Holidays in the Regency
What would Jane Austen be doing this week?
If you have read The Duke Wins a Bride then you know that Annabel loves her holiday rituals because they make her feel connected to her mom.
The question is: what would Annabel or Jane Austen or any of our favorite Regency heroines or authors be doing on this day two hundred years ago?
Until recently, I confess I did not know the exact answer. But I just did my holiday research for my upcoming story, Miracle on St. James Street. This Inconvenient Brides short story will be included in the upcoming holiday anthology, The Grand Mistletoe Assembly and will reveal some of the duchess's holiday preparations.
So I now know exactly what Annabel would have been doing on November 22, 1818.
She would be making of, or more likely overseeing, the plum puddings for Christmas!
Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing."
- Chapter 3, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
What, I scratched my head, is plum pudding?
A quick search reveals it is Christmas pudding!
Good grief, I said to myself, what the heck is Christmas pudding?
More research ensued until I finally realized that plum pudding is Christmas cake. At least, in South Africa, when I was growing up, we called it Christmas cake. As children we hated the taste of this traditional festive food, but we were all very excited to claim a large piece because baked into its dense depths, we would search for the coins that Ouma (grandmother, or literal translation "old mother") had included in the batter.
So we are talking about a sweet, dried fruit cake. During the Regency, plum pudding would have been made between the 20th and 26th of November in order to give it time to age properly.
Traditionally, it included thirteen ingredients and tiny charms were baked in which would reveal the fortune of the person who found it (Aha! That's why Ouma included the coins!).
The pudding was wrapped in cloth and hung on a hook to age until it was time to present it at the end of the Christmas feast with great pomp and theatrics.
But, Nina, why was it called plum pudding?
Good question! I was perplexed about this one but it turns out dried plums, or prunes, were popular in pies in medieval times, but in the 16th and 17th centuries raisins replaced them. By the time Jane Austen would have enjoyed this tradition, plums referred to raisins or other dried fruit.
Learn more about Regency holiday traditions in the upcoming The Grand Mistletoe Assembly; six all-new tales of star-crossed lovers, fast-paced plots and timeless passion by a talented selection of historical authors.