Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss: A Short Story

Jane Austen's World

This story was commissioned to appear in the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper on December 27th 2004 as part of a tradition of short stories during Christmas week. – Jo Beverly. Click here to read it.

Under the Kissing Bough

Sweet emblem of returning peace, the heart’s full gush and love’s release,
Spirits in human fondness flow and greet the pearly mistletoe.
Oh! Happy tricksome time of mirth, giv’n to the stars of sky and earth!
May all the best of feeling know, the custom of the mistletoe.
Married and single, proud and free, yield to the season, trim with glee:
Time will not stay … he cheats us so … A kiss? … ’tis gone … the mistletoe.

The poem above was written in December, 1826, and last line refers to the custom of plucking a berry every time a kiss was stolen beneath the kissing bough. Once the berries…

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Christmas carols Before the Mast


The story above doesn’t belong to me, but it is suitable. However, these below are a few known carols adapted during the years for the athmosphere Before the Mast – the Age of Sail RPG (ie interactive swashbuckling adventure story) we are writing together for 6 years and 5 months already:

Christmas in the West Indies

Christmas Season in the West Indies has its charm,
No matter if in the cities of in the pirates’ realm.
There is no snow the European mother country to remind,
But it’s closer to the athmosphere the Divine Child
Was actually born under the star in the Middle East.

On islands and on ships it’s an important feast.
Catholics are building rich scenes of Nativity,
Rhum and punch flow on the throats free,
A good luck coin is hidden in the King’s cake
If yours’, then choose your Queen, for party’s sake!

Pirates and colonists tonight will toast
With warmest season’s greetings BEFORE THE MAST!


I saw three ships

I saw three ships aboard the site
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”
I saw three ships ready to fight
In the West Indies at war time.

And who was in those ships all three,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
And who was in those ships all three,
According to their prior agreement?

Captain Crawford and Raoul were there,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
And Sharky with his privateers,
In the West Indies at war time.

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
In the West Indies at war time?

O they sailed into the straight
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
Wanting the pirate ship to fight,
In the West Indies at war time.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
That gunned down the “Siren” sank,
In the West Indies at war time.
Then let us all rejoice again,
“Before the Mast”, “Before the Mast”,
That those we love did survive,
In the West Indies at war time.

(The peace is settled already for a while… and all the ships mentioned there got sunk in battles some years ago).


Deck the site

Deck the site with gimps and holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
For the holidays to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

We have weddings, fun and contests,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
And witty negotiations,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the story grow before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Strike the keys and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Follow us and write to measure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
And you’ll surely get a treasure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fast away the old plot passes,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Let’s write joyous, all together,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Contests to win, story to further,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.


Doe, A Deer, A Female Deer: The Spirit of Mother Christmas

Gather Victoria

reindeergather-001Oh wondrous headed doe… Amongst its horns it carries the light of the blessed sun…” Hungarian Christmas Folk Song

Long before Santa charioted his flying steeds across our mythical skies, it was the female reindeer who drew the sleigh of the sun goddess at winter solstice. Today it is her beloved image that adorns Christmas cards and Yule decorations – not Rudolph. Because unlike the male reindeer who sheds his antlers in winter, it is the larger and stronger doe, who retains her horns. And it is she who leads the herds in winter.


It was when we “Christianized” the pagan traditions of winter, that the white bearded man i.e. “Father Christmas” was born. And so today we no longer remember the “Deer Mother” who once flew through winter’s longest darkest night with the life-giving light of the sun in her horns.

deer-crade-of-starlight-by-art-of-sekhmet Cradle of Starlight by Art of Sekhmet


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A Victorian Lady’s Christmas Gift Guide

Mimi Matthews

“A merry Christmas, with Love’s gifts for the young, Home’s comforts for the old, and Heaven’s bright hopes for all, is our fervent aspiration.”
Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1854.

An elegantly dressed couple walk arm in arm under an umbrella, 1905.(Wellcome Images CC BY 4.0) An elegantly dressed couple walk arm in arm under an umbrella, 1905.
(Wellcome Images CC BY 4.0)

Shopping for Christmas presents in the Victorian era could be quite tricky, especially if one was a lady choosing a gift for a gentleman. Luckily, newspapers, magazines, and etiquette books of the day were only too happy to offer advice on appropriate gifts for all the men, women, and children in one’s life. They also offered advice on such thorny issues as re-gifting gifts and keeping to a Christmas budget. In today’s article we look at a few of these recommended Christmas gifts for ladies and gentlemen, as well as at Victorian advice on re-gifting and living within one’s means during the holidays.

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The fantastic five NaNoWriMo winners


I think it is very important that NaNoWriMo endeavours made possible for all of us, the people in Bucharest interested in writing and in challenging ourselves to at least 1,667 words daily to meet. Our paths wouldn’t have crossed otherwise, given that we come from different generations and academic backgrounds and we are writing in various genres – some of us in Romanian, some of us in English. And I am glad and grateful we have met with this opportunity!

Many thanks to Raluca, our local municipal leader, for organising everything and making it possible! (She is the one who drew the portrait above too). She kept the group united and in permanent communication, so that we keep meeting regularly even when NaNoWriMo isn’t eating our souls anymore. Which means that our connections will deepen.

Yes, we are the five winners of a group of initially 8 or more Bucharest fans of writing. And I am missing from this photo below.


You may assume that I was taking it (even if I don’t really like appropriating credits which aren’t mine, for things someone else had actually done). And I like them portrayed as the castle ladies of a literary tower of dreams… (No, I don’t intend to confine them to the tower until they finish the actual novels, though, making them ready for publishing. Because if I did it, I would have to share their fate too…).

Congratulations for having persevered and having won NaNoWriMo! Congratulations for haing a story to tell and the patience and determination to actually tell it. We all know it was not easy, and we all have been there for each other in moments when feeling like giving up, or merely feeling tired and demoralised by the too little progress, or stuck with the plot in a point.

From this photo below, however, I am not missing.


This is a scene at one of our weekly meetings in a cozy tea house, peppered with writing right there and catching up with missing words, as the present laptops may witness, as well as with discussions  about writing methods, resources, inspiration sources, about our stories, characters, about publishing our stories when they will be ready and so on.

We have found a way to support each other and to forge new connections. Georgiana and Veronica are already classmates at Uni and writing together their story, so this is an older connection. But just after NaNoWriMo ended, Bianca invited Raluca to a TV show, where I am honoured to have been mentioned too. Another new connection. Bianca is my new friend and beta reader, and I invited her to literary events in my group of mature writers. Raluca told us all about a writing workshop to be organised, and Bianca and I attended it, in order to open up to new literary challenges.

Also I’d mention within the category of the Bucharest NaNoWriMo group that we have also given each other prizes for having won NaNoWriMo. I received, therefore, besides the group portraits above, including the drawn one, a pirate -themed room decoration set,


a pirate polar bear to hang in my Christmas tree, a Christmas card with an inspiring quote…

…and an audio cd with music to listen to while writing. Pirate-themed too, since I am the pirate of the group, Bianca the baby elf, Raluca the immortal mystery queen, while Georgiana is the Devil’s daughter and Veronica …just is (given that her novel is titled “I am“, definitely otherwise I couldn’t make such a statement).

We could and did turn it into a celebration that the official NaNoWriMo, too far from us and focusing more on receiving donations than on anything else, wouldn’t have granted. Next year I might be in charge of the trophies, making them even more meaningful than this year – but I loved everything this year too, and we had trophies somewhere too.