Day One and we are off!


HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM Erastes and Speak Its Name!

Well here we are!

I’m so excited. Christmas has come early to my house and I already have my decorations up. The fridge is full of egg-nog (actually it’s vodka but I do have some Scotch Eggs to scoff with it) and mince pies and sausage rolls are falling out of the cupboard.

We are celebrating two years of this review site and it’s a little thank you because without the readers and the visitors there would be no point doing reviews at all. I think that – with your help and enthusiasm – we have dragged gay historical fiction and romance from a genre that – only a few years ago – simply didn’t exist as a genre, into something that now stands on its own and when there’s a list of gay fiction, historicals are there, elbowing the contemps out of the way and showing off their epaulettes and breeches.  New words and phrases have been introduced into the vocabulary: Breeches rippers; OKHomo.

We have a different author blogging every day, and they’ll be offering a prize, so you have 24 chances to win!  (We won’t make a rule you can only win once, either, so keep trying!) Winners will be announced on Christmas day –  Plus see below for the Bumper Prize.

So to kick things off my post is going to be about the kind of Christmas that David Caverly and Jonathan Graie might have experienced in Transgressions, set in the mid-17th century.

In the 16th century, things had changed food-wise in England. With the discovery of a new continent, new foods had made its way across the ocean and people were eating potatoes, maize and turkey!

Christian rituals were still intermingled with pagan–(as they still are, in fact). Families would deck their houses with evergreens. Ivy, holly and mistletoe – all considered unlucky to bring into the house outside Christmas. The poorer families would substitute furze in the form of a ‘kissing bush’ for mistletoe. A kissing bush was made by taking a small gorse bush and dipping it in water and then sprinkling it with flour to get a snow effect. This would then be put in a pot with holly berries stuck on the furze thorns. People would then ‘kiss’ next to the kissing bush as opposed to under the mistletoe.

I rather like the idea of David trapping Jon under the mistletoe when Jacob was out of the way.

The rich would have a boar’s head as a centrepiece to the Wassail feast, but although the Caverlys weren’t dirt poor, I doubt they went to that excess. I would imagine that they had pork, boiled and pickled. Shred, or mincemeat, pies served as a special part of the dinner, white bread (a treat, as white flour was very expensive) and plum pudding, made with beef, raisins, currants and bread.

After the English Civil War, in 1657 – Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), the self-proclaimed Lord Protector of England from 1649 until 1658, detested Christmas as a pagan holiday (one not sanctioned by the Bible, that promoted gluttony and drunkenness). Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan Council abolished Christmas on December 22, 1657. In London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration. The smell of a goose being cooked could bring trouble. Cromwell considered pies as a guilty, forbidden pleasure. The traditional mincemeat pie was banned.

Bloody Cromwell. If he thought pies were sinful, imagine what he’ll do when he finds out one of his trusted officers is a sodomite. Ooops.

In the 1646 ballad, The World Turned Upside Down by Thomason Tracts, one verse of the song refers to “shred pie.” The song was written bewailing Parliament’s ban on Christmas:

To conclude, I’le tell you news that’s right,
Christmas was kil’d at Naseby fight:
Charity was slain at that same time,
Jack Tell troth too, a friend of mine,
Likewise then did die,
Rost beef and shred pie,
Pig, Goose and Capon no quarter found.

King Charles II (1630-1685) restored Christmas when he ascended the throne in 1660. Hurrah!

Advent Calendar Giveaway!

Today I’m offering a signed copy of Transgressions and all you need to do is to leave a comment here with what you think is your funniest holiday joke.  🙂  Yes, it’s ok – you can cheat and use the internet. Santa isn’t reading this today.  I’ll pick the funniest (and I have a warped sense of humour) and the winners will all be announced on Christmas day.

Here’s mine.

I say, I say, I say – What do reindeer hang on their Christmas trees?


THE BUMPER PRIZE:  On Christmas Day itself – one lucky person will be chosen at random from all the commenters throughout the 24 days and will win a BUMPER package of goodies. Not sure what it is yet, but it will include at least 2 paper books, an ebook, some sweets, and freebies.

