A big welcome to Laura Loney who is visiting us today in celebration of the release of her debut book ‘Twas The Night Before Tudor Christmas, which is beautifully illustrated by Kathryn Holeman. It’s out today in paperback and Kindle.
Find the book on your Amazon store – click here. It really is gorgeous.
Over to Laura…
Does your heart beat a little faster seeing those beautiful Tudor gown posts online? The luxurious swoosh of fabric, the inevitable twirl, all topped with either a French or English style hood and studded with jewels. Have you ever worn such an outfit? Have you ever longed to? Maybe you’d prefer a grand doublet and hose ensemble. Or maybe you’re like me, admiring them, but if you actually wore one you’d be all fancied up, surrounded by people in jeans and T-shirts, and looking more than a tad out of place.
I know the feeling, but I also cannot quench my addiction to history. The solution? I speckle my Tudor obsession throughout my day in ways that satisfy me, but do not overtake my modern life. I read, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, but I long to share my interest with others too. Maybe it’s because I often think that anyone who isn’t interested in the Tudors just doesn’t know what they are missing.
So I trickle in fun history facts and tidbits at parties, bring up Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn over coffee, maybe tell a Tudor ghost story or two around Halloween. If you are nodding or grinning right now, then you understand and are likely a history fact teller too.
Christmas is one of my favourite times of year. I absolutely love it. It’s magical, sparkly, delicious and full of feel-good vibes. It also happens to have a very rich and interesting history. And you know what? You guessed it. I wanted to bring a touch of Tudor history to my Christmas. The catch? Well, as a mom I can’t very well say to my kids, “Sorry, lovelies. No tree this year. We are going full Tudor. Turkey, dressing and gravy? Nope. Say hello to a boar’s head and a dead peacock made to look as though it’s still alive. Oh and by the way, we are opening all our presents on January 1st this year.” What a disaster that would be!
However, I can bake gingerbread cookies made to look like a peacock for dessert. How about a bowl of Pleasant Pottage to feed hungry guests who stop by with little notice? Maybe enjoy a festive group craft about secret messages?
‘Twas the Night Before Tudor Christmas began as a witty retelling of the classic poem by Clement Clarke Moore, but grew into a much larger book compiling more than 30 Tudor-inspired recipes, games and activities. The story is the heart of the book, and its words are brought to life by the beautiful illustrations created by the talented Kathyrn Holeman. While writing it, I imagined fellow history enthusiasts having a special Tudor storybook to pull from their bookshelves to read every Christmas Eve.
As I’ve said, I love Christmas and so before I finished a rather strong cup of coffee, I had a page worth of notes on how to bring twists of Tudor history to a modern Christmas. While my intention was never to replace current family traditions or recreate an authentic Tudor Christmas, my ideas needed to be fun, creative, and able to please even those people who (mistakenly) exclaim, “history is booooring.”
The original list evolved through my research and test baking. One Tudor tidbit, which I always wanted to incorporate, was the delicious tale of Elizabeth I receiving a marchpane chessboard. Such glorious Tudor imagery! Marchpane is basically ground almonds, sugar and rose water and also something my kids would likely spit into their napkins before fixing me with looks of betrayal. “Why did you let me eat this?” So perfume-flavoured sweets were out – although the book does include a toned-down recipe for marchpane-inspired cookies, which is milder than the original and more pleasing to sensitive taste buds.
I still needed a way to create an edible chessboard. I decided it would be a cookie. A large, shortbread, checkerboard cookie. But would it work? In my first trial, it did! The chessboard of light and dark squares fused together well. I was pleased, maybe even a little smug, that this bake had worked on my first go – well, until I moved it. My short lived masterpiece cracked and crumbled in my hands and I was forced to eat several broken pieces to console myself. Lesson learned. Do not move the shortbread chessboard while it is still warm. When it is allowed to cool, the shortbread holds its shape and can be transferred to a serving tray and adorned with edible playing pieces. The recipe is in the book, so now you can play with your chessboard and eat it too!
The book includes 15 recipes, both savoury and sweet, all with Tudor history facts. It’s a cookbook? Well, it is, but not really because there are also plenty of games and activities, plus decorating and dollhouse ideas too. It’s many secular aspects of the Christmas season, all with Tudor twists.
The jokes found in Christmas crackers (not cheese and crackers, but the mini popping dinner decorations with tissue paper hats inside) are a delightful part of a Christmas meal. They are funny, even when they merit a groan. I knew I needed to write some Tudor themed jokes. What do you get when the Tudor baker sleeps in? Four-poster bread! I’ll pop down to the next paragraph while you finish your belly laughing (or eye-rolling).
There are some fun activities that can be done as a group, like a ghostly storytelling game, a DIY craft to make a handful-sized kissing bough, and an original card game called An Heir and a Spare. The card game gently mimics the challenges Henry VIII’s wives would have dealt with trying to deliver him a son amongst the scheming families at court.
Some activities are great played with others or can be puzzled over solo like the Would You Rather? and Choose Only One… sections. Would you rather tell Henry VIII you ate the last of the tarts or tell Elizabeth I her sugar toothpaste is rotting her teeth? You will be haunted by one Tudor era ghost for the 12 days of Christmas. Who will you choose? Hmm, I still can’t decide.
I have tried to bring as much fun to these Tudor-inspired activities, games and recipes as possible. Though, I know several lovely people who thought I was writing a book about ‘tutors’. That’s no problem. As I mentioned earlier, I feel if people aren’t interested in the Tudors, then they probably just don’t know enough about them. For that reason, the book includes a summary called The Tudor Dynasty in a Nutshell which gives a very brief, but informative overview. Kathryn Holeman illustrated a beautiful Tudor family tree to accompany this section. I hope it will prove to be as useful as a session with a Tudor history tutor.
If you love both Christmas and the Tudors, and like the playful writing-style of this article, then it’s a pretty solid bet that you will enjoy ‘Twas the Night Before Tudor Christmas. Kathryn Holeman’s illustrations are speckled throughout and I have taken many photos of the recipes and activities too, so it is a very visual book.
After you add a touch of Tudor to your modern Christmas, I’d love to hear about what you tried, what made you laugh, and if you found a new favourite tradition. There are plenty of ideas to choose from and the ones mentioned in this article are only a small taste. You can find me on Facebook at Laura Loney – Author, Instagram at @laurelleavesandlaundry and my website at https://lauraloney.com. You can find Kathryn Holeman at https://kathrynholeman.com.
May Christmas magic follow you throughout the year. Much love!
“Anne longed for a taste of a sweet, scrumptious food,
Some rose-scented marchpane would secure her good mood…
What happens when King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn bump into the Lord of Misrule late on Christmas Eve? Find out in this Tudor-themed retelling of Clement Clarke Moore’s classic Christmas poem.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is far more than a poetry book. It includes more than 30 original Tudor-inspired activities, games, ideas and recipes to bring a twist of Tudor to your modern Christmas! And it’s sumptuously illustrated by Kathryn Holeman.
A compendium and Christmas keepsake – you’ll use it again and again.
Publisher: MadeGlobal Publishing (30 September 2022)
Find the book on your Amazon store – click here.