Cardinal Birds and the Christmas Connection

Of all the Christmas symbols, one that has long puzzled yet charmed me is a pretty little bird we call the Cardinal.

Originally, I believed that the association between Cardinals and Christmas was the way their scarlet feathers add a beautiful burst of color against a mostly gray or white winter landscape.

However, upon further research, (I am pretty nerdy, you know) I discovered that while these are both true, there are other, albeit mostly modern connections between Christmas and the Cardinal. 

Red evolved into a universally-recognized color for Christmas as a symbol of the blood of Christ which He shed to redeem all of mankind. The cardinal’s vibrant crimson is a lovely reminder to focus on our faith in His atonement and the hope and peace that it brings.  To quote Bronners Christmas Wonderland, 25 Christmas Lane, Frankenmuth, Michigan, even a “glimpse of this brilliant bird brings cheer, hope and inspiration on a gray, wintry day.” In addition, unlike most northern birds, Cardinals don’t migrate south for the winter, so they stay home year round making them one of the few types of birds one might see during the Christmas season.

So, somewhere in the not-so-distant past, the Cardinal was christened a Christmas bird. Today, the cardinal represents constancy no matter the season like the constancy of God’s love, and the atoning sacrifice of his Son which gives us peace and hope in this life and in the next.

Regardless, I hope glimpses of this bird with stunning red plumage has a cheering effect on you.




Think About Christmas 




The Origin of Silent Night


Riesdesel Christmas Tree

Christmas Eve 1818, marked the debut of the beloved Christmas carol, Silent Night. Father Josef Mohr composed the words in 1816 but waited until 1818 to present them to headmaster, Franz Gruber, and asked him to compose a melody for guitar and voice. Some historians believe it was a desperate measure to have music in church despite the damaged organ due to recent flooding. Other historians believe the organ was functional, but the clergy simply wanted something different for their congregation that year for their Christmas Service.

Regardless of their motive, they performed the song Stille Nacht on Christmas Eve on the guitar for church service in Nicola-Kirche in Oberndorf, Austria on December 24, 1818. It was, clearly, an unforgettable service with what has become one of the most popular carols of all time.

Silent Night is also known as “the carol that stopped the war,” at least briefly. One Christmas during World War II, German soldiers put down their guns and sang Stille Nacht to the British troops. After a stunned silence, British troops joined in, singing in English, resulting in an unofficial one-night cease fire and spontaneous celebrations between enemies. You can read more about that magical story here.

I can hardly listen to my favorite version of that song, Stille Nacht by Manheim Steamroller, without it bringing tears to my eyes. Here it is:

I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

Christmas stories to help get you into the holiday spirit




Book and gift card giveaway! My Book Cave Direct ( has a little of everything for everyone. These heart-warming Christmas stories will help get you into the holiday spirit. Check the content ratings and book descriptions, make your choices, and start reading. Remember to sign up to win the gift card, too!

Get your free Christmas and Winter-themed books here:

Merry Christmas!

A Little Christmas Music for you

Music is a huge part of Christmas for me. It just wouldn’t be as magical without all the carols. It would take an entire page to list all my favorite versions of all my favorite Christmas songs, but Carol of the Bells is near the top.

According to Wikipedia:

Carol of the Bells” is a popular Christmas carol composed by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1914[1] with lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky. The song is based on a Ukrainian folk chant called “Shchedryk“.[2] Wilhousky’s lyrics are copyrighted, although the original musical composition is not.

It was not originally intended to be a Christmas carol, but has become a holiday favorite, with dozens of variations. I love them all!

I hope you enjoy this fun video featuring the extraordinarily talented cellist from The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson, playing his version of Carol of the Bells.

Merry Christmas!

Traditional Regency Christmas

Regency Christmas traditions varied widely from region to region and even family to family. Generally, the upper classes of Regency England didn’t treat it as a special day beyond a Christmas church service and the exchange of small, mostly hand-made gifts within the family. Ordinary household items such as pen wipers and fire spills seem to have been common gifts, as well. The middle classes made a bigger event out of Christmas than their so called “betters.” Lucky them!

The reason why Christmas became so understated is largely due to Thomas Cromwell, who served as Chief Minister during the reign of King Henry VIII. Cromwell and his cronies virtually stamped out Christmas celebrations due to their pagan licentious superstition which often resulted in drunken brawls and even vandalism. Although I seldom approve of the destruction of any holiday, I can’t really blame him for his disapproval of that sort of misbehavior. Fortunately, the Restoration revived Old Christmas into a new, toned-down version of its former bawdy revelry to one of quiet worship and time together with family. During the Regency, more and more celebratory customs cropped up. I suspect many families practiced many of those customs all along secretly. Yorkshire is an area that seemed to hold on the most tightly to the Old Christmas traditions, and the did them openly when it became permissible to do so.

While researching English Christmas customs, I found journal entries and letters describing family events at the Big House, many of which I incorporated into my newest novel, Christmas Secrets. I exercised my creative license to have the local tradition include a ball at the big house, gathering greenery including a mistletoe “kissing ball,” the Yule Log, and especially carols, along with other fun aspects of the season on Christmas Eve.

Largely thanks to Queen Victoria’s husband bringing his German traditions with him to England, Victorian Christmas customs grew into the ‘traditional’ Christmas we all know and love with carolers, a wider variety of gifts and recipients, Yule logs, Christmas puddings, cards, Christmas trees, many of the carols we know and love, and so forth.