So what have you got to lose? Enjoy the calendar!

29 Responses

  1. I like the idea of trying to make a kissing bush, though there are disadvantages to having carpets – sweeping up all that shed flour every day.

    Here’s my Christmas joke:

    What’s the most popular wine at Christmas?
    “Do I have to eat my Brussel sprouts?”

  2. I must admit, it would never have occurred to me that people might be too poor to have reall mistletoe! And I’m amused to discover that spray-on snow isn’t as new-fangled as all that!

    So many appalling Christmas cracker jokes, so little time…

    Here’s my offering:

    Q: Who looks after Father Christmas when he’s ill?

    A: The National Elf Service.

    And as a bonus: Q: What do you call a reindeer with no eyes?

    A: No idea.

    Q: What do you call a reindeer with no legs and no eyes?

    A: Still no idea.

  3. Thank you for your calendar launching post! I must say, I’ll be happy to stick with modern Christmas dinner this year. I just don’t think I could get too excited about pickled pork.

    The joke:

    One Christmas, Joe and Peter built a skating rink in the middle of a field. A shepherd leading his flock decided to take a shortcut across the rink. The sheep, however, were afraid of the ice and would not cross it. Desperate, the shepherd began tugging them to the other side.

    “Look at that,” Peter said to Joe. “That guy is trying to pull the wool over our ice.”

  4. At last years employee Christmas party, I brought my wife so she could be the designated driver.

    I proceeded to get totally plastered, getting mouthy with all my co-workers who dicked me around during the year.

    The next day when I woke up, I had a hell of a hang-over. Drawing a complete blank on the events of the night, I turned to my wife and asked how the party played out.

    Stunned, she asked, “You don’t remember?”


    “Well you got pretty drunk and called your boss a cocksucker.”

    Groaning, rubbed my hand over my eyes. “What did he do? Chew my ass off?”

    “He said you’re fired!”

    Shrugging my shoulders, I blew it off. “Screw him!”

    “Screw him?” she laughed, “You did. You start back Monday with a pay raise.”

  5. A man go into a restaurant for a Christmas breakfast while in his home town for the holidays. After looking over the menu, he decides to have the eggs benedict. The waiter brings his order a few minutes later and it’s served on a huge fancy chrome plate. He looks at the waiter and says, “What’s with the fancy plate?”

    The waiter replies, “There’s no plate like chrome for the hollandaise!”

  6. We always buy really duff mistletoe. I stick it on the door, stand under it – does Tommy Bowe turn up? No blooming way.

    My Joke:
    What’s the difference between Brussel Sprouts and bogies?
    You can’t get kids to eat Brussel Sprouts…


  7. These are all utterly, molar-grindingly execrable. So lets see if I can up the execrability stakes….

    Dudley Moore used to collect Victorian Christmas parlour songs. One he knew of but had difficulty finding sheet music for was known as ‘Could I but express in song’ and he searched high and low for it. In city after city around the world he scoured the sheet music shops. Eventually in New York he found a back street shop and asked the shop girl, who took her gum out to say: “I dunno. I’ll check the index.” And she came back after a while, took her gum out again and told him “We do have quite a few pieces by this guy Kodaly. Hungarian, is he? But the Kodaly Buttocks Pressing Song we don’t have. Sorry.”

  8. Happy holidays! Thanks for sharing such interesting tidbits.

    Good King Wenceslas phoned for a pizza.
    The salesgirl asked him, ‘Do you want your usual? Deep pan, crisp and even?’

  9. Cromwell was a miserable old Scrooge, wasn’t he!

    My joke is spectacularly Xmas-cracker-crappy:
    What do reindeer always say before telling a joke?
    This one will sleigh you.

  10. Cromwell is one of those people for whom I reserve a special but heartfelt loathing.

    I do love the idea of fake snow, 17th century style!

    Mine isn’t a joke as such, it’s an announcement from a parish Christmas newsletter.

    “Remember the Christmas cleaning of the Parish Hall this Saturday. We need lots volunteers to join the work crew. There is a long list of items to be cleaned. The widows will need extra attention.”

