Thursday, December 28, 2023

Just for Fun! - Little Known Christmas Facts and Traditions by Jo-Ann Roberts



From its Puritan roots to today's commercialized version, Christmas in America has many traditions, old and new. Some traditions date back to ancient Greek and Roman times, while others were started in modern times.

Christmas Pickles

If there's a pickle among your traditional ornaments, you're likely taking part in an American tradition. The first child to find the pickle wings a gift or get to open the first present on Christmas morning.

The origins of this ornament are a bit unknown, but it likely grew from an old F.W. Woolworth's marketing gimmick from the late 1800s. The retailer received German ornaments shaped like a pickle and need a way to get the public to buy in.

Advent Calendars

Early versions of this tradition started in Germany in 1903. A publisher wanted to offer a way for children to count down to Christmas. By opening one "door" or "window" a day to reveal a Bible passage, poem or small gift, he gave kids a way to get into the Christmas spirit very day of the month until the big day arrived.

Gingerbread Houses

Although Queen Elizabeth I gets all the credit for the early decorating of gingerbread
cookies, it was the Germans who lay claim to the start of the gingerbread house tradition.

When the Brothers Grimm wrote "Hansel and Gretel" a new holiday tradition was born. Today, the edible decorations come in many shapes and sizes and are designed for kids to be able to personalize their very own gingerbread house however they like.

Cookies and Milk for Santa

Leaving treats for Santa and his reindeer dates back to ancient Norse mythology. Americans began to warm to the tradition during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

As a sign of showing gratitude during a time of struggle, families would gather what little they had to give and would leave a little treat for Santa and his hardworking reindeer by the fireplace at night. By morning, the treats would be gone and in their place Santa could leave presents for the children.


Wreaths have been around a long time, dating back to ancient Greek and Roman times. But the evergreen Christmas wreath is fairly newer. Often adorned with boughs of holly, the evergreen wreath took on a Christian meaning.

The circular shape represents eternal life, and the holly leaves and berries are symbolic of Christ's crown of thorns and blood. 

Here's a picture of our wreath on our pantry door.

Christmas Cards

The first Christmas card made its debut in 1843 in England with a straightforward message, "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You."

The concept of a mailed winter holiday greeting slowly caught on in both England and the U.S. The Kansas City-based Hall Brothers, now known as Hallmark, created a folded card sold with an envelope in 1915. 

Fun Fact: More than 1.6 billion holiday cards are sold every year.

Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting

The first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was erected in 1931, during the Depression-
era construction of Rockefeller Center. On Christmas Eve, Italian American workers decorated a smaller, 20-foot tree with "strings of cranberries, garlands of paper and even a few tin cans. 

Department Store Santa

Children lining up to sit on Santa's lap dates back to 1890. Originally, James Edgar of Massachusetts had a Santa suit made for him and dressed as the jolly old Saint Nick at his dry goods store.

Just a year later, Santas could be found in many stores across the country. It is widely known that Edgar was the original store Santa, but Macy's in New York claims it has been hosting Santa since 1862.        P.S. Taken in the early 1950s, this could have been me sitting on Santa's lap!

Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Every December, bell-ringers are out in force to accept donations with their iconic red
kettles. Salvation Army bell-ringers have collected money for the needy since 1891. The tradition started with San Francisco Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee who wanted to raise money to offer a free Christmas dinner to 1,000 of the city's most needy.

He was inspired by a kettle he had seen in England that people tossed in coins for the poor and decided to set up his own version. The idea caught on and quickly spread across the country and the world. 

Gabe Dawson didn't believe catastrophes came in threes. That is, until his grandfather died, a fire nearly destroyed his home, and his grandmother started showing signs of forgetfulness. 

When Hope Brody discovers Nora Dawson wandering in a snowy field and learns of the family's loss, she sets out to recreate the quilt that was destroyed in the fire. But in order to present it to her at the Annual Christmas Eve Quilt gathering, that meant she'd have to get to know the taciturn Gabe Dawson.  

Despite thwarting her efforts at friendship, Gabe finally acknowledges that Hope's visits are helping ease his grandmother's anxieties. Soon, he finds himself falling for the lovely quilter. But with only a small farm and almost constant care of his ailing grandmother, he has nothing to offer and would never be a woman's first choice. As Christmas approaches, will Hope look beyond his obligations and see a future blossom from a special, once-in-a-lifetime friendship?