Travel in winter in England during the Regency was extremely hazardous, therefore it was rarely done. Christmas house parties had to wait until railroads made winter journeys more feasible which happened after 1840. Of course, I and every other author I have read largely ignores this, although I did make mention of people not wishing to travel far due to the weather.

A odd custom that dates back centuries is telling scary ghost stories. This age-old tradition dates so far back that I couldn’t find its origin. Aside from the traditional Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, I’m happy that telling ghost stories is no longer part of our Christmas customs. Can you imagine getting a child to bed who is both excited about presents and frightened of the ghosts? Now that is scary!

What are some of your favorite Christmas customs?


Christmas Ghost Stories

by Donna Hatch

An odd Christmas custom that dates back centuries is telling scary ghost stories. Have you noticed in the popular Christmas Song, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” the verse that says: “Tales of the glories and scary ghost stories of Christmases long, long ago” and wondered over it?

Telling ghost stories is an age-old tradition that many claim cropped up in the Victorian Era, including the traditional Christmas story, A Christmas Carol. However, this custom dates farther back than that.

Washington Irving penned a novel in 1819 called  The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The hero in the story visits friends in an English country house during Christmas season in a section entitled Old Christmas. While visiting Bracebridge Hall, our hero basks in the hospitality of the squire and a traditional English Christmas, which includes telling scary “winter tales.” Winter tales have long included tales of ghosts, witches, monsters, and other creatures of darkness.

In A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof the author, Roger Clarke, tells of a popular story claiming that shepherds saw ghostly civil war soldiers battling in the skies just before Christmas 1642.

Even earlier, the Bard, William Shakespeare, penned a collection of scary stories entitled Winter Tales.” This romance weaves a tale of tangled identities and apparent death and revival. This suggests that telling weird or bizarre stories whilst gathered around a winter’s evening fire was a wide-spread tradition long before the Bard’s time.

A predecessor of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe wrote a play entitled The Jew of Malta  in 1589 in which a character Barnabus states:

Now I remember those old women’s words,
Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales,
And speak of spirits and ghosts that glide by night

Since traditions such as this have roots in pagan practices dating back to medieval times, I assume winter tales including ghost stories have been a Christmas tradition since the days of cloak and dagger. But at the very least, the practice of telling ghost stories at Christmas has been in practice since the 1500s.

However, I’m happy that telling ghost stories, except for watching the movie or reading the book, A Christmas Carol, is no longer a major part of American Christmas customs. Can you imagine getting a child to bed who is both excited about presents and frightened of ghosts? Now that is scary!

Still, this practice of telling ghost stories is a plot point that works well for my Christmas novel, A Christmas Secret.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; to finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl with an impeccable reputation, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.

Christmas Secrets released November 9, 2017 and you can download it to read instantly here

 on Kindle!


Christmas Ghost Stories: The Ghost of Christmas Past Goes Further Back Than You Might Realize

Eat, Read, and Live Like Jane Austen 

                   Castle Comb, photo by Olivier Collet

by Guest blogger Jane Sandwood

Tea time is an important English tradition. It was a big part of life during the Regency period and is still valued today. If you love Jane Austen, you might be curious as to what her typical dining habits were – as the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Combine your love of tea time and sweet treats with your love of Jane Austen books, and immerse yourself into the traditions of the time. You’ll make your next book club meeting a sweet affair. 

The Regency period was focused on enjoying a range of sugary treats, but this wasn’t just because people in the era had a sweet tooth – it was because sugar played an important part in the country’s development so it was available to everyone. Sugar even featured in Austen’s novel “Mansfield Park” in which one of the characters, Sir Thomas Bertram, is a sugar baron. 

Here are some treats that Jane Austen and others would have loved during the Regency period. 

Honey Cake 
Breakfast during the Regency era would have been based around cakes, which sounds wonderful. A favourite choice was honey cake, perhaps because of its simplicity. You can make a delicious honey cake with just three ingredients: eggs, honey, and spelt flour. You could even add spices to the cake, which were quite popular during the period, such as saffron and ground ginger. Be sure to serve the cake with tea and hot chocolate, which were both typical beverages to be enjoyed with breakfast during the era.

Famous Bath Buns. My friend’s hand is nearby to show how big the buns are.

Bath Buns 
If you want to feel closer to Jane Austen while reading her works, eat bath buns. These were one of her preferred treats. Bath buns are sweet rolls made from dough with sugar sprinkled on top. There are different varieties, such as buns with candied fruit peel or raisins inside them, which makes them sound a bit like hot cross buns. You can make delicious bath buns with milk, flour, dried yeast, sugar, butter, and caraway seeds which were also popular during the Regency era. In fact, these seeds that taste like anise were also used in recipes for breath fresheners.

Bakewell Tarts

Tarts photo by Hisu Lee

These tarts are said to have been invented at The Rutland Arms in Bakewell, a hotel in which Jane Austen stayed in 1811 and where she wrote “Pride and Prejudice.” These tarts were a custom during the Regency period – and are still delicious today. Made with shortbread pastry, and layers of jam, flaked almonds, and frangipane, they’re sure to be loved by your guests. You can make an easy Bakewell tart recipe in half an hour.

Try to imagine Jane Austen penning her most famous novel while baking and feasting on these tarts. Who knows? They might inspire you to write a cookbook or work of fiction set during the period…
You know that reading Jane Austen’s novels is a treat itself, but adding the pleasure of eating Regency desserts which the novelist enjoyed during her life is even more enjoyable. Escape modern life with some Regency treats and your beloved copy of “Pride and Prejudice.” It’s a double pleasure to savour.