Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What did your characters get for Christmas?

Have you ever wondered what Christmas gift giving was like in another time period?  Or wish to sneak a peek at others Christmas lists?

Vickie McDonough created a great post over at Bustles and Spurs - Christmas Shopping in 1897.   where she pretended to be a 10 year old girl with $10 to spend on her family for Christmas.  She shares the gift selections that she has chosen out of a Sears & Roebuck's catelog. What an interesting post and so much fun! 

It got me thinking about what kind of gifts the characters from my wip Hope Springs Eternal would exchange for Christmas.  The story is set in 1816, Maine, during the year there was no summer.

Many people did not celebrate Christmas until later in the 19th century, especially those from New England that still held conservative puritain values. There were; however, those who brought Christmas traditions from the old country.  The Cates family celebrated a simple Christmas and shared thoughtful gifts with one another. During the harsh winter they had to be very creative with the gifts they gave. In stark contrast to their want, they blessed each other abundantly. Their thoughtfulness to one another becomes a catalyst hope. 

My characters include the protagonist, Rachel Atwood, an English woman settled in rural Maine following the War of 1812.  After she becomes a widow and loses her baby she becomes a wet nurse for the infant son of Josiah Cates, an outdoorsman.  They have taken Rachel in following an injury and all live in the home of his mother.

Josiah to Rachel  - Rabbit fur muff, return of her Bible
Josiah made a muff from the fur of a rabbit that he hunted, it is also lined in rabbit fur.  This will keep her hands nice and warm in the cold.  He also found her missing Bible and returned it to her on Christmas day.

Josiah to Mother Cates - Maple sugar molds
Josiah hand carved a new wooden maple sugar mold for his mother.

Rachel and Josiah to Mother Cates - Pigments and brushes
Rachel had her aunt in England send some pigments for Goody Cates to mix paints so she could do her tole painting again.   Rachel asked Josiah if he could make her some new brushes which he did by whittling wooden handles and making squirrel tail bristles.

Rachel to Josiah - Book
Rachel has a treasured book that belonged to her father.  The book, Wild Animals of the Bible, was written by a famous naturalist friend of her father's and is a priceless keepsake of hers.

Rachel to Josiah's baby boy - Baby items

Seeing the need for the baby to have more blankets and belongings, as a sacrifice of her heart she offers precious items that had belonged to her own baby.

Mother Cates to Rachel - Hope Chest
Rachel's hope is waining in the bitter winter months.  Josiah's mother offers Rachel her own treasured hope chest as a symbol of hope for Rachel. 

Mother Cates to Josiah - The garrison house

Mother Cates gives her last living son an early inheritance . . . her homestead, the garrison house that his great grandfather built.  This was the first Christmas that it was just she, her son, and new grandson so she felt it was an appropriate time for this gift.

What would your characters give one another for Christmas?


  1. What a great post! Hmmm, My characters? Well, Molasses Swamp found the mom squirreling away every extra penny to be able to buy her teenage son, Jason, a name brand, pricey mountain bike. However, once she finally managed to purchase it, she coudn't fit it in her compact car to get it home. So she RODE it 12 miles to her house, then had a neighbor drive her back to the bike shop to get her car.

    I think Jason got her, oh, maybe a pretty sweater from a thrift shop.


  2. What an interesting way to explore and develop characters - by considering what gifts they would get or give. I'll have to remember this! Thanks for sharing it.

    You might be interested in taking a peek at yesterday's blog. There are some awards that might interest you.


    Blessings to you and your readers! :)

  3. Groovy, how industrious of Jason's mom! Doesn't that just figure, she had to ride it home. I hope Jason didn't see her! That would be very nice of Jason to find a pretty sweater for his mom. If he lived in Waterville he could he'd have plenty of thrift shopping choices.

  4. Hi Karen, this was a great exercise and got me writing a whole chapter on this family's Christmas. It was very fitting since Christmas is all about hope and that is what this family needed most right about then.

    I'm hopping over to your blog to take a peek at the awards!

  5. I write contemporary fiction, so my list looks a little different than yours. :-) In one of my manuscripts, the two-year-old boy gets everything related to fire trucks since that's his obsession. My other WIP doesn't fall during the Christmas time frame, but I'll have to think about what they would like to get.

  6. Wonderful post, Carla! The heartfelt gifts and details make me want to read your story very much:) I'm not sure what my characters are giving in the Christmas epilogue I'm working on. But you've sure sparked my imagination!

    I received in the mail a lovely pin from your giveaway and it sure made me smile. Bless you for being so generous and sharing the holiday spirit!!

  7. Carla, Thanks for stopping by my blog and it's been a pleasure to return the visit.

    This post has me thinking about the characterization in the novel I plan to start writing next week/year. Danielle would probably give her adoptive mother some jewelry or music. However, the gift she most wants to give? The scrapbook she's been building about her birth parents. She wants to give the gift of family history to her younger brother - assuming she can find him.

    Hmmm. I think I need to add a Christmas scene to the outline.

  8. Your book looks so interesting!

    My characters are in the Appalachians and have small celebrations. They're not well off and very isolated so their observance would be quite humble.

    Cora does manage to obtain a stag handled knife for her husband.

  9. Laura, I'm glad you got the pin, at last!

    This was a good exercise for me and sparked more ideas for this book. Thank you for the nice comments!

  10. Has anyone ever read the 5 Love Languages? It is interesting to consider what our characters (contemporary or historic) would give and like to receive. It tells us a little about them and for me thinking about it has given me fodder for earlier chapters in my story.


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