Friday, December 22, 2023

Christmas Carols From Germany We Enjoy

 While researching this year’s Christmas novella, Rose, in the Christmas Quilt multi-author series, I wanted one of the characters to teach the other about the holiday.

Rose is Scottish. Because of a proclamation made in the Reformation by Oliver Cromwell, celebrating Christ’s Mass was banned in England and Scotland starting in 1647. (The ban was lifted in the UK 15 years later, but remained in Scotland for another 300 years.) The day was spent like any other and most people worked the regular jobs. So all that Berrin shows her is new and exciting.

In this Beauty-and-the-Beast-themed story, I wanted the hero, Berrin, to expose Rose to new traditions as their friendship advanced. He is of German heritage and found a robust community of his folk when he bought the blacksmith shop in Butte City, Montana. He’s part of the Liederkrantz Society (a wreath of songs), formed in 1876, and the group performed at community events and visited the historical equivalent of rest homes in the city to bring holiday cheer. The tree, laden with miners’ candles and other decorations, was first decorated in 1876 in a hall where the German community met.

an illusion of what real candles look like on a tree

 Here’s a little background on two famous carols of German origin.

Stille Nacht (Silent Night), was first a poem written in 1816 by Father Joseph Mohr. His friend, Franz Gruber, set the poem to music and the pair performed it with a simple guitar accompaniment at a midnight Christmas Mass two years later in Austria. The song became instantly popular and was translated into many languages (300 at last count) but the name of the author was lost to history. Then, in 1995, Mohr’s original manuscript of the poem resurfaced, and the proper credit was given to the carol.


O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree), was written in 1824 by Ernst Anschütz, a schoolteacher in Liepzig, who based it on a 16th century folk song by Melchior Franck. By the middle of the 19th century, the song was tied to the Christmas tree and much loved in many other countries.

Spinster Rose MacEwen is the shy daughter in the large family of a prominent banker. All her life, her stutter has kept her from experiencing a normal social life like her sisters have. Although she’s the oldest daughter, Rose rarely talks with anyone outside her large family. Her mother believes no man will ever want her because a woman who can’t act serve as hostess won’t aid a husband’s career. Rather than argue, she keeps her thoughts bottled up inside. For years, she has sat at her grandmother’s side and learned the art of quilting. Rose pours her emotions into making quilts that she donates for charitable causes. But what she yearns for is the chance to converse with others in the community about what’s in her heart.

Blacksmith Berrin Harimann is most at ease in his world of heat and toil. No one bothers him while he’s wresting useful objects from blocks of metal. Those who come to his dark shop don’t linger after transacting their business. A disfiguring injury five years earlier robbed him of his fiancée. Rather than make excuses for a family who couldn’t look him in the eye, he moved west and set up shop in the Silver Bow Creek Valley. The pain from his burn scar now resides in his lonely heart and festers because of what’s missing from his life.

When the pulley on her quilt frame breaks, Rose ventures outside the family mansion in search of a blacksmith. Berrin looks up from his forge and sees an elegant lady in his shop doorway. Their gazes meet, and she steps into his world, bringing light. They connect instantly, and their fate seems set. But what chance does this pair have when everyone tells them they are not suited? Can their budding love withstand the expectations of her family and society’s standards?



and in KU

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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Story Behind the Story

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

For those following along, you know my story "Amos" in the Christmas Quilt Brides series arrives on December 22, 2023. It is a story six years in the making. Although a stand-alone story, the characters appeared in my story "Josie's Dream" which was released in 2017. From that moment on the two main characters in "Amos" have been waiting for the opportunity to have their story told.

But where did the stories originate? Other than my imagination, my biggest influences were the exploration  I've done and continue to do on early Colorado Women Doctors, the works of Helen (Hunt) Jackson, and research on early pioneers on the Eastern Plains of Colorado.

The stories that have been unearthed from investigating the history of these disparate topics have melded together to ignite my imagination. Add to that, the stories of events found in newspapers of the era and area, bring a ring of authenticity to the stories. 

