Inspirational Stories of Love, Faith & Family Set in 19th Century America

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The Christmas Classic that Almost Wasn’t

I don’t know about you but I’m a HUGE fan of It’s a Wonderful Life. Every now and then I find someone who has never watched the movie or worse yet (she gasps in horror), doesn’t like it!

But few know the history behind the movie and how this much beloved Christmas classic was almost lost to modern fans!

Amazon.com: The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale (9781476778860): Van Doren Stern, Philip: BooksIt’s a Wonderful Life is based on the short story, The Greatest Gift, by Philip Van Doren Stern. After spending several years trying to sell his story to publishers with no success (boy, can I relate), Stern decided to have the story printed in pamphlet form and sent it as his Christmas card in 1939. Of the more than 200 cards sent that year, one found its way to RKO Pictures and into the hands of director Frank Capra who bought the rights to the story. Initially, Cary Grant had been tapped to play the beleaguered George Bailey but the project fell through and was shelved until  Capra revived it in 1945, this time with Jimmy Stewart in the starring role.

Although It’s a Wonderful Life was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor, it failed to win a single one. Not only that, but the Frank Capra film was not a favorite with the movie going public who was hungry for movies about the Allied victory in World War 2. The movie was a total box office flop and wasn’t even able to earn back its $3.7 million dollar production cost. However, of the 400 movies released in 1947, it placed 26th in box office revenue, one spot ahead of another Christmas-time favorite, Miracle on 34th Street.

So how did this classic film rise to the level of the most beloved Christmas film of all time?

In the years following its release, It’s a Wonderful Life was forgotten by moviegoers and Hollywoood alike. So much so that the film’s copyright was allowed to lapse in the 1970s. Once the movie had been declared in the public domain, network television stations jumped at the opportunity to air a Frank Capra holiday film at no cost to them.

And air it they did. In the 1970s and 80s you’d have been hard pressed to find a time when it wasn’t airing on one network or another. As film historian Leonard Maltin recalls, “we literally kept changing channels and came upon it in different stage of its progress. And you can’t not watch. You can’t turn it off.”

What followed was a rebirth of the film as it finally hit home with a new generation of Americans who could relate to the struggles of George Bailey and cheered him on as he struggled to discover the blessings in a life that seemed to have gone hopelessly off plan. In 1990, nearly 45 years after the film’s release, The Library of Congress deemed It’s a Wonderful Life as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

So there you have it. One of the most treasured Christmas classics of all time, was nearly lost forever in a Hollywood vault. I don’t know about you but our family watches this movie several times each holiday season. Even though my children are grown we gather around the TV and as the film reaches it’s denouemnt we begin shouting the lines along with Jimmy Stewart as he discovers his mouth is bleeding and ZuZu’s petals reappear in his pocket. We laugh and shout along with George as he rediscovers the gift of life and wishes every building in town a ‘Merry Christmas.’ And then we shed tears of joy as all of Bedford Falls shows up in celebration and support of the man who had touched all their lives in so many countless little ways that made a huge difference. I get goosies just thinking about it!

I think I’ll go make a cup of tea, snuggle under a blanket and watch It’s a Wonderful Life!

And in my best Jimmy Stewart imitation, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!


Giveaway**

This giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to our winner, Tarissa!

I’m giving away a hardback copy of Philip Van Doren Stern’s, The Greatest Gift. To enter, share your favorite line or scene from It’s a Wonderful Life in the comments below.

**Giveaway ends, midnight, December 23rd.

Christ is the Answer, Guest Post by Kathleen Bailey

I’m so excited to welcome fellow historical romance author, Kathleen D. Bailey, back to Romancing History. Kathleen has a timely message for us about how the Babe of Bethlehem is the answer the world needs, at Christmas, and throughout the year.

Kathleen’s newest release, The Widow’s Christmas Miracle, is part of Pelican Book Group’s Christmas Extravaganza. Here’s a little bit about her new release. Kathleen is also giving away an e-Book copy of The Widow’s Christmas Miracle and a New England Gift pack to one Romancing History reader. Give away details are at the bottom of the post.


From the Back Cover

Red Dawn’s world was shattered in a single vengeful act, an act that brought her to into the home of the enemy. She couldn’t love a white man, not after what they did to her people. Could she?

After losing a limb serving his country, Laban Jones has built a life from nothing. He’s got more than he dares ask for, but what woman would accept a one-legged husband? Can he offer Red Dawn three-quarters of a man, and will she be content with that? The answer they receive on a Christmas Eve is a miracle neither will ever forget.

“The Widow’s Christmas Miracle” is part of Pelican’s “Christmas Extravaganza” and is available at Pelican Book Group and Amazon.

 


Christ is the Answer

by Kathleen D. Bailey

 

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

The Babe of Bethlehem is placed under the Last Supper in the Chapel at Our Lady of La Salette, Enfield, NH.

It’s never been easy to be a Jew, and it wasn’t easy in 1 BC. Rome controlled Israel and every aspect of Jewish life, from taxes to burden-bearing. The people longed for deliverance. There was poverty, especially after the Jews paid their taxes. There was corruption, as the local and regional officials took a piece of those taxes. And those earlier days had their own plagues and diseases, including the dreaded leprosy, which could devastate a family for generations.

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.”

But the Gentile world also longed for a deliverer. Many had had their fill of the made-up gods who weren’t any better than the humans who followed them…the gods who cheated and manipulated and rutted like animals and exploited humanity. They wanted something better. They wanted something real. Learned men from an Eastern land were pretty sure they’d found it. Or Him.

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great joy.”

We live in a world with its own corruption and unfairness. The Coronavirus changed the world as we knew it, every facet of modern life, from ordering a coffee to visiting a loved one in long-term care. Our world has suffered a sea-change, which has left many of us struggling to reach a life preserver.

But He’s already here. He was the Jews’ hope as they lived under the humiliation and rapaciousness of a foreign power, as their dignity was stripped on a daily basis. He was the Gentiles’ hope as they searched for a better way than unscrupulous “gods” who didn’t exist in the first place.

The guest blogger with her family Nativity set some time in the 50s. The wonder never grows old.

I write historical Christian fiction, and I’ve made it my mission to establish Him as the Better Way for my characters. I write historicals because every human emotion, and condition, is magnified by the strictures of earlier times. People on the Oregon Trail didn’t have the CDC to tell them how to deal with cholera. They had to figure it out themselves. Regency heroines couldn’t just go out and get a job when Papa lost his fortune. They had to hope, pray and hang on for dear life until the right suitor came along. Women died in childbirth and desperate men ordered mail-order brides to care for their children. Christ was and is the answer, leading the pioneers to an understanding of that disease, leading the Regency spinster to the man meant for her, helping the lonely widower find love again in a woman he barely knew.

