At Christmas in Regency England, there weren’t many Christmas trees, since that was a German custom that caught on later and tended to be practiced mostly by the wealthy until the Victorian age. Nor were there stockings “hung by the chimney with care,” since that was a Dutch custom popularized in the United States before being brought to England.
But most Regency England households did have one Christmas decoration in common: the kissing bough, a ball of evergreens finished off with ribbon and sprigs of mistletoe. They were not difficult to make—all that was needed was a round wire frame (or just the boughs themselves worked into a ball shape), festive ribbon, and winter greens.
The five evergreens considered traditional were rosemary, holly, laurel, bay laurel, and mistletoe. The greens would be woven around and in and out of the frame, a fancy bow attached to the hanger at the top, and then sprigs of mistletoe hung from the bottom of the frame. If the residents wanted something fancier, they might include apples or candles or even paper flowers (although not candles and paper flowers, I would imagine).
During the nineteenth century, the custom was that every time a gentleman kissed a lady or a footman kissed a maid (the boughs were often hung in the kitchen and servant hall as well), he had to remove one of the mistletoe berries. Once the berries were gone, no more kissing (or perhaps no more kissing beneath that particular bough?) was allowed.
The boughs had to be put together quickly, however. Superstition dictated that evergreens for Christmas couldn’t be brought into the house any earlier than Christmas Eve (the same was true for the Yule log). Fortunately, they could stay up until Twelfth Night (Epiphany). But then they had to be burned or risk bad luck for the year!
SABRINA JEFFRIES is The New York Times best-selling author of more than fifty novels and works of short fiction (some written under the pseudonyms Deborah Martin and Deborah Nicholas). Her writing has been published in more than twenty‑one languages, and there are over nine million copies of her books in print. A five‑time RITA Award finalist, Jeffries has won the Holt Medallion Award, the Maggie, and the Booksellers’ Best Award. After earning her Ph.D. in English Literature from Tulane University, she chose writing over academics, and now her historical romances routinely land on The New York Times and USA Today best-seller lists. Sabrina lives in North Carolina with her husband and adult son, who has inspired her to actively champion the cause of autistic children. Visit her online at SabrinaJeffries.com.
About A Yuletide Kiss
The reigning queens of Regency Romance return with another delightful Christmas collection of three sparkling tales, as stranded travelers find merriment, mistletoe, and holiday romance awaiting at a quaint country inn. . .
WHEN WE FINALLY KISS GOOD NIGHT by Sabrina Jeffries
When Flora Younger first met Konrad Juncker, she thought she’d found her match, only to have her hopes dashed. Konrad is now a famous playwright whose plays Flora has secretly panned in reviews. But a chance meeting in a secluded inn may help them rewrite this star-crossed romance.
THE UNEXPECTED GIFT by Madeline Hunter
Jenna Waverly has closed her inn, anticipating a blissfully quiet Christmas, until a snowstorm brings the first of several strangers to her property. Lucas Avonwood, as charming as he is secretive, is on a mission to track down a scoundrel, but the inn’s lovely owner is giving him a more compelling reason to stay.
WHEN STRANGERS MEET by Mary Jo Putney
Kate Mcleod is shocked to find that her fellow guest in the snowbound inn is the dashing soldier who may or may not be her husband. Daniel Faringdon barely remembers that long-ago night when he rescued her from disaster, but the desire they discover now will be impossible to forget, or to ignore.