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

Numerous tidbits are waiting in the wings to be brought to life. To me, this is the joy of writing fiction and scholarly non-fiction works. I am trying to honor the words of a friend, "What's the good of all the research you do if you don't share it."

That's what I hope to do, share the lives and adventures of the people, real and fictional, who have crossed my path as I traverse the archives and walk the land they walked.

If you enjoy "Amos", please leave a review, and most importantly, read and review the other stories in this Christmas Quilt series. Each piece of feedback keeps we writers telling the stories to help you through your own lives.

You can pre-order "Amos" now at:

Until Next Time Stay Safe & Stay Well


Thursday, December 14, 2023

A Sweet Yule Log


I've wanted to make a Yule Log for years, but never got around to it. 

 For those who aren't familiar with them, Yule log history goes back to a tradition historians believe originated long before the arrival of Christianity in Europe in the Scandinavian region. 

A giant log would be lit during the winter solstice and people would sit around it telling stories and feasting. For twelve days, the log would continue burning until the new year arrived, bringing luck and fortune. 

 The tradition evolved and was then used to symbolize the birth of Jesus. 

 In the 19th century, a delicious soft sponge cake evolved called a Bûche de Noël. The cake is shaped and decorated to resemble a Yule log. 

 Traditionally, edible Yule logs are covered in chocolate buttercream chocolate. As much as I love chocolate, I decided to go a different route with my Yule log cake.

 3 egg yolks, warmed to room temperature 
 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 
 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
 2 tablespoons milk 
 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
 1/2 cup MINUS 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour, sifted 
 1 tablespoon cornstarch, sifted 
 3 egg whites 
 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 
 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar 

 1 cup seedless raspberry jam 
 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
 1/2 cup powdered sugar 
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

 2 cups confectioner’s sugar 
 1/2 cup butter, softened 
 1 tablespoon cream 
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
 Sprinkle a cotton tea towel with powdered sugar and set aside. Line a 9x13 baking sheet with parchment and set aside. 
 In a large bowl, beat together egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar until combined. Add the oil, milk and vanilla, beating until combined. Sift in flour and cornstarch and mix until combined and smooth. Set aside.
 In a large bowl, whip egg whites until frothy, then add in vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Whip until soft beaks form. Fold egg white mixture into batter, using gentle strokes to blend. Carefully transfer batter to the baking sheet and smooth with a silicone spatula. 
Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden on top. When you poke the cake with your finger, it should spring back. Remove from oven.
 Drop pan onto hot pads from about a height of an inch above them to prevent shrinkage. 
Invert cake onto the prepared tea towel. Peel off parchment paper and roll cake inside the towel. Allow to cool. 
 To make filling, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and jam, stirring until well combined. Unroll cake and spread with filling, then roll cake into a log shape and transfer to a serving dish or platter. 
 To make frosting, whip softened butter until fluffy. Add in sugar, cream, and vanilla and mix on medium speed until it is fluffy and thick. Spread over Yule Log. 
 I made frosting flower and leaves for mine, then sprinkled the whole thing with edible glitter flakes. Refrigerate any leftovers. 
 Yield: 12 slices  

Merry Christmas!

After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with hope, humor, and hunky heroes. When this award-winning author isn’t writing or covertly seeking dark, decadent chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at: ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Newsletter

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Voting & Jury Duty- Chore or Privilege? by Zina Abbott











As if a recent book release, Christmas coming, and a host of other distractions were not enough, I had jury duty this week. Sometimes, people speak and act as though they consider voting, and--especially jury duty--to be a chore, something they would rather not. Yet, the right to those two civic responsibilities were denied women until within the last century and a half. We should not take these privileges lightly.

My experience reminded me of a scene from Marigold, my 2022 book in the Christmas Quilt Brides series. To set the scene, the school board in New Ponca, Oklahoma Territory, where Marigold is a schoolteacher, is trying to convince her to accept less pay than what she was offered and contractually agreed to the previous year. Here is part of the scene:

            “Miss Calloway, you are being paid as much as a male teacher. That is unreasonable.” Scowling, Chairman Duffy ran his palm across the top of his head of thinning hair. “Everyone knows, women only receive one-half to one-third of the pay, depending on experience. The board must also consider the costs of running two separate classes. To pay the salary you received this past year to teach the younger class—”

            “Although I am happy to teach younger students, there is no reason that I must be the one to teach the junior class. I successfully taught all grades last year, including graduating two at the high school level. If cost, not quality of instruction is your primary objective, I will be happy to continue to teach the older students. You can then find a less-experienced female teacher with more limited training to teach the younger grades at the salary you propose.”