And, Christ was the answer for the young couple in my Christmas novella, “The Widow’s Christmas Miracle.” Red Dawn, the young Cheyenne woman, loathes the white race after two rogue Cavalrymen burn her village and kill her young husband. The last place she wants to be is with white shopkeeper Laban Jones, who takes her in while her brother-in-law tries to avenge their village. She hates whites, and hates gentle Laban by association. Laban lost a leg, ending his Army career, and while he manages on his trading post and homestead, he doesn’t think any woman, especially Red Dawn, wants to be saddled with “three-quarters of a man.”

Who can bring these two stubborn souls together, and help them to be more than the sum of their parts?

The Babe of Bethlehem, who will heal all our diseases – and our land.


About the Author

Kathleen D. Bailey is a journalist and novelist with 40 years’ experience in the nonfiction, newspaper and inspirational fields. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s, a young adult in the 70s and a young mom in the 80s. It’s been a turbulent, colorful time to grow up, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it and written about most of it.

Bailey’s work includes both historical and contemporary fiction, with an underlying thread of men and women finding their way home, to Christ and each other. Her first Pelican book, ‘‘Westward Hope,” was published in September 2019. This was followed by a novella, “The Logger’s Christmas Bride,” in December 2019. Her second full-length novel, “Settler’s Hope,” was released July 17, 2020.

She lives in New Hampshire with her husband David. They have two grown daughters.

Connect with Kathleen on her website, Twitter, Facebook or Linked In. Or if you prefer, you can email her at ampie86@comcast.net.


Giveaway**

This Giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to our winner, Rebecca Waters!

Kathleen has graciously offered an e-Book copy of The Widow’s Christmas Miracle and a New England gift pack to one Romancing History reader. To be entered in the drawing, please comment below and tell us how, despite the many unique challenges that 2020 has presented, have you seen the light of Christ’s hope in the world reminding you that He alone is the answer?

**Giveaway ends at midnight, December 16, 2020.**

Puritans verses Pilgrims, What’s the Difference?

As Thanksgiving draws near, I’ve been thinking about the Pilgrims and Puritans who traversed the Atlantic Ocean with the hope of practicing their religion without the fear of persecution. For the longest time I didn’t realize that these two groups while similar, were different. The Pilgrims were Puritans, or at least a distinct group of Puritans.

Let me see if I can make any sense of it for you.

The Puritans, also known as Dissenters, were Protestants who followed the teachings of John Calvin, a reformed preacher who was greatly influenced by the ministry of Martin Luther. They believed the Church of England should be purified of the ceremony, liturgy and practices that weren’t mentioned in Scripture and they rejected the ecclesiastical offices of Cardinal, Bishop, Archbishop, and Priest, but they did embrace church offices mentioned in the Bible–pastors, deacons, elders and teachers. The Bible was their sole authority in all areas of life and worship.

Depiction of an English Puritan family, 16th century.
The Granger Collection, New York

Some common beliefs of the Puritans:

  • Predestination: The Puritans believed that before the foundation of the world, God had determined who would be saved and who would be damned. There was nothing an individual could do during their life that could change that outcome.
  • Prayer: They rejected the Catholic and Anglican Book of Common Prayer, believing that prayer should be spontaneous and not scripted. They also believed that you could beseech God directly on your behalf and rejected the idea of a priest as their intercessor.
  • The Church Building: The building itself had no significance to the Puritans and was kept intentionally plain with no religious art, crosses, windows, fancy architecture or icons to avoid the sin of idolatry.
  • Sacraments: They rejected all but two of the holy sacraments–baptism and communion. All the rest (confession, ordination, marriage, annointing the sick and confirmation) they believed were inventions of man and therefore heretical or idolatrous.

As time passed and few reforms were enacted withing the Church of England, some Puritans felt the church was so corrupt the only course of action for true Christians was to break free from its authority altogether. Those Puritans who left the Anglican Church and established their own houses of worship were labeled Separatists. Rejecting the Church of England was considered a slap in the face to the monarch who was its head. This was a crime punishable by jail or death.

In 1607-08, about one hundred Separatists sought religious freedom in Holland. They settled in the Dutch industrial city of Leiden. While there they established churches which held to strict observance of the Sabbath by not performing any labor on Sunday. They studied the writings of earlier Protestants and Separatists, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, and they even established a printing press to illegally distribute new Separatist and Puritan books in England.

Henry A. Bacon – “The Landing of the Pilgrims”

The Pilgrims’ church flourished in the Netherlands as additional Separatists fled from England. Over time, many became concerned that they might lose their English cultural identity if they remained in Holland permanently so they arranged with English investors to establish a new colony in North America. Members of this group later migrated to America in 1620 aboard the Mayflower. Their journey to find a safe place to practice their faith without fear of retribution made them known to us today as the Pilgrims.

The Puritans who remained behind in England sought to reform the Anglican Church from within. This group, who reluctantly remained within the Church of England, is who history refers to as the Puritans. Many Puritans gained seats in Parliament and tried to influence the king to make reforms within the church. Their attempts failed and further angered the king. In 1630, John Winthrop lead 1,000 Puritans to settle in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. alongside the Pilgrims who by now had a flourishing community.

A 19th century bronze statue of Puritan John Winthrop, by sculptor Richard Saltonstall (Steven Senne, AP)

Although the Pilgrims and the Puritans now lived side-by-side in the Massachusetts colony, the outward expression of their faith in daily life was very different. The Pilgrims had left England to practice their faith in peace and solitude. Mercy, compassion and forgiveness became distinctives of their faith. The Pilgrims established peaceful relations with the natives who had taught them how to plant corn and to add fish heads to the soil to boost plant production.

The Puritans came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony believing they were to establish “a new Jerusalem” and sought both individual and corporate conformity to the teaching of the Bible, with moral purity pursued down to the smallest detail. They believed that man existed for the glory of God, that his first concern in life was to do God’s will. Although they sought religious freedom in the new world, the Puritans exhibited intolerance to the religious views of other immigrants and often hanged dissenters like Quakers, Anglicans and Baptists.

The Celebration of Christmas was banned in Puritan communities within the colony and punishment was dolled out for public drunkenness and adultery. The Puritan life was one of moderation. While they did dress according to their social classes and drank alcoholic beverages, they condemned those who would take these things to excess. Puritan Richard Baxter is quoted as saying, “Overdoing is the most ordinary way to undoing.” Undoing meaning your condemnation to hell. They also encouraged education of both males and females so the Bible could be read and understood by the masses.

The beliefs of both the Pilgrims and the Puritans were passed on to their descendants, many of whom pushed west and pioneered the American frontier, cementing their values in American culture. Both have left a legacy of courage and conviction on the American psyche.

Christmas Book Bonanza–Contemporary Novella Collections

Hi All,

This week’s post highlights some wonderful Contemporary Christian Christmas novellas to warm your holiday reader’s heart. Books are not listed in any preferential order, simply alphabetical by collection title.

