Christmas Traditions: Christmas Mass

This is the altar at the Church my great-grandfather helped build, and where my grandfather lectured and my dad serves as parish council president. We attend Mass here every Christmas.

This is sixth in a series of 12 posts on historical Christmas traditions. Source: The Dramatic Liturgy of Anglo-Saxon England by M. Bradford Bedingfield. 

Originally, there were three different Christmas Masses that made up the celebration of Christmas, which is why you will see “Midnight Mass,” “Mass at Dawn” and “Christmas Day Mass” celebrated at different times at many Christian/Catholic churches. While today we only attend one of those Masses, early Christians attended all three. Midnight Mass served pretty much the same thematic purpose as Advent does today (Advent as we know it can about the year 700…more on that later) as a time of looking forward to the coming of the Messiah as the light out of darkness. Mass at Dawn celebrates Christ coming into the world and likens him to the Sun. It is also the delivery of the message of the angels to the shepherds and hence, all people. Because in the Holy Land this Mass ended with a procession from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, Masses in other places ended with a procession into the crypt of the church. In this way, the people could be seen as rising from the darkness of death into light when they emerged for Christmas Day Mass, which focused on the birth of Jesus. These themes are still present in the three Masses of Christmas today.

What are your holiday religious traditions? (If you have any.)

I always go to Christmas Eve Mass, which is special to me, with my parents and sometimes grandparents.

Christmas Traditions: Stockings (270-343 AD)

My mantle last year.

This is fifth in a series of 12 posts on historical Christmas traditions. I didn’t note my sources, but please trust I did verify the information.

Did you know that hanging your stockings by the chimney with care actually ties into the story of St. Nicholas? Legend says the original St. Nicholas, a bishop in Myra, which was part of the Holy Roman Empire, was known for his generosity to the poor. One day, he found out about an impoverished widower who could not afford to provide a dowry for his three daughters, who likely would be forced into prostitution. Worried about the girls, but not wanting witnesses, he waited until dark and either tossed a bag of gold through the window for three nights (one for each daughter) or dropped some gold coins down the chimney, which landed in the girl’s stockings which were hung by the fireplace to dry. That is why we fill ours with gifts.

Do you celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day and/or do stockings by the fire?

St. Nick’s day is my name day, and to this day my parents still give me a stocking on December 6. And I’m almost 40! I put up stockings but my family stopped filling them years ago.

Christmas Traditions: Yule Log

This is my advent wreath. It’s not exactly log shaped, but I feel like it has the spirit.

This is fourth in a series of 12 posts on historical Christmas traditions. I didn’t note my sources, but please trust I did verify the information.

Many people burn a Yule log (or at least watch one burning on TV while listening to Christmas music) without knowing its origins. It has its beginnings in Germanic paganism practiced in areas like Scandinavia and Germany. It ties in with the pagan origins of the Christmas tree, which we’ll discuss later. The tradition began using a whole tree, which was ritually cut and brought indoors with great ceremony. The end would be placed in the hearth fire with the rest of the tree in the room. The remnants of last year’s log would be used to light the tree and would be added to the fire each day.

Different kinds of wood are used in different countries. Pine is traditional in Germany, while the English like their oak (which is plentiful there and ties back to Druid belief that oak is sacred). In Scotland, they use birch and in France they use cherry wood sprinkled with wine before it is burned so that it smells good when it is lit.

In the 1600s, the Yule log even transformed into a type of rolled cake that was made popular by Parisian bakers in the 1800s. They may taste good, but take it from me, they are difficult to bake.

Yule log cake. Image purchased from Adobe Stock.

Have you ever lit a Yule log? How about baked the eponymous cake?

I’m scared of fire (plus I have cats and cats like to try to light themselves on fire) so I have an advent wreath that kind of resembles a Yule log. I also try every few years to bake a Yule log cake, but always end up with a cake that falls apart rather than rolls.

Christmas Traditions: Mistletoe

Purchased from Adobe Stock

This is third in a series of 12 posts on historical Christmas traditions. I didn’t note my sources, but please trust I did verify the information.

We can thank the Celts this one, who revered mistletoe for its healing and fertility properties and believed it could bring luck and ward off evil. It grows at the top of many trees, including the Celts’ beloved apple and sacred oak. (It also is a symbol of peace and could be used to broker a truce during war.)

