5 Favorite Holiday Traditions
By Christy English
In How To Seduce A Scot, Alexander and Catherine bridge the gap between the traditions of their homelands, between Highlander and Englishwoman, when they fall in love. Like most romantic heroes, Alexander has no intention of marrying when the book begins, and it takes him awhile to face the fact that he has met his match in the sweet, seemingly demure Catherine. But after she puts him in his place a time or two, he comes to see that loving a difficult woman can be a lot of fun, if she's the right woman. Which happily for both of them, Catherine is.
Catherine's major qualm about Alexander is that he is clearly NOT a marrying man. Catherine, though sweet, is no push over, and she does not wait around for Alexander to come to his senses. She works very hard to make herself like Lord Farleigh, a kind Englishman who wants to marry within the Season.
Catherine's second concern about being courted by Alexander is that, though her mother discovers that he is quite wealthy, he is a foreigner. She does not want to move her mother and sister to the Highlands, even if Alexander did agree to marry her. As her mother puts it, "Oh no! We would freeze!"
But beyond the usual romantic misunderstandings and troubles, Catherine and Alexander come from very different backgrounds. He is from the Highlands of Scotland, north of Aberdeen and she is from the county of Devon, far south of London. Their very different homelands lead to different ways of life. During their married life, Catherine most likely will adopt a great deal of Highland culture as her own, for a woman takes on her husband's clan in a Highland marriage.
While Catherine's father is dead and she is left with only her mother and her little sister, Alexander comes from a large family of four boys and one girl, and both of his parents are still living. As a Scot, Christmas is celebrated as a religious holiday, but the larger celebration falls on the New Year, the holiday called Hogmany. Scots tend to celebrate this holiday with joy as looking toward the future, to the New Year, and new beginnings.
As a woman from England in 1820, Catherine would not celebrate Christmas as we do today. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were not born yet, so the tradition of the Christmas tree had not come to England. Small gifts of oranges and nuts might be given to children, and small gifts were exchanged among adults as well as given to household servants, but stockings were not yet hung for St Nicholas to leave presents.
Personally, I adore Christmas and all its trappings. My five favorite holiday traditions involve gifts, decorating, and of course, food.
Tradition 1: Making Chocolate Fudge
For years I have made fudge for friends, and last year my family came to visit me in the mountains of North Carolina, and I made fudge for them. I learned to make fudge from my mother, so it was fun to be able to make it for her for a change. In 1820, wealthy women made candy for their families and as special gifts for friends. As Alexander's wife, with the wealth to afford such extravagance, Catherine might very well spend the time and money making sugared fruit and comfits for gifts.
Tradition #2: Decorating a Tree
One of my fondest memories from childhood is decorating the family tree the day after Thanksgiving. Now that I have my own home, I am always traveling for Christmas itself, so I have started decorating the front porch of my house with lights, a tree, and of course, cardinal birds (I have a passion for birds). Sadly, neither Catherine or Alexander would have a tree, as I mentioned, but in England, evergreen boughs were brought inside as decoration with ribbons and fruit for the Christmas season.
Tradition #3: A Candle in the Window
This tradition started in France, where a candle was placed in a window on Christmas Eve so that the Christ Child could find the house and bless it. I continue this tradition today, but I put the candle in the window the same day I put up my tree. Maybe the Christ Child will bless my house every day of the season. No fire hazard, though...my candle is electric. Since neither Catherine nor Alexander were French, they would not have done this.
Tradition #4: Poinsettias
I always buy red poinsettias for my house. I love their cheerful color and they make me feel festive. I can get them from a local grower, which makes them even more special. Alexander and Catherine would have had holly and mistletoe in their home, but not poinsettias, as they did not come to Europe from Mexico until the 1830's.
Tradition #5: Hot Cheese Dip
Every Christmas Eve, I make hot cheese dip with spicy tomatoes in it for my family. We hang out and eat Doritos and cheese dip and visit. We don't live close anymore, so it's an even more precious tradition than it was when we started it years ago. Catherine and Alexander eat cheese, but I do not think it would have occurred to them to melt it, unless perhaps on toast. And the Mexican flavoring would definitely NOT have been a part of their holiday fun.