Just like the previous week’s historical and contemporary editions of the Christmas Book Bonanza, each set will have the back cover blurb and a purchase link.

Novella Collections


A Christmas to Remember: Eight Christian Authors Celebrating the Gift of Christmas

 

A Christmas to Remember: Eight Christian Romances Celebrating the Gift of Christmas by [Johnson, Kimberly Rose, Comer, Valerie, Maddrey, Elizabeth, Solomon, Ginger, Peterson, Lindi, Arduini, Julie, Kastner, Deb, Ferguson, Janet W.]Laugh, cry, and fall in love as you savor these brand-new Christmas romances from some of your favorite authors.

Until I Met You by award-winning author Kimberly Rose Johnson
After a difficult breakup, Brandi Prescott is taking a hiatus from men and focusing on her career, the Lord, and getting to know herself. Everything is going according to plan until one fateful, rainy morning in Seattle when a passing car drenches her and everything changes.

The Cowboy’s Christmas Reunion by USA Today bestselling author Valerie Comer
The Cowboy Santa program is supposed to be a chance to help his neighbors. When Kade Delgado’s ex-fiancée, now a single mom, shows up on his list, neither of them are thrilled. Is there any hope for a second chance at love?

Hope for Christmas by Elizabeth Maddrey
When he arrived at the ranch, he wasn’t sure what he was looking for. She wasn’t looking for anything beyond stability for her son. Christmas might be a season of hope, but do they dare risk everything for love?

Can’t Live without You by Ginger Solomon
Clarissa Harding’s fiancé’s betrayal doesn’t hurt as much as learning her best friend, Sawyer Chasin, knew his brother’s secret and didn’t tell her. The marriage would have been fake, but her feelings for Sawyer aren’t.

Beautiful Heart of His by Lindi Peterson
Two wrongs don’t make a right has never been more true. Will Mason’s past wrongs push Scarlett away or help her fall in love with him?

Restoring Christmas by Julie Arduini
Filled with grief and regret, Holly Christmas returns to Geneseo Valley and the family business, The Christmas Mansion. Can Kevin Holt restore her love for the season and the memories she left behind?

The Cowgirl’s Christmas Gift by Publishers Weekly bestselling author Deb Kastner
Cowgirl Maisey Gray knows horses, not six-year-olds. But when her socially-awkward, VR glasses-wearing neighbor needs help creating the perfect Christmas for his nephews, it’s up to Maisey to make sure Cam and the boys have a Christmas they’ll never forget.

Falling for Grace by Janet W. Ferguson
Grace Logan needs a place to pick herself up now that her ex is marrying her former best friend. Grief drives Seth Gibbs to his family’s vacation home, and three years later, he has no plans to leave. Until Grace falls into his life.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2z8gs9U


A Merry Navidad: 4 Latino Christmas Novellas

 

Each story comes with traditional Latino Christmas recipes. Only 99 cents and free on Kindle Unlimited.

La Familia Es Todo by Kathi Macias

A large, once-close family that has drifted apart for various reasons. Will their longtime tradition of making tamales on Christmas Eve be enough to bring them back together?

Navidad & Familia by Allison K. García

When a blizzard traps the Campana family in their trailer on Christmas Eve with no electricity, internet, gifts, or Christmas decorations, will they drive each other crazy or will they discover the true reason for the season?

A Tamale Christmas by Linda K. Rodante

She’s an unwed mother at a Christian college. He’s a Latino student who left home and career to attend. Will the secret one of them carries keep them apart or will God perform another Christmas miracle?

Have Yourself A Merry Little Cocoa by Cynthia Marcano

Every Christmas, Isidora Lopez tries to spend her way into the hearts of those she loves, while Firefighter Gabriel Ramirez has spent his, trying to move on from a lost one, until a chance encounter unexpectedly sparks both their lives.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2DCK2If


Comfort & Joy, The 3rd Annual Christmas Lights Collection

 

Four heartwarming stories to fill this Christmas season with comfort and joy.

Comfort & Joy: The Christmas Lights Collection 2018 by [Havig, Chautona, Shiloh, Toni , Swanson, Cathe , Terry, Alana]Frost Heaves by Alana Terry- A missing child. A single mom. An Alaskan trooper. There’s more to fear this winter than just the cold.

Deck the Shelves by Toni Shiloh- Can a bookstore owner looking for swoon-worthy romance and a mechanic hesitant to trust his heart find love that will last?

The Christmas Glory Quilt by Cathe Swanson- Scrap quilts, bridal gowns, an old Swedish homestead, and a family mystery. What more could you want from a Minnesota Christmas romance?

The Ghosts of New Cheltenham by Chautona Havig- When Mitchell Bogaert’s inheritance involves a ghost story, that’s bad enough. His Christmas is looking ghastly on more than one score, though.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2z7Cw4y


The Heart of Christmas: A Romantic Christmas Novella Collection

 

The Heart of Christmas: A Romantic Christmas Novella Collection by [McCoy, Bonita, Solomon, Ginger, Winsell, Janie, Fornier, Leah, Boyd, Betty, Fornier, Darcy]Announcing five new stories filled with faith, hope, forgiveness, and of course happily-ever-afters. Each story focuses on an element of the Nativity, from the angels to the wise men. Be swept up in the love of the season and the promise of forever that the Christ child, the true Heart of Christmas, brings.

On Angels’ Wings by Ginger Solomon
Bakery owner, Jenna Wing prepares to spend Thanksgiving alone—her first without her family. When her former neighbor, Thomas Hayes, invites her to dinner, she finds that she can’t say no. Their previous friendship turns to something more, but Thomas’s family issues threatens their new-found relationship.

No Room in His Heart by Bonita McCoy
What happens when Evie’s car breaks down on the highway and her only hope is the handsome, sure of himself inn owner who can’t find his phone and lives off pizza?
A sweet Christmas romance … with lots of zing that will have you laughing.

Born for You by Leah Fornier
Ryder has never set foot in a church. But when his best friend, Kenna, begs him to direct a church Christmas play, he can’t refuse. As he and Kenna work through a series of mishaps, Ryder finds himself drawn to the One born for him. And also to Kenna.

Finding Wisdom in Noel by Janie Winsell
Travel photographer Billie accepts an assignment in Noel, Montana, to escape her ex-fiance’s wedding. Aiden takes custody of his nephew Kris and embarks on a journey of parenthood. When a luggage mishap brings Billie and Aiden together, they must find healing and wisdom in order for their love to flourish.

Season of Forgiveness by Darcy Fornier
Ruby Larson adopted Ivy Carlyle as her granddaughter when Ivy helped her arrange her funeral. When Ruby’s estranged grandson, Denver Reese, appears, Ivy is reluctant to share Ruby’s attention. As the two plan Ruby’s Christmas, unexpected attraction draws them closer. But Ivy’s painful past challenges their friendship.

