The photo above shows 18th-century style Christmas decorations at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.
1) It's hard to imagine, from our 21st-century perspective, anyone losing track of the date this close to Christmas. But Roger had a lot of other things on his mind....
"What's the occasion? For our homecoming?"
She lifted her head from his chest and gave him what he privately classified as A Look.
"For Christmas," she said.
"What?" He groped blankly, trying to count the days, but the events of the last three weeks had completely erased his mental calendar. "When?"
"Tomorrow, idiot," she said with exaggerated patience.
From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 33, "Home for Christmas".
from Diana Gabaldon's books
The illustration above, showing Scrooge with Marley's ghost, comes from the 1843 edition of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
2) Here's a quote from one of my favorite scenes in DRUMS OF AUTUMN, when Claire comes to find Jamie in the snow:
"What if I tell you a story, instead?"
Highlanders loved stories, and Jamie was no exception.
"Oh, aye," he said, sounding much happier. "What sort of story is it?"
"A Christmas story," I said, settling myself along the curve of his body. "About a miser named Ebenezer Scrooge."
"An Englishman, I daresay?"
"Yes," I said. "Be quiet and listen."
I could see my own breath as I talked, white in the dim, cold air. The snow was falling heavily outside our shelter; when I paused in the story, I could hear the whisper of flakes against the hemlock branches, and the far-off whine of wind in the trees.
From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Night on a Snowy Mountain".
3) I think it's interesting--and rather sad--that Lord John should seek out Nessie, rather than the company of his own family, on Christmas Eve. You may recall that he brought her a box of sugar plums, like the ones pictured above.
“Aye, well, it is Christmas Eve,” she said, answering his unasked question. “Any man wi’ a home to go to’s in it.” She yawned, pulled off her nightcap, and fluffed her fingers through the wild mass of curly dark hair.
“Yet you seem to have some custom,” he observed. Distant singing came from two floors below, and the parlor had seemed well populated when he passed.
“Och, aye. The desperate ones. I leave them to Maybelle to deal with; dinna like to see them, poor creatures. Pitiful. They dinna really want a woman, the ones who come on Christmas Eve--only a fire to sit by, and folk to sit with.”
From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Joyeux Noel".
4) The next quote is a reminder that Christmas was viewed differently back then than we think of it today. But of course many of today's Christmas traditions date from the 19th century or later:
Catholic as many of them were--and nominally Christian as they all were--Highland Scots regarded Christmas primarily as a religious observance, rather than a major festive occasion. Lacking priest or minister, the day was spent much like a Sunday, though with a particularly lavish meal to mark the occasion, and the exchange of small gifts.
From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms".
5) Speaking of Christmas traditions, here's one, from THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
They’d brought down the Yule log to the house that afternoon, all the household taking part, the women bundled to the eyebrows, the men ruddy, flushed with the labor, staggering, singing, dragging the monstrous log with ropes, its rough skin packed with snow, a great furrow left where it passed, the snow plowed high on either side.
From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Succession".
9) I love this quote, even though things didn't turn out the way Roger had expected. (The photo above, by krbnah on Flickr, shows Inverness at Christmas, 2009.)
She'd wanted to go to the Christmas Eve services. After that...
After that, he would ask her, make it formal. She would say yes, he knew. And then...
Why, then, they would come home, to a house dark and private. With themselves alone, on a night of sacrament and secret, with love newly come into the world. And he would lift her in his arms and carry her upstairs, on a night when virginity's sacrifice was no loss of purity, but rather the birth of everlasting joy.
From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "Home for the Holidays".
8) The next quote, from BEES, is a new addition to this year's collection. Nutmeg was very expensive in the 18th century, which explains why Claire was so excited to see it.
[Jamie] let go of me to fumble in his sporran and came up with a tiny round brown thing, which he held out to me. “A nutmeg.”
“Oh! I haven’t smelled nutmeg in years!” I took it from him, cold-fingered and careful lest I drop it. I held it under my nose and breathed in. My eyes were closed but I could clearly see Christmas cookies and taste the thick sweetness of eggnog. “How much was it?”
“Ye dinna want to know,” he assured me, grinning. “Worth it, though, for the look on your face, Sassenach.”
“Bring me some rum tonight, and I’ll put the same look on yours,” I said, laughing.
From GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 65, "Green Grow the Rushes, O!".
6) And what would the holidays be without sweets?
With a certain amount of forethought, Mrs. Bug, Brianna, Marsali, Lizzie, and I had made up an enormous quantity of molasses toffee, which we had distributed as a Christmas treat to all the children within earshot. Whatever it might do to their teeth, it had the beneficial effect of gluing their mouths shut for long periods, and in consequence, the adults had enjoyed a peaceful Christmas.
From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms".
7) Quakers don't have any special Christmas celebrations, but there's no denying that Denny and Rachel Hunter found Christmas, 1777, a particularly memorable occasion, thanks to Dottie!
"Well, that is odd,” Rachel said, turning to look first at her brother, and then at the small clock that graced their rooms. “Who goes a-visiting at nine o’clock on Christmas night? It cannot be a Friend, surely?” For Friends did not keep Christmas and would find the feast no bar to travel, but the Hunters had no connections--not yet--with the Friends of any Philadelphia meeting.
A thump of footsteps on the staircase prevented Denzell’s reply, and an instant later the door of the room burst open. The fur-clad woman stood on the threshold, white as her furs.
“Denny?” she said in a strangled voice.
From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 86, "Valley Forge".
10) And finally, here's Claire, recalling Christmases in Boston while Bree was growing up:
Making a proper Christmas for Brianna every year had been wonderful; I’d felt as though the festivity was for me, as well—the joy of doing things I’d read or heard about, but never done or seen. Frank, the only one of us who had truly experienced the traditional British Christmas, was the authority on menus, gift wrapping, carol singing, and other arcane lore. From the decorating of the tree until it came down after New Year’s, the house was full of excited secrets, with an underlying sense of peace.
From GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "Ashes, Ashes".