            “Miss Calloway, please be reasonable. A man is better suited to teaching the advanced courses of the higher grades and to handle the discipline issues that arise among older students.” Mr. Duffy beat the side of his fist on the table.

            “According to whom, Mr. Duffy? I respectfully disagree with your short-sighted premise. Just because a teacher wears trousers instead of a skirt does not necessarily make that instructor more capable as far as knowing the subject matter. Neither does it make them more organized nor more capable of managing students. Regarding my abilities to handle the more advanced topics and maintain order in the classroom, my experience teaching all of the grades this past year should speak for itself.”

            “Chairman Duffy, I agree with what Miss Calloway said. She has done wonders for our two boys.” A woman in the audience quickly rose to her feet. “Tell them, Henry.” She turned to the man wearing work clothes who sat next to her.

            “Mrs. Smithers, please sit down. We have not opened the meeting to any discussion from the audience. Besides, it is your husband who votes for school board members, not you. You are to allow him to speak for your family.”

            “Sit down, Mabel. Don’t make a scene.” The man seated next to Mrs. Smithers placed his hand on her arm and tugged her downward.

            “Why did you drag me to this backward, uncivilized territory?” Mabel Smithers hissed as she faced her husband. "When we lived in Kansas, not only could I vote for school board members, but I voted for the city taxes and bonds that paid their salaries. The members of the school board were not so quick to dismiss us women.” She turned her head and glared at Mr. Duffy.

 Just like now, issues not covered by federal law were left to the states and territories to decide. So, why did Mabel Smithers claim she had more privileges when she and her husband lived in Kansas? It was because she did.

I wish to quickly review the dates women received certain rights and privileges in four states in which I have set many of my books. For much of this information, I usually refer to my 

well-used copy of The Hidden Half of the Family by Christina Kassabian Schaefer, written to assist in finding female ancestors. The following are some of the dates women received certain rights in Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Wyoming - Most who know even a smidgen of history are aware that Wyoming was the first state in which the territorial legislature gave women the right to vote. They were also given the right to be court justices and to serve on juries. The last two privileges were quickly taken away by that same legislature, due to complaints, mainly by husbands who objected to be left with the care of the children and household chores while their wives served. (Boo-hoo-hoo!) It might be all right for their wives to take over feeding the livestock or help with the plowing, planting, and harvesting, but ask a man to cook a meal or change dirty diapers? Absolutely not! (Again--boo-boo-hoo!) It took a long, long time before women were granted the right to serve on a jury again--anywhere.

Other rights and when they were granted in Wyoming:

1869 - A married woman's earnings are her separate property. (Before that, all money earned by a spouse or minor children were under the control of the husband/father. This came from England's common law and was typical throughout the U.S.)

1876 - A married woman's separate property is her separate estate, which she might devise by will.

1882 - A married woman is granted femme sole status to administer her separate estate.

1857 Kansas and Indian Territories Map


1858 - A married woman may devise a will.

1859 - A woman's property rights are written into the territorial constitution. A married woman is guaranteed control over her separate earnings and separate estate.

1861 - Kansas drafts the first state constitution to give a married woman equal control of her children and marital property.

1861 - Women may vote in school elections.

1862 - In intestacy, a widow has the right to choose dower (1/3 of the estate not subject to paying husband's debt for duration of her life) or one half of her husband's estate, absoluteley, both real and personal.

1868 - A married woman may sue and be sued, "carry on any trade or business, and perform any labor or services, on her sole and separate account; and the earnings of any married woman, from her trade...shall be her sole and separate property, and may be invested by her in her own name. "The widow of a deceased husband, or husband of a deceased wife, are 'entitled to the same rights or portions in the estate of the other.'"

1887 - Women may vote in city and bond elections.

1912 - Kansas women receive complete suffrage.


What about the state in which my heroine, Varinia Jewell, lived: Colorado? It was actually one of the earlier states to receive complete suffrage.


1874 - A married woman may devise a will.