Introductory poems by Betty Boyd

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2Q28Rn7


I’ll be back next week highlighting my favorite Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies but until then, I’d like to know who on this list you’ve read before and which story collection above you intend to grab first.

Christmas Book Bonanza–Contemporary Romance Edition

Hi All,

This week’s post highlights some wonderful Contemporary Christian Fiction to warm your holiday reader’s heart. Books are not listed in any preferential order, simply alphabetical by author.

Just like last week’s historical edition of the Christmas Book Bonanza, each title will have the back cover blurb and a purchase link.

Christmas in Jungle Junction by Tabitha Bouldin

 

Christmas in Jingle Junction by [Bouldin, Tabitha]

Jump into Jingle Junction for a fast-paced Christmas romance.

The last thing coffee shop owner Holly Winters expected was to have dream-boy Patrick Cooper walk through the back door of her shop. He would only be delivering this one time. He made sure she knew he was going home as soon as Henry was well enough to start making deliveries again.

Patrick instantly attracts Holly’s attention, but he has three strikes against him…he hates coffee, he doesn’t like Christmas, and he has a girlfriend. That’s all fine with Holly, until she starts to get to know the man hiding behind the bright green eyes. Patrick is in the one place he shouldn’t be if he wants to avoid Christmas. Jingle Junction is famous for it’s Christmas lights, parade, and their year-round Christmas spirit.

Can this apparent ‘bad boy’ find the joy of Christmas?

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2PrzFNM


Mistletoe Kiss by Andrea Boyd

Mistletoe Kiss (Sweet Tea Holiday Collection) by [Boyd, Andrea]

Chase Spencer had been firmly planted in the friend-zone ever since he first met Rachel Anthony back when they were in grade school and it looks like that’s where he’s destined to remain. And her latest scheme is bound to be torture. She wants them to help break the Guinness World Record for the most couples kissing under the mistletoe at one time. How should he handle this? Should the kiss be a chaste, friendly kiss like she envisions? Or should he do it in a way that leaves Rachel without a doubt that he wants to be more than friends?

It had always been Rachel’s dream to break a world record, and who better to do it with than her best friend Chase? And it wasn’t as if they hadn’t kissed before—sixth grade, spin-the-bottle at Iona Puckett’s party—a peck of the lips and it’d be over. Except she missed the part where they had to hold the kiss for ten seconds. And no one warned her of how she would feel afterwards—confused and longing for more.

How can she convince Chase to change her status from friend to girlfriend?

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2z82Mf1


Christmas on a Mission by Hannah R. Conway

 

Christmas on a Mission by [Conway, Hannah R.]Fitting Christmas in a shoe box has been her mission…until now.

Audria Rylatt is the school system’s liaison for homeless students. She strives to make Christmas bright for hundreds, while the season brings only heartache after her fiancé was killed in combat nearly two years ago. So when her family decides to play matchmaker, she is less than thrilled. To make matters worse, they’ve invited a soldier friend of her deceased fiancé to the family cabin for the holiday.

But she’s surprised to find this soldier, Quinton Nolan, standing at the door of heart. Faced with painful memories, the despair Christmas brings her, and the fear to love again, Audria is in desperate need of a Christmas miracle. Or at least some of the hope Christmas seems to offer so many. Can she embrace a new mission? If so, Christmas may stand to deliver a lifetime of magical memories.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2PwyT2e


Moostletoe by Jan Elder

 

Moostletoe (Moose Creek Book 1) by [Elder, Jan]

Fresh out of divinity school, Rev. Samantha Evans is ready to conquer the world for Christ. She lands in Moose Creek, Maine, a tiny backwater town with more moose per square mile than men. Even worse, one of her new parishioners chews up new ministers for breakfast, and he’s hell-bent on sending her packing.

Forest ranger Eric Palmer is done with women. Determined to live simply with no encumbrances, he’s moved to Northern Maine to study the moose population. With Christmas right around the corner, he runs into his buddy, Sammie, the girl who’d been his best friend when they were teenagers. Unlike most of the women in his life, he trusts her implicitly. But could she ever be more than a friend?

When Samantha’s career is on the line, Eric must save her job and rescue his own shattered heart in the process. But how does Matilda the town moose factor in?

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2DlWdIT


Operation Mistletoe by Elizabeth Maddrey (Operation Romance, Bk #1)

 

Operation Mistletoe (Operation Romance Book 1) by [Maddrey, Elizabeth]Victoria Spencer hates Christmas.

For the last ten years, disaster has struck on Christmas Eve, leaving Tori dreading the holidays. When she’s assigned to cover the light displays for her newspaper, she’s determined to spend as little time on the article as possible. Especially once she realizes she’s to feature frat boy Gabe “The Babe” Robertson, her former college crush.

Gabe Robertson is a different man than he was in college. Every December, he transforms his acreage into a winter wonderland designed to celebrate the birth of Christ and share God’s love with the community. He also uses the lights to raise money for Operation Mistletoe, an organization that sends Christmas to troops stationed overseas.

Unable to set aside her prejudice, Tori looks for ulterior motives in Gabe’s actions and determines to dig deeper. Will her investigations destroy any chance of a Merry Christmas?

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2Dgw26c


The Washwoman’s Christmas by Elaine Manders

 

The Washwoman's Christmas by [Manders, Elaine]

With her husband away on a job until Christmas, newly-wed Amanda moves to the house they’ve inherited from his grandmother in order to prepare it for sale. In the isolated woods of northwestern South Carolina, her nearest neighbor is an elderly woman who holds onto a past way of life, even taking in wash to earn money for Christmas. As the two women work together to renovate the house, Amanda comes to realize the washwoman isn’t the eccentric kook she first thought, but a woman of wisdom and grace who helps Amanda face the demons of her past and find release from her present insecurities.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2qKiM2k


Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald

Ordinary Snowflakes: A Rock Creek Romance Christmas Novella by [Rodewald, Jennifer]

A single mom, a snowy Christmas, and a Secret Santa gift. Perhaps her romance days aren’t over after all. Someone has noticed me. A secret admirer? A man with a good heart, who sees how much I actually need help, even though I never admit it? Maybe this is the beginning of a beautiful story—a romance full of hope and second chances and love.

Maybe…

A secret Santa gift left on Kale Brennan’s front porch opens up a fresh view of her ordinary life, and perhaps of God. Maybe she does matter. Maybe God sees her—as does a new-to-town music teacher who has her seven-year-old daughter gushing and her own knees buckling with his killer smile. But as Kale embraces new possibilities, a staple in her life—a man who is kind and steady, not to mention necessary for her injured daughter’s recovery—also snatches her attention in an unexpected way. Will the one pursuing her with his secret gift and kind gestures be the one her heart longs for in the end?

