The history of Christmas part 3: From day to night ~ the Tudor and Cromwellian Christmases

In a Tudor household

By the time the House of Tudor took the English throne in 1485, Christmas was a big event in the calendar, and in the life of British people. Everyone was expected to stop their daily life and celebrate for the 12 days of Christmas. In 1541, Henry VIII banned all sports on Christmas Day except archery, to encourage people to focus on Christmas. In 1551 his son Edward VI, passed a law that everybody should walk to church to attend the services.

Feasting was an important part of Christmas day for every household, and with the manorial system across the country people dined on long trestle tables in the lord of the manor’s hall, or with the farmers they worked for, large gatherings were the norm. Turkeys were already in Britain, they had been brought to Europe from their native America in 1519, and sprouts appeared on record in festive cookery in 1587.

In a Cromwellian household

But then came the English Civil War, in the 1600s, commonly known as a battle between King and Parliament, it was equally a battle between moderate and radicle puritan Christians. As the Civil War progressed those that had begun the war, angered by the King’s desire to fight battles against other Puritan states while he defended Catholics and charged his people taxes to fight the wars they disagreed with, saw the tide turn. They had not begun the war because of religion, but those with radicle beliefs gradually took over Parliament, and in the end they arrested and disposed of anyone who disagreed with their extreme point of view. Over indulgences were frowned on, theatres were told to close, saints’ days were no long holidays and any form of recognition of pagan beliefs or religious images were frowned on and then finally banned by law.

In 1644 it was Christmas’s turn to come under Cromwell’s power. Any celebration of Christmas was banned by law. Cromwell called Christmas ‘an extraeme forgetfulnesse of Christ, by giving liberty to carnall and sensual delights.’ By law, Christmas was a work day, all merchants had to open for business by law, there were no church services – unless the day fell on a Sunday. Carols were forbidden and anyone caught cooking Christmas foods or singing Carols might be fined, or worse.

When King Charles II was restored to the thrown in 1660 these laws were reverted, but even so Britain had become used to a less raucous, extreme celebration.

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What inspires a psychological thriller?

The writing ideas for the psychological thrillers come very differently from the research I’ve done for historical stories. They can’t be found by visiting such obvious places as historical properties. But I’ve learned to use several things.

One. My own life – I’ve started writing scenes set in local places, and using some of things I’ve done. Places I’ve spent a lot of time in and have experienced life in not just visited. I shared some of the places when I told you about the inspirations for After you Fell in The Secrets of a Bestseller. My characters might carry different emotions into the scenes from the days that I’ve done the same thing or been to the same place. But drawing on my reality, I think helps to make the characters experience more real, which enables the reader to connect emotionally with the characters. And that emotional connection, writing a character the people feel something for, is just as important in thrillers as it is in romance.

There’s a seen in The Twins when they hitchhike to Buscot, to swim in the weir pool on National Trust land. That’s something I and my friends did as young teenagers πŸ™‚

My Twins are truants. I admit I did skip school occassionally, but I once met a girl at the bus stop who was going to school for the first time in two years. She said she used to hide in the day. I never saw her again, she didn’t come back. It’s strange how my real life memories from a long while ago can return to influence a story now. I remember her though because I always wondered what had happened next.

Two. Learning about real life crimes, and most importantly the people who commit them. The TV channel, CBS Reality, is my late-night watch. I’m funny I know. In my day job in a meeting we were asked to draw how we were feeling, I made everyone laugh because in my drawing I included a drawing of a woman with a knife – I was tired because I’d stayed up late watching Wives with Knives. Hee hee. But another late-night programme is about twins who commit crimes. I watched it as much to learn about the relationship between twins rather than to find ideas for the story. I’m pleased to say that I’ve already had feedback from a twin to say they relate to my characters. So, that has thrilled me – thank you to the television show.

Three. Identifying the settings for the scenes. Choosing real settings adds to the stories realism. It engages people’s minds with the fiction more effectively. Although there’s always a writer’s licence to embellish spaces, my settings are usually deliberately not accurate to the real places. For instance, two of the characters in The Twins own a cafe in the Lake District. I chose the Lake District for the adult years of my characters because it’s quite an enchanting place. It’s also out of the way, where the characters could go to hide. But a lot of the lakes are full of tourists, and the towns busy with thousands of visitors. So when I found a quieter setting, it became the perfect place for my reserved characters who didn’t want to let anyone know they were there. The small cafe at the Esthwaite Water Trout Fishery became the spot I used as a reference to describe my cafe. But then I embellished it. Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of the real cafe. In reality, on the entrance side, it’s a solid wall with a single width door. My setting has a glass front so that the characters see who is coming and going. My fictional cafe is also bigger, it has more tables inside, and a wider selection of food. But the fact that it’s set right on the edge of the lake, and that there’s nothing else around it, those are the things that the real cafe inspired. It has a homely, welcoming atomosphere, tucked away in the woods.

Oh that might take you back to the first inspiration I mentioned in this recent flurry of blog posts.

Four. Music. The inspiration of music runs from historicals into psychological thrillers without change.

The Twins: The most gripping psychological crime thriller of 2020 with a twist you won’t see coming!

available in audio an ebook from today

If you liked Blood Orange, The Perfect Couple and The House Guest you will love this!

Susan and Sarah. Sisters. Best friends.
Together…forever?

Nothing could break them apart.

Until they meet him.

And he can only choose one…

Now Susan is back. Determined to reclaim everything Sarah has taken from her.

Her home, her husband…her life?