Well, Helen and Ella did a good job last week helping to convince me that I don't really hate Christmas. I've got as far as getting a tree. Not a fir tree, but I'm sure it will look good when it gets a few baubles on it! Today's tea from the calendar is Frosted Fruit - very nice, but my favourite this week has been Ruby Amaretto. I love the taste of almonds. Today's chocolate is a penguin!This week Angela Britnell and Berni Stevens are the ones convincing me about the joys of the festive season. Angela actually has two book out this Christmas, the paperback version of Christmas at Little Penhaven and the brand new e-book and paperback A Cornish Christmas at Pear Tree Farm.
Don’t worry, Evonne I’m not going to try to convince you about the merits of everything Christmas because that would be hypocritical of me! I can’t stand hearing ‘White Christmas’ and ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’ in the shops from October onwards and never watch syrupy Christmas films. My Christmas books usually get sent back by my editor the first time around with instructions to make it ‘more Christmassy please’. Having said that I do enjoy celebrating the true meaning of the season and the opportunity to be with family and friends. I’ve picked three things that to me sum up the best parts of Christmas and all of them are celebrated in ‘A Cornish Christmas at Pear Tree Farm.’
A CHRISTMAS EVE CAROL SERVICE
Here is an excerpt from the book. It’s Christmas Eve and without giving too much away the service is being held at the farm.
'The vicar took up his place at the front and welcomed everyone to their makeshift gathering before the first notes of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ rang out. Crispin’s deep, rich voice. The pungent smell of the animals. Little children’s excited chatter. The sparkling lights illuminating the barn and reminding her of the star-lit sky on that first Christmas. Everything combined to make Ashley’s eyes sting with happy tears. The brief service flew by and Crispin draped his arm around her shoulders when they stood for the last carol, ‘Silent Night’. A brief hush fell as the song ended then everyone started to talk again.'
The ancient church in the village where I grew up in Cornwall never looks lovelier than on Christmas Eve and here’s a picture of the last time we were there for the service. One picture shows my mother holding her candle and the other is the nativity scene acted by the children.
FAMILY CHRISTMAS DINNER
Like many families we’re scattered around the country and in our case across the Atlantic Ocean too but when we’re able to get together there is nothing more special. It’s particularly meaningful at Christmas. I’d like to share a window into Christmas Day at Pear Tree Farm where Ward is about to propose a toast and he looks back to the previous year.
'Ward stood and tapped his spoon on a glass. ‘Before we eat, I’m gonna tell a quick story. The first time I ate in this room was with Nessa and my folks, I pictured a Christmas tree standing in the corner by the window and all of our families gathered around. I even conjured up a baby in Nessa’s arms with her dark hair and my grey eyes.’
Hearing her brother’s thickening voice made Ashley’s throat tighten with emotion.
‘Today that dream has come true.'
THE GERMAN CHRISTMAS MARKETS
When I was living and working in Denmark back in the early 1980s, where I met my future husband, I’d never heard of the famous German Christmas markets but I was captivated by the first one we went to in Flensburg. The atmosphere was like nothing I’d ever experience before highlighted by the wonderful smell of warm gluhwein and fresh pfeffernusse cookies along with the sight of stalls full of hand-crafted ornaments and gifts. Every year when I decorate our Christmas tree I bring out ornaments bought in those special markets and lose myself in happy memories. Here’s a photograph I found of me enjoying some of the German Christmas treats.
In ‘A Cornish Christmas at Pear Tree Farm’ Ashley instigates a Christmas festival full of the Cornish equivalent of the German markets only with Cornish craft gin and mince pies.
'Despite the emptiness in her heart, Ashley smiled at the scene in front of her. For this first day of “Christmas, Cornish Style” the air carried a suitably festive cold bite, the sky was a stunning clear blue and the sun hadn’t stopped shining. With a little over three weeks to go until Christmas, they’d apparently timed it perfectly to pull in the crowds. It’d been non-stop since they opened at ten this morning, and she was about run ragged trying to make sure the food and craft vendors had everything they needed. She’d heard that things were equally busy down at the farm and most of the visitors she’d spoken to were checking out both venues.'
Here's wishing you a peaceful and warm Christmas, Evonne however you choose to celebrate or not!
Aww! Thanks Angela. I do like the elements of a traditional Christmas and it looks like Christmas Markets are popular - Helen mentioned them too, last week.
