Thursday, November 8, 2012

NaNoWriMo and Historical Fiction

So, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is 7 days old. I have 5950 words in those days. I'm feeling way behind, BUT I have discovered an important reason for such a problem.

I write historical fiction. DUH! I have to do research while I am writing. For example, in Colonial Dream, my hero and heroine have immigrated to the Colonies in 1773. They are about to celebrate Christmas. Well, I spent 12 years down the road from Colonial Williamsburg. They are all about a big Christmas observance with their Grand Illumination, natural fruit and greenery for wreaths, candles in the windows, etc. However, my story begins in Boston. I thought it would be a good idea to see if Boston traditions at this time were different.

That's when I ran into the big obstacle! If you remember your Thanksgiving lore, you remember that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was settled by Puritans. These Puritans came to America for religious freedom to worship the way they wanted, which they proceeded to force on the all of the members of the colony. One of the tenets of their faith required the NON-celebration of Christmas. In fact, it was illegal to celebrate Christmas in Masschusetts until 1681! Even the changing of the law did not change the cultural beliefs of the area. Citizens were actively discouraged from celebrating Christmas.

Why? As always, all the reasons are probably unknown. One big reason involved the fact that the original celebration of the winter solstice was a pagan event. The greenery and other customs were brought into Christianity and mingled with a birth of Christ holiday. The pagan roots caused the Puritans to shun the celebration. In addition, the Bible does not record a celebration of the birth of Christ, so the "pure" reading of Scripture excluded such observance. In addition, the name of the holiday harkened back to Catholicism since it's meaning is "Christ Mass". Protestant groups rejected much that was tinged with Catholicism. Eventually the Puritans observed the religious significance of the holiday in church services

Another bit of research then concerns how the Welsh celebrated Christmas before coming to America. Some of their traditions included caroling, wassailing, taffy making on Christmas Eve, decorating with greenery (hanging the greens), burning a large yule log, and feasting. It sounds like the 18th century Welsh did it all at Christmas.

I think my characters will have to celebrate a Welsh Christmas behind closed doors. All of this research is quite interesting to read and to share with my readers. But none of it creates word count for NaNoWriMo! Even writing this blog doesn't count, though it does help me to be ready to write this afternoon.