and a special dinner later. Things became more festive the next day, Boxing Day, when gifts were given to the servants and employees on an estate. Some families held onto baking and decorating traditions like those I used in Helena's Christmas Beau, while others were more like Duncan in that story and felt those ways were old-fashioned.

Old-fashioned. Baking together; sharing a special meal with family, and finding a small gift, perhaps, for the people important to you. Letting them know they are loved, and enjoying the time spent with them.

Yes, the more I read about old-fashioned Christmases, the more certain I became. I am old-fashioned, and will always cling to those aspects of the holiday.

Aileen Fish, author of The Bridgethorpe Brides series, write contemporary and historical romance. She is also an avid quilter and auto racing fan who finds there aren't enough hours in a day/week/lifetime to stay up with her "to do" list. There is always another quilt or story begging to steal away attention from the others. When she has a spare moment she enjoys spending time with her two daughters and their families, and her fairy princess granddaughter.

Stay up to date with book releases at her website or on Facebook


  1. I love learning about others' Christmas traditions and how they evolved over the years. You have a sweet and funny Christmas memory of your sister for your family to cherish. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I find the older I get the less Christmassy I become, especially with family moving overseas... we're all split up! It's so interesting hearing the different ways people spend Christmas.

  3. Patricia, you're right, it's a very special memory.

    Joanne, I spent a few years in a different state and missed out on the holidays. I was less into the season then, too.

  4. Thanks for sharing your tradition, Aileen! We recently started a new tradition in our family: we sponsor someone in need and it always brings great joy to all of us to remember those less fortunate. This year was my turn and we were all crying by the time the exchange was finished.

  5. Fascinating, Aileen. And of course we still celebrate Boxing Day in the UK, although not in quite the same way. When I was young it was the day for foxhunting. The Boxing Day meet was one of the most important of the year. Now it seems to be the day the sales start in the shops. For my family, Christmas is very much about family as it is for you.

  6. Laura, what a wonderful idea! The joy is multiplied immensely.

    Helen, we have the after Christmas sales madness here, too. And our San Joaquin kit foxes are protected, so no hunting here. I should look into the history of the holiday here and see when it began to break away from its English roots.

  7. Thank you for sharing, Aileen. I love Christmas and the different ways people spend them, whether it is now, or back in Jane Austen's time. What type of auto racing do you like? I watch all of the NASCAR races and try to watch as much Indy racing as my schedule allows. Our family keeps getting smaller and further apart in distance as time goes by. Fortunately, our daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters only live a little over an hour away from our home. We will be there on Christmas and the day after. I love watching the joy of children on Christmas day. We do spoil them, but love every minute of it. There is nothing like grandchildren! Merry Christmas to you and all the other authors and friends at Sweet Romance Reads.

  8. I love the idea of an old-fashioned Christmas. It seems the more commercialized things become, the more we lose touch with the core values of the celebration like spending time with family: baking, sharing a meal, playing games and making memories together. We'd all do well to remember these simpler things as they truly are what make the holiday special. Thanks Aileen, for helping to remind us all. Merry Christmas!

  9. Marjorie, I also watch NASCAR and Indycar, and try to catch most of the NHRA races. I also keep up with USAC as much as possible through the internet.

    Ginny, the simpler things are the best, aren't they?

  10. Aileen, I'm with you about an old-fashioned Christmas.