Tis the Season of … Saturnalia

Ww stonehenge sunrise day of winter solstice

Among other things, this happens on the Solstice

Joanna here, thinking about the Solstice. It’s the 21st of December this year.

The Solstice can show up anytime between 20th December and the 23rd because the calendar in our cell phone or hanging on the wall does not fit neatly into astronomical reality.
Many of us have trouble adjusting to reality.

Thing is, the calendar counts the year as 365 days, even. The universe thinks it’s 365.256 days.

These thing do not match and no amount of refreshing your computer screen is going to change this. We are all playthings in the hands of the gods.

I suppose you could take a post-it note a quarter the size of one of the calendar days and let it dangle off the end of December. That would be more accurate.

Ww sagittaius

Sagittarius, looking pretty cool

Anyhow, that’s why the date of the Solstice changes from year to year.

This year the shortest, darkest day of the year, the Solstice, falls on a Monday.

After all, it’s 2020.

On the Solstice the sun will move into Sagittarius. You’d say into the House of Sagittarius, if you think of the Zodiac signs as living in fancy houses up in the sky, which I am perfectly willing to do.

Ww wagittarius stars

The stars of Sagittarius without the imagination. Less cool.


You’d think this means you can look up into the night sky and get a really good view of the constellation Sagittarius, wouldn’t you?

Au contraire, as the French would say.

When the sun is in Sagittarius it means it’s sitting on top of Sagittarius. You’d have to look directly through the sun to see the constellation. Sagittarius won’t be up at night on the 21st. It’s going to be high in the sky at noon, hiding in the light.


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Christmas snippets

Anne here, starting something a little bit different. We're putting up Sunday posts containing an excerpt from our stories in the Last Chance Christmas Ball — one each Sunday in the lead-up to Christmas. Last ChanceXmasBall

The anthology was such a fun—and sometimes tricky— thing to do. We wenches had written a Christmas anthology before with a linking theme, but for this one we decided all the stories would be linked to an event, based around an annual Christmas ball, held by Lady Holbourne known as Lady Holly to her friends.

The emails flew back and forth as we tossed around ideas, made plans and thrashed out the details of the setting. Some of us wrote interweaving stories, some of us made our stories linked, but separate, several of us had our people not actually make it to the ball. But we all had such fun doing it, we wanted to share it again.

Here's the blurb for the collection:  Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Abbey is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year’s most festive—and romantic—holiday. For at the top of each guest’s wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year…

My story is called Mistletoe Kisses, and it's about Allie Fenton, a young woman who, for various reasons, has never been able to attend a ball. Now orphaned and on the shelf, she's planning to become a teacher at a girl's seminary in Bath. But first there's her last Christmas at home and then, Lady Holly's famous annual Christmas ball. 

Here's a short excerpt:

"You'll come to my Christmas ball, then," Lady Holly told her. "Don't bother trying to think up any excuses — you're coming and that's that. Your year of mourning will be up, and you have no reason to stay here moldering away when I've gathered an excellent range of eligible gentlemen for your perusal."

Allie laughed. "For my perusal? As if I'm going shopping?"

"That's exactly what you'll be doing."

"Don't the gentlemen have any say in it?"

The old lady sniffed. "Women have been making men believe they have a choice for generations. Now don't be frivolous, Allie — I am determined to give you one last chance to find a husband before you go off and bury yourself in this, this school of yours." She pronounced 'school' as if she really meant 'zoo.'

Allie smiled. For all her caustic tone, Lady Holly had a very kind heart. "I would love to attend your ball, Lady Holly. . . "

The old lady frowned. "I hear a 'but' coming."

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Erotic Books of the Regency

Joanna here, taking about dirty books available in the Regency because some of you have gray weather outside and you may need cheering up.

What it is … I’m going to argue that our rakish heroes would have read erotic books. It’s human. It’s manly. It would help make them good lovers.


A hero reading


I think some of my favorite Regency heroines did the reading, too.

Perhaps not my own characters, who seem to have tough childhoods for some reason,
ut those dashing, brave and wise women who live on my Keeper Shelf. I think they read erotic books.

I see a heroine at ten or twelve, creeping into the library and sneaking a peek at the Song of Songs. They’ve heard about it . . . Maybe it’s the heroine and a few choice friends. Maybe they’re giggling. Maybe just puzzled.

I picture them reading,

“I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me.
Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field;
let us lodge in the villages.
Let us get up early to the vineyards;
let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth:
there will I give thee my love.”

The heroine looks over at Sukey the maid and Jenny who lives in the house next door and says plaintively, “But what does that mean?”

“It’s symbolic,” Jenny says.


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And the Christmas Tree Comes Down

Yesterday was Twelfth Night, the last of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. It's gone and taken with it the Twelve Drummers Creche 7Drumming, Eleven Pipers Piping and the rest of that leaping, dancing, twittering lot. If you went in for Twelfth Night festivities — the way my Regency folks probably did — you'd be sleeping off a surfeit the food and drink today

We've come to the feast of Epiphany.

In my house, this is the day we take all the Christmas stuff down.

Christmas tree 2014 4I had a small, small Christmas tree this year. Green branches in various places, but a small tree. Many beautiful presents from friends and family. Much love. But not so much decoration of the house.  (The Kid had all four wisdom teeth out two days before Christmas so I was mostly figuring out how to be festive with no solid foods.)

Today I took the little tree down and de-decorated it. I will go out in the next couple days and plant it in a specially wondrous spot at the edge of the woods. For me, here at the beginning of the year, this is re-creation and new committment and planting a tree goes with that.
3 kings
In other news, Epiphany is the day the Magi show up, bearing gifts.  Melchior, 118px-07._Camel_Profile,_near_Silverton,_NSW,_07.07.2007Caspar, and Balthazar bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Somehow I always think of camels on this date. They're bad-tempered, if you were wondering, and they bite.

So … when do you put up your Christmas tree and when do you take it down? And, like, why?

What the Animals Got for Christmas

Cat in chair smallI don't forget the animals at Christmas. They may not know what's going on, but they know it involves food.

If I left them out of the festivities, the dog would gaze at me sadly, wondering how she'd failed me. What she'd done wrong.  
The cat would stomp over and bite my ankles. Mandy with toys 2

So they both got finely chopped chicken served to them in a lordly dish with much crooning and praise.

Up there's the cat in her accustomed cat-coma, sleeping off Christmas dinner, cat version.
I didn't buy her any toys. She turns her nose up at toys.

Christmas birdAnd to the right here is the dog, slightly more alert than the feline. Note the new squeaky toy. It's blue. It has eyes. And spots. And three (count 'em three!!) air bladders inside, each squeaking at a different note. The dog has a high old time playing tunes on it.

Outside is the accustomed tribute for the birds. Sunflower seeds. Only the best for my feathered friends.

The dog is grateful.

The cat, as usual, accepts my tribute.

Who knows what birds feel?