I must admit I fell for the cover of Berni Stevens Christmas book Laughing All the Way on the Jingle Bells Express because it has a train on the cover. I have a thing for trains. As you might guess - Berni's Christmas is a bit different.
Decorating the tree is a very special job in our house. Of course, we have a cat who likes to pull the decorations off the tree, and run off with anything from the decorations box that takes her fancy, so it can often take longer than we planned.
Our decorations are not exactly traditional, sparkly of course, just not traditional. Anyone who’s ever been to the US, will have discovered their various Christmas shops (usually open all year round), and it wasn’t long before I started collecting tree ornaments from the various places we visited. Because we always go to the South-West desert areas of the Four Corners region, there are a lot of Native American tree decorations in our collection, and chilli lights too, bought from the Cameron Trading Post in Arizona. We even have a lot of Day of the Dead ornaments, including some very sparkly skulls!
Sam, our son, brought some lovely tree decorations back from a trip to India, and we have quite a few sparkly bats. (As in the mammals not cricket bats!) Most people know of my love for all things Gothic and Dracula-related, and the bats have really multiplied over the years.
In Laughing All the Way, the passengers on the Jingle Bells Express receive Christmas tree decorations in their crackers, although theirs are more traditional than ours. I don’t believe they received any skulls!
I imagine most families have Christmas traditions, I don’t think we have too many, not set in stone anyway. Apart from my, ‘we must have a REAL Christmas tree’ insistence every year. I know they shed needles everywhere ... even when I buy the Nordic blue spruce which isn’t supposed to shed, but we live in a half-timbered cottage, and there is no way an artificial tree would look very good (although they are getting better). But they don’t smell do they? Our house needs to smell like Christmas ...
I like to do table presents for everyone on Christmas Day – just something small, sometimes silly, and often edible – and we always have crackers ... some of these ideas have crept into my book, as you’d expect, but with more than a little Christmas magic added. There are a lot of Christmas trees in the book too – and yes, they’re all real ones.
My parents used to live in a small Sussex village near Pevensey Castle, in whose grounds the annual Boxing Day tug-of-war contest was usually held. The winners got bottles of wine, but the losers got drenched in the river when the champions pulled them in. It was a good incentive to try very hard to win! There are a lot of ghost stories associated with the area, not least because of Pevensey Marshes, which can look creepy even in the day time during the winter, because of the sea mists rolling in. Unsurprisingly, the Marshes get a brief mention in Laughing All the Way too. There’s not the room here to tell any of the ghost stories ... but I’ll just say that my cousin’s dog slipped his leash one dark evening in December during a walk in the Castle grounds. He took off towards home like a bat out of hell, howling all the way (definitely not laughing!) When my cousin got home, she found him cowering under the dining table, shivering from head to paws. She never knew what he’d seen or heard.
Enjoy the wonderful time of Christmas and I wish you all a happy healthy New Year.
Definitely a creepier kind of Christmas.
And I'm definitely thawing, if that is the right word. The traditional elements of Christmas - carols, nativity plays, decorated trees, do have a special magic. Now I'm wondering what Kirsty and Marie will have to to say next week to finish off the job of convincing me.
The festive reads from Angela and Berni are available as e-books and paperbacks. Both Angela's books take you back to locations we first met in the summer - Little Penhaven and Pear Tree Farm.
Pairing up at Pear Tree Farm in time for Christmas … Pear Tree Farm in Cornwall, owned by the kind-hearted Nessa Vivian, is known for taking in lost souls, and ex-soldier Crispin Davies is certainly one of those. But the once sleepy caravan park is now a thriving business, and far from the peace and quiet Crispin was craving, he soon finds himself roped into helping out with a short-notice Christmas festival, organised by Nessa’s force-of-nature sister, Lowena. But despite Crispin’s initial reluctance, his involvement in the festival serves to throw him together with Ashley Spencer, an American woman and fellow lost soul, who works at the nearby Tregereth House. Could Lowena’s ambitious scheme result in a more hopeful Christmas and New Year for them both – with a few surprises along the way?
You can buy yourself a copy HERE
Wannabe author Jane Solomon is expecting an uneventful Christmas in her Cornish village of Little Penhaven. But then super fit American gym owner Hal Muir comes to town, and suddenly the holiday season looks set to be far more interesting. Hal is keen on embracing every British tradition on offer, from mince pies to Christmas pub quizzes – and perhaps some festive romance too …
The book is available HERE
You can find Angela on Twitter @AngelaBritnell
And if you fancy a Christmas train ride with Berni