Purchase Link:  https://amzn.to/2zNCkH5


Keri’s Christmas Wish by Pamela Thibodeaux

 

For as long as she can remember, Keri Jackson has despised the hype and commercialism around Christmas so much she seldom enjoys the holiday. Will she get her wish and be free of the angst to truly enjoy Christmas this year?

A devout Christian at heart, Jeremy Hinton, a Psychotherapist, Life Coach, Spiritual Mentor and Energy Medicine Practitioner has studied all of the world’s religions and homeopathic healing modalities. But when a rare bacterial infection threatens the life of the woman he loves, will all of his faith and training be for naught?

Purchase Link: http://amzn.to/2ePnias


Christmas with the Enemy by Mary Vee

 

Christmas With The Enemy: A Blizzard Novel by [Vee, Mary]

Christmas doesn’t turn out as planned for either the Chicago Windermeres or the Montana Tuckers. It’s like a glacier helping of Scrooge’s spirit invades the festivities during their chance meeting at the lodge. Only Samantha Windermere and Hank Tucker have any desire to invite Peace on Earth for this Christmas blizzard.

A reviewer says: “A Hallmark Contender.”

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2S09DhD

 


Love, Laughter & Luminarias by Jaycee Weaver

Love, Laughter, and Luminarias by [Weaver, Jaycee]

He has his books. She has her fandoms. They’ve always had their friendship. Could Christmas projects, snowball fights, and local traditions spark feelings neither knew were there?

Surprisingly successful action-suspense author Garrett Wilson is struggling to write a summer novel in December. That is, until he witnesses his best friend, Nina, chase down a shoplifter and realizes that maybe his tough, attractive heroine might not be based solely in fiction.

Geeky-chic Nina Trujillo finds herself contemplating a God she’s never believed in after her brush with danger taking down a thief. That one decision could change the whole course of her life, and quite possibly, her feelings for the one guy she’s never considered more than a friend.

When Nina dives head-first into a series of Christmas projects and ideas for new traditions, she drags Garrett along for the ride. Will her newfound courage and all the extra time together bring their feelings out into the open, or will Nina escape back into the comfort of her fandoms and lose him forever?

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2Dm0GeD


 

I’ll be back next week with some wonderful contemporary Christian romance Christmas novella collections. In  the meantime, tell me which of these authors you’ve already read and which book you’d like to cuddle up with first.

 

 

Christmas Book Bonanza–Historical Romance Edition

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought I’d share some wonderful Christian Historical Romances with a holiday theme that will warm your heart and help you get into the Christmas spirit.

Books are not listed in any preferential order, simply alphabetical by author. Each title will have the back cover blurb and a purchase link.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Book 1 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep

12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Book 1 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by [Griep, Michelle] A mysterious invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home may bring danger…and love?

England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of five hundred pounds.

But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.

What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2K0WVfR

A Tale of Two Hearts: Book 2 in Once Upon a Christmas by Michelle Griep

A Tale of Two Hearts: Book 2 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by [Griep, Michelle]London, 1853: Innkeeper’s daughter Mina Scott will do anything to escape the drudgery of her life, for there’s nothing more mundane than serving customers day after day. Every minute she can, she reads and dreams of someday becoming a real lady—and catch the eye of William Barlow, a frequent guest at the inn.

William is a gentleman’s son, a charming but penniless rogue. However, his bachelor uncle will soon name an heir—either him or his scheming cousin. In an effort to secure the inheritance, William gives his uncle the impression he’s married, which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit.

William asks Mina to be his pretend bride, only until his uncle names an heir on Christmas Day. Mina is flattered and frustrated by the offer, for she wants a true relationship with William. Yet, she agrees. . .then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Deceiving the old man breaks both their hearts. When the truth is finally discovered, more than just money is lost.

Can two hearts survive such deception?

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2B4a2tF


A Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Holiday Novella by Mimi Matthews

A Holiday By Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella by [Matthews, Mimi]A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion–or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2FlGw72


Circle of Blessings by Deborah Raney

Circle of Blessings by [Raney, Deborah]Young Stella Bradford is determined to win the love of James Collingwood, her English professor at the university where Stella is studying to be an architect. But the object of Stella’s affection seems to hide a dark secret from his past, and even if Stella could capture his attention, she is certain her father would not approve of the match. But neither James, nor Stella has an inkling that his secret is woven into her own past in a way that will ultimately bring blessing to them both.

Inspired by a Raney family Christmas tradition, Circle of Blessings was first published in the novella collection A Currier & Ives Christmas in 2002 and then in A Prairie Christmas Collection in 2010.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2Pw4lxK

Novella Collections


The Christmas Heirloom Collection: 4 Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations

 

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations by [Witemeyer, Karen, Hunter, Kristi Ann, Thomas, Sarah Loudin, Wade, Becky]Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman’s grandson, a man far above her station.

Gift of the Heart by Karen Witemeyer

Widow Ruth Albright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local banker. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love.

 A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family’s brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance.

Because of You by Becky Wade

Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2z8f7ja


The Victorian Brides Collection: 9 Women Dream of Perfect Christmases in the Victorian Era

The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection: 9 Women Dream of Perfect Christmases during the Victorian Era by [Chase, C.J., Dietze, Susanne, Gerlach, Rita, Maher, Kathleen L., Meyer, Gabrielle, Pagels, Carrie Fancett, Riley, Vanessa, Seilstad, Lorna, Vetsch, Erica]Experience a Dickens of a Christmas

Faced with the daily extremes of gluttony and want in the Victorian Era, nine women seek to create the perfect Christmas celebrations. But will expectations and pride cause them to overlook imperfect men who offer true love?

Paper Snowflake Christmas by Vanessa Riley
1837 Framlingham, England
How can widow Ophelia Hanover give her son a perfect Christmas when his guardian, the Earl of Litton, arrives early to take permanant custody of the boy?

One Golden Ring by C.J. Chase
1855 Devonshire, England
Wounded soldier Tristram Nowell returns home to indulge his mother’s wish for a family Christmas–and encounters Marianna Granville. Can he forgive the former heiress who jilted him years before?

Love Brick by Brick by Kathleen L. Maher
1857 Elmira, New York
SarahAnn Winnifred overcomes orphanhood apprenticing with pioneering doctors. Rufus Sedgwick, relocating his English estate, seeks help for his ailing Mum. Christmas reveals the secret wish of both hearts–for love.

The Sugarplum Ladies by Carrie Fancett Pagels
1867 Windsor, Ontario, Canada and Detroit, Michigan
When Canadian barrister Percy Gladstone finds his aristocratic British family unexpectedly descending upon him for Christmas, he turns to American social reformer Eugenie Mott and her fledgling catering crew for help.

