by Nina Croft
**Congratulations to Jennifer Mathis, winner of Nina Croft's giveaway!**
I’m English, and although I tend to write aimed at the American market, my characters are usually English and my stories tend to be set in England. So when my fantastic critique group, Passionate Critters, decided to write an anthology of Christmas stories and base them all around the fictional American town of Five Oaks, I knew I was venturing into alien territory.
I’ve had to become aware of the differences between American English and what we speak back home. It’s not just spelling, like realised and realized, but also actual words. We have lifts, Americans have elevators, we have pavements they have sidewalks. Jumpers are sweaters, cafes are diners, and bonnets are hoods.
And it goes deeper, to the food we eat and the way we celebrate certain festivals. So when I was writing my Christmas story, Mid-Winter Magic, it came as no surprise to discover that there are also big differences between English and American Christmas traditions.
“What’s a mince pie, Nina?”
One of my critique group asked me this question after reading my story. I was shocked—mince pies are a huge Christmas tradition in England. But a bit of research later, and yes—it’s true—Americans do not eat mince pies at Christmas. In fact, it seems many Americans don’t even know what a mince pie is.
When I was young, my parents would always leave a mince pie and a glass of sherry out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve (and don’t forget the carrot for the reindeer), as a thank you for delivering the presents.
Another custom is that if you eat a mince pie every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night you will have happiness for the next twelve months. The perfect excuse for indulging.
In my story, the heroine, Dina, is a witch who has been hiding out in Five Oaks for the last fifty years. She’s been doing some typically unwitchy things while in hiding and one of them is learning to bake. And she’s quite good at it—go to any bake sale in Five Oaks and Dina’s cakes and pies will be among the best there.
As a witch, Dina never really celebrated Christmas. Her family was more into celebrating the mid-winter fire festival of Yule, where they would burn an oak log and dance around it in celebration of the rebirth of the sun. But still, growing up in England, it was hard not to take in the customs, and like me, Dina has fond memories of English Christmases. It therefore stands to reason that one of the things she would bake at Christmas time is mince pies.
So, the good people of Five Oaks now know what Father Christmas is munching when he sits down to his mince pie. But do you?
If you’d like to have a go at baking your own mince pies, you can find the recipe HERE
I left England a few years back and now live on an almond farm in the remote mountains of Southern Spain. Over here, the customs are different as well. Spanish children don’t get their presents until January 6th, and they are delivered, not by Father Christmas, but by the three kings, los Reyes Magos. And here, the traditional Spanish Christmas treat is turron, or almond candy.
But I still have happy memories of Christmas in England, and I still eat mince pies.
Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite Christmas food is from your part of the world and get a chance to win a free copy of my novella, Mid-Winter Magic, some Nina Croft goodies, traditional Spanish turron, and some luxury mince pies—decadence guaranteed!
**To Celebrate our '8 Crazy Nights', Decadent Publishing will also be giving the winner one FREE book of their choice from Decadent Publishing**
And check out what else is going on in Five Oaks where a few other couples are having a very Passionate Christmas.