1876 - (year of statehood) A married woman's separate estates is property that is held prior to and after marriage. Her separate earnings are also her separate estate.

1893 - Colorado women receive complete suffrage by amendment to the state constitution.


Now, let's take a look at Oklahoma, which became a territory separate from Indian Territory  May 2, 1890. Oklahoma did not  become a state until November 16, 1907.

was set in 1894. Beulah was set in 1896. The following was the timeline of rights granted to both Native Americans and women of other ethnicities in Oklahoma Territory/Oklahoma:

Oklahoma -

1890 -  Organized as Oklahoma Territory; the eastern portion of Oklahoma is Indian Territory under the jurisdiction of Arkansas; the Oklahoma Panhandle is opened for settlement.

- Oklahoma Territory law follows that of Nebraska.

- Indian Territory law followed that of Arkansas.

1918 - Oklahoma women receive complete suffrage.

Considering that Oklahoma Territory followed Nebraska law, here is what applied to women living there after Oklahoma Territory was separated from Indian Territory:

1867 - Women may vote in school elections.

1881 - All property owned by a woman at her marriage "shall be and remain her sole and separate property free from the disposal or debts of her husband."

Missed that when I researched Marigold. My resource is quiet regarding women's rights concerning their children or voting for school bonds, but, evidently, they could vote in school board elections. Maybe at the school board meeting dealing with trying to reduce Marigold's salary, Mr. Duffy should not have been so quick to dismiss Mabel Smithers. 

Beulah was released last Friday and is now available as an ebook and at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. It will soon be available in paperback. To find the book description and current purchase options, 




My other Christmas romance for 2023 is  

Vinegar Pie by Varinia

It is available as an ebook, including at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. It is also available in paperback. To find the book description and purchase options,


Tuesday, December 12, 2023

How a Lady's Magazine Shaped Christmas

Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book was an American women's magazine published in Philadelphia from 1830 to 1870 and played an important part in shaping the cultural customs of the 19th century.

Sarah Josepha Hale, author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” was the editor from 1837 until 1877. When Hale started at Godey's, the magazine had a circulation of ten thousand subscribers.

By 1860, it had 150,000 subscribers and was the most popular journal of its day. Hale used her influence to advocate for the establishment of a national Thanksgiving holiday and other various causes, including advocating for women's education.

Best known for the fashion plate that appeared at the start of each issue, other articles and editorials helped shape many of the traditions practiced by American families today.

The above picture was based on an image of Queen Victoria and her decorated Christmas tree previously published in The Illustrated London News in December 1848.

A revised version was copied in Godley's in 1850 and removed what was referred to as royal trappings from Victoria's tiara and Prince Albert's mustache to remake the picture into an American scene. It was the first widely circulated picture of a decorated evergreen Christmas tree in America and was reprinted in 1860. By the 1870s, a Christmas tree was common in the United States.

Pioneer families adopted the tradition by decorating their homes with natural materials such as evergreen, holly, pinecones, nuts, and berries. While these efforts may have been modest compared to the articles in Godey's magazine, a Christmas tree was equally festive, decorated with popcorn and homemade decorations, such as cookie dough ornaments, gingerbread men, and cornhusks angels.

In my upcoming new release, Clementine: Christmas Quilt Brides Book 15, our heroine has relocated to an area where trees can be scarce. Assuming one could find one, it might be considered wasteful to cut down. Even so, pioneers would celebrate the day with a time of feasting. Many women brought out the preserved fruits and vegetables. Beef or ham would have been served, or more likely, fresh game.

Clementine has nothing to her name but a quilt and some second-hand clothing. She's aged out of the orphanage and can't afford to be choosey. But she is determined to make the best of things. "If it's true that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, surely any minor flaws like my sassiness will fade away with the aroma of fresh bread."

Disappointed in love, Caleb Ellis is content to live a reclusive lifestyle on the outskirts of his family's ranch. But his father had other ideas and left a condition that he must marry to obtain his inheritance. Time is not on his side, so he has arranged to marry a woman he's never met by proxy. "Anyone growing up in an orphanage, desperate enough to apply as a mail-order bride, is bound to be practical, biddable, and self-sufficient. I'll leave her to her own resources, and she should leave me to mine."

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Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th -century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance with an emphasis on Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun.

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