Star of Wonder by Susanne Dietze
1875 County Durham, England
This Yuletide, Bennet Hett, Viscount Harwood, offers Lady Celeste Sidwell matrimony and the Star of Wonder diamond necklace, as their fathers arranged. When the diamond disappears, will they find a greater treasure?

Father Christmas by Lorna Seilstad
Chicago, Christmas 1880
Widowed harpist Beatrix Kent believes love can only come once in a lifetime, but this Christmas, carpenter Hugo Sherman hopes to pull on the musician’s heartstrings and prove her wrong.

The Perfect Christmas by Erica Vetsch
1880s London
Melisande Verity might be in over her head trying to create the perfect Christmas window display, but if she succeeds, will she finally attract the attention of her boss, Gray Garamond?

A Christmas Vow by Gabrielle Meyer
London, England, Christmas 1899
Lady Ashleigh Pendleton is hosting a houseful of guests for Christmas when railroad executive Christopher Campbell unexpectedly arrives from America with a mysterious agreement signed by their fathers before their birth.

The Holly and the Ivy by Rita Gerlach
1900. Small town along the Potomac near Washington DC
A glass ornament. Love letters tied in red Christmas ribbon. Lily Morningstar and British antiquities expert Andrew Stapleton are drawn into a family secret that binds their hearts together.

Purchase Link: https://bit.ly/2TaN8YH


A Christmas Stocking Bundle from Julie Lessman

(PLEASE NOTE! THIS BOOK IS A SWEET INSPIRATIONAL WITH A STRONGER LEVEL OF ROMANTIC & SPIRITUAL PASSION.)

A Christmas Stocking Bundle: One Christmas Novel and Three Novellas by [Lessman, Julie]Fall in love at Christmas with a close-knit and passionate Irish family beginning with A Light in the Window, the prequel novel to the award-winning Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change Series (See the video on Julie’s Amazon Author Page). Then curl up with two heart-warming Christmas novellas featuring this same wonderful family, A Whisper of Hope and The Best Gift of All. This delightful Christmas collection wraps up with a sweet and funny frontier Christmas novella, The Gift of Grace, so grab a coffee or hot chocolate and bundle up with a Christmas bundle that will warm your Christmas heart and soul!

A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story (Award-winning Novel)

One Woman. Two Men.
One stirs her pulse, the other her faith.
But who will win her heart?

Marceline Murphy, a gentle beauty with a well-founded aversion to rogues, catches the eye of two of Boston’s most notorious. Patrick O’Connor and Sam O’Rourke are best friends with a bond like brothers … until they meet one woman neither can have.

Overseeing St. Mary’s Christmas play—A Light in the Window—Marcy wrestles with her attraction to both. But when disaster strikes, she’s destined to discover the play’s message firsthand. For although two men have professed their love, only one has responded to the light in the window.

A Whisper of Hope: An O’Connor Christmas Novella

She’s desperate for a baby.
He’s desperate for an empty nest.
Love is desperate to surprise them both.

With a husband dead set against adoption, Charity O’Connor Dennehy has barely a whisper of hope for more children, but if hope doesn’t disappoint … will it be enough to find a precious bundle under her tree?

The Best Gift of All: An O’Connor Christmas Novella

She longs to be the perfect mother.
He just longs for his wife.
Until they receive … the best gift of all.

Everyone knows Lizzie and John Brady have the perfect marriage. But when Lizzie’s desire to be a good mother eclipses her desire for her husband, the honeymoon is definitely over. Can the spirit of Christmas heal their hearts when Lizzie gives John the best gift of all?

The Gift of Grace: A Frontier Christmas Novella

She’s the Accident to His Prayers …

Pastor Cole McCabe isn’t sure he’ll survive the holidays with his new housekeeper and nanny. She’s caught fire to the kitchen, dyed his long johns pink, and scorched nearly everything she cooks. But he’s desperate, and she’s as destitute as they come.

Even though she’s no good with her hands, Grace sure has a way with her heart. She’s brought a warmth into Cole’s home, added color to his daughters’ lives, and broken down the wall he’s built up since his beloved wife died. But when Grace’s past threatens Cole’s family, she’s given one last chance to be home for Christmas . . . if she hasn’t burned it down yet.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2za4TyX

 

I hope you’ll find something here to snuggle up by a cozy fire and take a few minutes for yourself this Christmas season.

What good Christmas books have you read lately?

Who Put the Blarney in the Blarney Stone?

Its that time of year again. Time to be wearin’ the green and celebrating your Irish ancestry–even if you’re Dutch, Italian, German or something else altogether different. If you can tell a colorful tale or talk your way out of a jam, then today my friend, you may be as full o’ blarney as any true Irishman.

 

The Blarney Stone is a single block of bluestone, the same material as the megaliths of Stonehenge. The iconic stone is set in a wall of Blarney Castle Tower, constructed in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, king of Munster, on the site of a demolished 13th century castle.

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Some people believe the Blarney Stone is half of the original Stone of Scone, or Stone of Destiny, upon which the first King of Scots was seated during his coronation in 847. It is said that part of this stone was presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314.  It was his gift to the Irish for supporting the Scots in the Battle of Bannockburn.

 

True to it’s name, however, the Blarney Stone is surrounded by tall tales and myths. Some stories are steeped in the history and culture of ages long gone. Others sound like, well… pure blarney. Hard to imagine?  We are, after all, talking about the Blarney Stone and a country where stories grow as plentiful as clover in the lush green fields.  Among some of the more colorful tales, we learn that the Stone was used by Jacob for his pillow and was brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah; that David hid behind the Stone while running from King Saul; it is the very rock Moses struck with his staff to supply the Israelites with water as they fled slavery in Egypt. Well, why not?

Another variation claims the stone was acquired during the Crusades and brought to Ireland during the middle ages. However, in 2014, geologists from the University of Glasgow shed some light on the Blarney Stone’s heritage when they concluded that the famous rock isn’t from Scotland but instead is made of 330-million-year-old limestone local to the south of Ireland.

The word “blarney,” meaning skillful flattery or nonsense, supposedly came into use following an incident involving the head of the McCarthy family and Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603. The queen sent the earl of Leicester to seize Blarney Castle but the talkative McCarthy managed to keep stalling him. The queen grew exasperated by the earl’s reports about the lack of progress in the matter and uttered something to the effect of  “it’s just more blarney.”

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Mapping Your Way to Matrimony

Have you ever wondered why relationships with the opposite sex were so difficult? Have you ever wished for an easier way to navigate the uncertain waters of romance? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a map or App to bypass disappointment and broken hearts and get right to the “happily ever after?”

Complete with land masses, oceans, islands, cities & towns, as well as a key for the lost, Matrimonial Maps were a huge fad in the nineteenth century. Once again, we can shake our heads at those spirited Victorians who managed to diagram the perilous journey from first blush to matrimony while avoiding the pitfalls that might lead to “Divorce Island” where one would be banished and isolated from all good society. Acknowledging that lovers would suffer agonies of confusion as they tried to navigate romantic relationships, these drawing room novelties represented emotional struggles like treachery, jealousy, pity and prudence as insurmountable mountains or hazardous caverns.