Some say the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe began with the Greeks, who also held it sacred, while others say we do it because the Norse associated it with love and friendship (it was sacred to the goddess Freya). I’ve also seen claims that the tradition really dates to the Victorian era and was once believed to be a promise of marriage.

Christmas Traditions: December 25 – Birth of Mithras (1-4th century AD)

Mithras. Source: Wikimedia Commons

This is second in a series of 12 posts on historical Christmas traditions. I didn’t note my sources, but please trust I did verify the information.

About the time Jesus was born, the Romans were big into worshiping a god named Mithras in a highly elaborate cult. Mithras began as a Persian Zoroastrian god of oaths, but was assimilated by the Romans because of his popularity with soldiers. Some researchers suggest he may have been the god of choice of a pagan, Romano-Celtic King Arthur. Like Jesus, Mithras was said to have been born on December 25 and was as a reconciler between the forces of good and evil who was buried in a tomb and rose from the dead after three days. Like the Celtic gods celebrated at Yule, he was a child of the sun. Sources differ over whether or not Mithras became ever human like Jesus (and some Greek gods) did. Mithraism is sometimes viewed as a rival of early Christianity.

Have you ever heard of Mithras?

I hadn’t until I started researching what religion a pagan Arthur might have followed, and boom, there you go.

Christmas Traditions: December 25 – Winter Solstice

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Back in November when we launched the anthology Tangled Lights and Silent Nights, we had a Facebook Party. For my hour, I shared a bunch of short posts about historical Christmas traditions. So for the next 12 days as we count down toward Christmas, I’d like to share one with you each day.  A few are repeats of really old posts I’ve done here, but most of you weren’t around for the originals, so they will be new to you. Hope you enjoy!

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Did you know Jesus isn’t the only deity believed to be born on December 25? In fact, that date (or close to it) has been considered sacred for millennia.

The Winter Solstice (December 21-23 depending on the year) marks the longest night of the year.  In the Celtic world (and in some modern neo-paganism today), Yule marks the rebirth of the god who died at Samhain (October 31) on the Celtic calendar. This child of light (Lugh, Mabon or various other gods) is symbolized by the sun, which will continue to gain strength until the Summer Solstice. In some versions of Celtic mythology, the young god is kidnapped or stolen away in precarious circumstances, much like the Christian story of the flight into Egypt and the Arthurian tale of Arthur’s fostering by Sir Ector at Merlin’s command. Many sites associated with the Druids, such as Newgrange and Stonehenge, are aligned to the Winter Solstice sunrise or sunset.

Have you ever celebrated the Solstice?

I do every year. I use it as an extension of Christmas and meditate on both the cold and dormancy of the winter (and how we should use it as a fallow time as well) and on the divine child and the miracle of his conception and birth.

Updates: Awards, Sales and 2019 Speaking Events

One of the ads I will be running December 16-26.

A quick update before we start with a series of blog posts on Christmas traditions tomorrow:

Awards
Mistress of Legend is a semi-finalist in the Chaucer Awards for historical fiction pre-1700. We will find out the final results in April.

There is another award I know about, but can’t announce yet…

Sales
Madame Presidentess got an international BookBub ad for December 21 to celebrate its film option, so it will be on sale all over the world December 17-26 for only $0.99 in ebook. (Don’t forget that it is available in audio and print as well!)

2019 Events
2019 is shaping up to be a busy year. Here is my schedule so far:

Book Signing with Missouri Romance Writers of America
February 9, 7 p.m.
The Novel Neighbor
7905 Big Bend Blvd. 
Webster Groves, MO 63119

Presentation: Victoria Woodhull: Forgotten by History
Monday, March 4, 7 p.m.
Eureka Hills Branch Library
156 Eureka Towne Ctr
Eureka, MO 63025

IBPA Publishing University
April 4-6
Chicago, Illinois

Historical Novel Society Conference
June 20-22
National Harbor, Maryland
Nicole will be presenting three times during the Reader’s Festival on June 22:

  1. 1:15-2:15 p.m. – Dynamic Duos: Husbands and Wives Who Worked Together During the Women’s Suffrage Movement (presenting with Hope Tarr)
  2. Time TBA – THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN’: Historical Fiction Joins the Protest March (pannel with Glen Craney, Diane McPhail, and Charles Degelman)
  3. Time TBA – GASLAMPS, GHOSTS, AND TROPES: Writing the Neo-Gothic Novel (panel with Kris Waldherr, Leanna Renee Hieber and Hester Fox)

Novelists Inc. Conference
September 25-29
Tradewinds Resort
St. Petersburg, FL

Biographical historical fiction of Victoria Woodhull

  • First place, Women’s US History category, 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction
  • Honorable Mention – Reader’s Favorite Book Awards, Fiction – Historical Personage category
  • Finalist – Eric Hoffer Book Awards

Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books.

Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to “become ruler of her people.”

But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.

Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it’s not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they’ve so long fought to protect.

Those who support her laud “Notorious Victoria” as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, “Mrs. Satan’s” radical views on women’s rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.

This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.

Preview the book.

Purchase paperback and ebook:             Audio book:

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In stores:

Bellingham, WA – Village Books and Paper Dreams

Los Angeles, CA – The Ripped Bodice

St. Louis, MO – The Novel Neighbor

St. Charles, MO – Main Street Books

Other Awards

  • Selected for Library Journal‘s curated SELF-e Select module 
  • Awarded the Indie B.R.A.G Medallion

Praise:

“Evelina’s intriguing account of Victoria Woodhull—spiritualist, suffragette, stockbroker, and politician—deftly extols the many “firsts” of this 19th-century feminist trailblazer…Evelina moves assuredly through the many layers of Victoria’s colorful life; such potent issues as family torment, marital abuse, and female subjugation all are linked in this dramatic story of struggle.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“A fascinating story of meteoric rise from rags to riches, from subservience to achievement – based on a true story. A highly entertaining and informative read.” – Chanticleer Reviews

“Evelina does a remarkable job of using letters and articles from Victoria’s lifetime to create an engaging story. Victoria was not always easy to relate to with regard to some of her choices, but Evelina does a great job fleshing out the reasoning behind Victoria’s motivations, which made her someone easy to sympathize with. This is a well-plotted and revealing look into the life of the first woman to run for president, and a book that stays with you.” – Historical Novel Society

“Riveting… Nicole Evelina presents a realistic and fascinating account of a woman who should be recognized in the history books…Ms. Evelina is certainly a skilled storyteller and writer…This excellent book is required reading for anyone trying to understand the roots of the fight for women’s equal rights.” – Deborah Lloyd for Readers’ Favorite

“Fascinating. Victoria Woodhull was certainly a powerhouse, who for some reason was written out of the history books. If you’re looking for an engaging and fast-paced historical fiction novel about subject not often explored in the genre, be sure to check out Madame Presidentess.” – Books & Tea

“An engaging read…author Nicole Evelina’s fascinating account doesn’t spare the more sordid side of Woodhull’s life and is punctuated with events and figures from the era (e.g., Walt Whitman, Susan B. Anthony, the suffragists, et al.).” – IndieReader

“Nicole Evelina beautifully illustrates in her historical novel Madame Presidentess the major events, philosophical influences, and relationship dynamics at play in the extraordinary life of Victoria Woodhull as a significant forerunner for our generation’s feminist movement. This highly engaging story of Woodhull’s 1872 Presidential run is so timely and relevant!” -Cindy Safronoff, author of Crossing Swords: Mary Baker Eddy vs. Victoria Claflin Woodhull and the Battle for the Soul of Marriage

Formats: ebook, paperback,
Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing
ISBN: 

  • 978-0-9967632-0-2 (print)
  • 978-0-9967631-9-6 (ebook)
  • 978-0-9967632-7-1 (audio)

Victoria Woodhull Goes to Hollywood, or Madame Presidentess Optioned for TV/Movies

Me signing the contract!

These are words I never thought I would be typing, especially before being traditionally published, but… I SOLD THE OPTION TO THE TV/MOVIE RIGHTS OF MADAME PRESIDENTESS!

Yes, you read that right! With the help of TaleFlick, I sold the option to Fortitude International, a major LA-based foreign sales, finance and production company who has worked with many A-list celebrities. Here’s the official press release.

What this means is they now have the right to shop it around Hollywood or anywhere else they may have connections. There is no deal for a movie/TV show yet. But they will try their hardest to make one happen. So cross your fingers, eyes and toes, light some candles or say some prayers…whatever works for you…and wish us all well. Given that Victoria’s story is so relevant right now, I have no doubt that they will make magic happen!

PS – If you are an author and are interested in TaleFlick, use this link and it will count as a referral from me: http://taleflick.refr.cc/nicolee. You’ll get $8 off your first submission.