By Elizabeth Meyette, author of Love’s Spirit and Love’s Destiny
Imagine young lovers flirting in the light of candles placed on the Christmas tree, the young lady’s blush heightened in the glow from the Yule log crackling in the fireplace. Eyes sparkle from behind the masks they wear at the holiday ball, and the couple steals a kiss beneath fresh mistletoe. This was the magic of Christmas in colonial America, the setting for Love’s Destiny and Love’s Spirit. These lovers, Emily Wentworth and Jonathon Brentwood, would have celebrated the Twelve Days of Christmas and Twelfth Night rather than Christmas Day.
I used to think that the Twelve Days of Christmas were the days leading up to December 25th, but they actually begin on December 25th and end the day before Epiphany, January 5th. During this time wealthy colonists like Jonathon Brentwood invited guests for the holidays. (They stayed much longer than we do today—sometimes months!) There were sumptuous feasts, hunting parties, card games, and masked balls that were often intended for young people to gather and meet and find romance. But revelers would not have sung the traditional song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” since it was composed several years later in 1780.
In Love’s Destiny, Emily and Jonathon had become lovers months before their first Christmas season together. While their courtship is nowhere near as complex and comical as Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, they do have secrets that protect their growing love for one another and make for interesting conversations with family members. Keeping their romance secret from others due to the precarious position Emily’s father had put them in, Jonathon comes to her in the night while others are asleep. But eventually, of course, they are discovered—just after Jonathon proposes to Emily…in his bed. After recovering from their shock, family members celebrate their engagement with a champagne toast at breakfast.
In colonial days, marriage banns were announced at church to advertise upcoming nuptials, as they are in Love’s Destiny: “Their wedding banns were posted at the church, and the date was set for the week after Christmas.” Ah, a Christmas wedding, what is more romantic? And the Twelve Days of Christmas was a time of romance and weddings. George and Martha Washington were married on the Epiphany, January 6, the day following Twelfth Night.
Being of lover of romance, it should come as no surprise that my husband Rich and I were married during the Twelve Days of Christmas—Dec. 30. Happy Anniversary to my Beloved.