“Map of Matrimony” (Photo courtesy Library of Congress)

This undated “Map of Matrimony” above was probably published in the 19th century and is part of the national collection in the Library of Congress. Promoting itself as a succinct guide for “timid lovers,” promising to help them navigate the “the orbit of affection” in order to find their way to the “true haven of conjugal happiness.” This particular map offers such geographical parodies as a “Coast of Doubt”, a “Whirlpool of Reflection,”  and “Shoals of Fickleness.” Most matrimonial maps relied heavily on the imaginative mind of its creator,  this map sports a real world location in its use of the “Cape of Good Hope.” Note the reference in the bottom right, as the ship references its longitude east from “common sense.”

The State of Matrimony, GE Moray, 1909. (Photo courtesy of Barron Maps)

Matrimonial maps survived into the 20th century like the one above designed by New York restaurant owner, George Edward Moray in 1909 as an advertising card. Moray’s map instructs the reader to “enter the State of Matrimony from either the State of Innocence, the State of Single Blessedness, or the Ocean of Love.” If you desire a quick trip to your ultimate destination, he advises you to purchase transportation on one of three railroads: “The Ceremony R.R., The Elopement R.R., or the Common Law R.R.” The only way out, according to Moray’s map, was to ride the “Divorce Rapid Transit R.R. into the State of Irresponsibility.” A unique feature of this map is that the vast majority of locations are real place names.

Victorian Valentine, “Map of Matrimony” by George Skaife Beeching, c1880. (Photo: Courtesy Barron Maps)

While many maps of matrimony were intended for wall display,  others were found on Victorian valentines like the one pictured directly above. Unlike “vinegar valentines,” These humorous cards delicately satirized courtship, offering a little social commentary on the rituals of courtship. A bachelor’s perilous journey might lead him to the “Rocks of Disappointment” or require him to  traverse the “Falls of Doubt” or crossover the turbulent waters of the “Sea of Propriety” before happily arriving in the “Land of Matrimony.” Meanwhile a hopeful female will have to avoid the “Land of Spinsters” and navigate uncharted waters in the “Sea of Introduction” before finally sailing triumphantly into the “Bay of Engagement.” But her journey rarely ends there, as she will no doubt need to visit the “Provence of Jewellers & Millners” or “Wedding Cake Land” before happily entering into the “Region of Rejoicing.”

With choices like the “Lake of Content” or “Disappointment Harbor,” these entertaining parodies on love and courtship in the nineteenth century revealed the fine nuances as well as the dangerous pitfalls that lovers can still relate to today.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, you may want to consider designing a Map of Matrimony for your beloved relating the journey your relationship took to wedded bliss. My journey to the “Land of Matrimony” would begin at “Chance Encounter Cove” with a long journey through the “Gulf of Flirtation” and the “Region of Exclusive Relationship” before taking a sudden, sharp detour through the “Bay of Broken Hearts.” But not to worry, my resourceful bachelor found his way to “Restoration Island” then sailed with me to the “Land of Happily Ever After.”

What geographical feature would you put on your Map of Matrimony?

 

Auld Lang Syne & Other New Year’s Traditions

Okay, I’ll admit it. For many years I thought the words to the traditional New Year’s Eve song were Old Ang Zine. I never understood the words or the significance of singing them on New Year’s Eve as the clock strikes midnight.

“Auld Lang Syne” is a Scottish song first published in 1788. Robert Burns, famed eighteenth century Scottish poet/songwriter, also referred to as “Scotland’s Favorite Son,” is credited with setting the lyrics to a traditional Scottish ditty called Can Ye Labour Lea. The title, roughly translated to modern English, literally means “old long since,” but more figuratively means, “Times Gone By” or “Times Long Past.” The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness, “For auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet.” It is simply a song about remembering old friends and the times spent with them.

Mr. New Year’s Eve, Guy Lombardo

So how did a simple Scottish folksong become the most famous song of New Year’s? That’s simple. You can give the credit to Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadian Band. When they took the stage at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City on New Year’s Eve, 1929, their performance was broadcast on the first nationally televised New Year’s Eve radio program. At midnight, during a transition between the broadcasts, they chose to play an old Scottish folk song Lombardo had first heard from Scottish immigrants in Ontario–“Auld Lang Syne.”

Lombardo and his band continued to broadcast their rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” on radio, and later on television earning him the name “Mr. New Year’s Eve.” The song became such a New Year’s tradition that Life magazine wrote “if Lombardo failed to play ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ the American public would not believe that the new year had really arrived.”

Why Do We Drop the Ball on New Year’s Eve?
When Adolph Ochs purchased the floundering New York Times in 1896, he made it his mission to make the newspaper the number one paper in all of New York. As the paper succeeded, he moved the entire staff into a new shiny building in the middle of Manhattan, to a place called Longacre Square, later renamed Times Square. To celebrate the 1904 New Year and to show off the Times’ new digs, Ochs threw a lavish New Year’s celebration that was to be “the talk of the town.” He hosted an all-day street festival climaxing with a midnight fireworks display from the base of the Times building. Reportedly at midnight “the joyful sound of cheering, rattles and noisemakers from the over 200,000 attendees could be heard from as far away as Croton-on-Hudson, thirty miles north.” Despite the city later putting a halt to the fireworks display, the Times Square New Year’s Eve bash was born.

Even without fireworks, Ochs found a new way New Yorkers could celebrate the incoming new year in style and with glorious light. In 1907, Ochs commissioned the building of an electrically-lit ball to be lowered on the flagpole of the roof of One Times Square (the new name of the newspaper’s building). Incandescent light bulbs were a relatively new invention, having just begun being mass-marketed to consumers around the turn of the twentieth century. The newness of this innovation appealed to Adolph Ochs and he fashioned his “New Year’s Eve Ball” with one hundred 25 watt light bulbs. The rest of the ball was made out of iron and wood. Though it was only five feet in diameter, it weighed nearly 700 pounds. Ochs had a young immigrant metalworker by the name of Jacob Starr, working for the sign company Artkraft Strauss, make the ball. Starr was also given the responsibility of lowering it at the specified time. On New Year’s Eve, 1907, at exactly the stroke of midnight, Starr lowered the ball signifying that it was 1908 and the beginning of a New Year’s tradition.

The ball’s construction over time, in many ways, mimicked the history of industry in the United States. In 1920, they would replace the original ball with one made solely out of iron, showing off the steel strength of America. The ball didn’t drop in 1942 and 1943 -the only time it didn’t drop in the last 110 years- due to wartime light restrictions and industrial production focused on the war efforts.

In 1955, the heavy iron ball was replaced by a much lighter aluminum ball weighing in at a shade over two hundred pounds. Rhinestones, strobe lights, and a computerized lighting system were added in 1995.

The new millennium brought a new ball outfitted with 504 Waterford Crystals, 168 halogen bulbs, and spinning mirrors. The weight of the ball jumped from two hundred pounds to over 1,070 pounds.

Today, the ball is twelve feet in diameter, more than double its original 1907 size. The new ball weighs in at over five metric tons and features LEDs and computerized lighting patterns. It sits on top of One Times Square year-round for tourists and locals alike to marvel at, while it waits its next opportunity to ring in the new year.

Why is New Year’s Day January 1st?
The simple answer is because Julius Caesar said so.

Long before Caesar’s time, date keeping was dicey. By the time Caesar came around, the Roman calendar was in shambles, and in 46 BC, Julius Caesar commanded that it be changed. One of the changes Caesar implemented set the New Year to January 1. Why? Since 153 BC, January 1 was the day new consuls in Rome took office and Romans had commonly used the name of the two consuls to identify a specific year in question. Thus, by officially making January 1 start the New Year, it simply lined up with the consular year.

Traditional Southern-style Hoppin’ John

Why do Southerners eat Black-eyed Peas on New Year’s Day?
The traditional Southern New Year’s dish of Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas, rice, bacon and onion) is eaten to usher in a new year filled with prosperity and good fortune. An old southern saying goes, “Eat peas on New Year’s day to have plenty of everything the rest of the year.” The peas are symbolic of pennies or other coins. Old-time southern cooks might add one to the pot while cooking or leave a penny under the dinner bowls. Traditional sides served with Hoppin’ John are cooked greens (mustard, collard, kale, even cabbage) since green is the color of money and cornbread since its deep yellow color is reminiscent of gold. To ensure a happy New Year, its tradition to leave three peas on your plate, one each for a year filled with good luck, prosperity and romance.

Do you have any special New Year’s traditions in your home?

Seven Little Known Christmas Movies to turn Your Heart toward Christmas

Some Christmas movies earn a coveted spot on everyone’s list. You know the one’s I’m talking about. The one’s you eagerly anticipate rescuing from the boxes of Christmas decorations. Titles like A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Story.

Below is my list often overlooked movies that are worth your viewing time this Christmas season. I’ve made it easy for you to purchase the movie for yourself or as a gift. Just click on the cover to go to Amazon. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with any of these Christmas selections.

Do yourself a favor. Make a plan right now to make yourself a cup of tea, sit down and put your feet up, and enjoy at least one of these heart-warming holiday movies.

One Special Night–Julie Andrews, James Garner. This is by far one of my favorite holiday movies! Julie Andrews and James Gardner are at their very best in this charming holiday tale of two lonely people finding their way to each other after the loss of their respective spouses to Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Julie plays a fiesty surgeon who values her independence. James plays a construction foreman with a few old-fashioned notions about what women can/can’t do, and the clash is inevitable! It’s funny, sweet, and touching all at the same time.

Silent Night–Linda Hamilton, Cassian Bopp, Michael Elkin. This is a fantastic movie, a well told story and wonderfully acted. Based on real events on a snowy Christmas Eve in Germany’s Huertgen Forest during that brutal winter of 1944-’45,  Silent Night tells the story of American GI’s who take refuge in a cabin inhabited by a German woman and her son trying to escape the carnage of the Battle of the Bulge. She allows them in but requires them to keep their weapons outside. Before long they are joined by several Nazi soldiers but Frau Vincken also denies them entry unless they, too, leave their weapons outside. For one night, the war weary soldiers agree to a truce and discover the true meaning of courage, as well as the true spirit of Christmas.

Joyeux Noel–Guillaume Canet, Benno Furmann, Daniel Bruhl, Diane Kruger and Gary Lewis headline this amazing international cast. Similar to Silent Night, Joyeux Noel is based on true events that occurred on Christmas Eve, 1914 when a spontaneous, unauthorized truce among German, French and British soldiers took hold in various sectors along the front lines. Soldiers exchanged cigarettes and alcohol, played football (soccer), and allowed the removal and burial of dead soldiers from the frozen tundra of no mans land. The movie is a moving tribute to men of three nations who saw past hate and political intrigue long enough to share in their humanity and embrace the spirit of Christmas.

The Christmas Shoes–Rob Lowe, Kimberley Williams. You’d better have the Kleenex handy for this one. Adapted from the book by Donna VanLiere, Robert is a successful attorney who has everything in life-and nothing at all. Focused on professional achievement and material rewards, Robert is on the brink of losing his marriage. He has lost sight of his wife, Kate, their two daughters, and ultimately himself. Eight year old Nathan has a beloved mother, Maggie, whom he is losing to cancer. But Nathan and his family are building a simple yet full life, and struggling to hold onto every moment they have together. A chance meeting on Christmas Eve brings Robert and Nathan together-he is shopping for a family he hardly knows and Nathan is shopping for a mother he is soon to lose. In this one encounter, their lives are forever altered as Robert learns an important lesson: sometimes the smallest things can make all the difference. The Christmas Shoes is a universal story of the deeper meaning of serendipity, a tale of our shared humanity, and of how a power greater than ourselves can shape, and even save, our lives.

I’ll Be Seeing You–Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten and Shirley Temple. I’ll Be Seeing You is a  tender wartime love story about two troubled strangers who meet by chance and try to crowd a lifetime of love and laughter into eight days. After serving half of a prison sentence for accidental manslaughter, Mary Marshall (Rogers) is allowed a holiday furlough to visit her family. Keeping her history a secret, she falls in love with a kindhearted GI (Cotten) who’s struggling to overcome shell shock. Both long for a normal life. But can they have it if he learns the truth about her?

A Merry Ingalls Christmas–Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, Melissa Gilbert. Okay, don’t judge me. If you read my About page, you’d have seen this coming. This DVD contains two Christmas episodes from the beloved series, “Christmas at Plum Creek” (Season 1) and “A Christmas They Never Forgot” (Season 8).  “Christmas at Plum Creek” tells the story of the Ingalls family’s first Christmas in Walnut Grove. With a lack of funds, each member of the family finds a unique way to make/give Christmas gifts to each other. In “A Christmas They Never Forgot,” the Ingalls are snowed in at Christmas and share stories of Christmas’s past with each other.

Come to the Stable–Loretta Young, Celeste Holm I haven’t seen this film but it’s on my list of movies to watch so I thought I’d share this one with you. A heartwarming family film concerning the exploits of two French nuns who come to America, setting up operations in a local stable, in order to raise money for a children’s hospital.

Want more ideas? Explore the entire list of classic holiday films and period dramas at Willow & Thatch.

Do you have a little known Christmas movie you treasure in your home?

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