  11. Q: Did you hear that one of Santa’s reindeer now works for Proctor and Gamble?

    A: Its true . . . Comet cleans sinks!

  12. Oldie but one of my favorites… the annual Christmas Dinner of the Chess Enthusiasts of Greater Boston, gathered in a fine downtown hotel preparatory to entering the ballroom. As they stand around exchanging stories of tournaments won and lost, their raucous behavior starts to annoy other guests.

    Finally one fellow goes up to the manager and says, “Do we have to put up with these chess nuts boasting in an open foyer?”

  13. OMG, you guys have bent my funny bone until it’s near breaking.
    Great info,. Erastes.
    Only funny thing I can think of re. Christmas is that when I was a little girl I always wondered why my friend, Janet sang a song about a King named “applesauce”!

  14. This is blatant theft, but I SO love George Carlin (RIP):

    The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.


  15. KZ –

    Nuts! And here I was, all these years, thinking Santa was so jolly because of the the drone-supply of Keebler elf men!

    (and you can take that both ways! snort!)

    BTW folks – these have been groan-ific! I’m having a bad day here (haven’t been to bed in 36 hours) but the jokes are like a shot of vitiamin B…

  16. Omg, you and Steve Hewitt doing advent calenders! Wonderful!

    I’ll have to think on the joke…

    btw, I Wii-ed today! \o/ I’m a tennis pro now, lol.

  17. I don’t know any jokes (please don’t include me in the giveaways; I have all the books and don’t need anything else), but just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading about the historical details in your post, especially the rituals. Details of everyday life are always the most interesting.

  18. Not a particularly new one, but it always makes me smile…..

    One particular Christmas season a long time ago, Santa was getting ready for his annual trip, but there were problems everywhere.
    Four of his elves got sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones so Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule.

    When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out, heaven knows where. More stress.

    Then when he began to load the sleigh one of the boards cracked, and the toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys. So, frustrated, Santa went into the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum.

    When he went to the cupboard, he discovered that the elves had hidden the alcohol, and there was nothing to drink. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider pot, and it broke into hundreds of little pieces all over the
    kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw end of the broom.

    Just then the doorbell rang, and irritable Santa trudged to the door. He opened the door, and there was a little angel with a great Christmas tree.

    The angel said, very cheerfully, “Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn’t it a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?”

    Thus began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree !!

  19. When you order for Christmas be careful!






  20. Bob and i have just set up Christmas. This always happens just after Thanksgiving, My grandmother’s Victorian mirror in the foyer is swaddled with greens as well as a collection of period musical instruments. The grand piano and the living room bookshelf become supports for the English railway Dickensian village. Britains toy figures abound. But here’s the colorful thing…atop the Christmas tree, branch up her ass, is an angel….giving credence to the last joke. I vote for it to win your prize

    Happy Christmass all, and may your crackers display wonders!

  21. George ~ I suspect that’s the case, but we must be respectful and alter his image one step at a time. 😉

    (Oh, these have cracked me up!)

  22. I had to hit google, since I know no good Christmas jokes.

    “What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?”


    As you can tell, I couldn’t FIND any good ones either.

  23. The angel on top of the tree – every year when I place her on there, she makes a little “woo-hoo-hoo” sound.

    Whoever has the pleasure of decorating the tree with me, seriously cracks up

    and Lisa – that joke was the balls! Thank god I never open my email from places I’ve ordered when there is an audiance around…

  24. I’m a day late reading it, but it’s a crackerjack start to the Advent calendar, Erastes! This was such a great idea. I hope to get whatever I come up with to you by the end of the week. Thanks to everybody for the hilarious howlers. And a minute ago I walked into our living room, glanced up at the Christmas tree, saw the blissful look on the feathery angel atop it–and fell apart. My husband is still looking puzzled. And every time I try to tell him I start laughing again.

  25. Oh, Cromwell, that nasty, poxy old so-and-so. Round up the mince pies! Second those geese to some other hearth!

    You know, I think what he really needed is a good duff up the arse…

  26. Got one at last! I’m slooow, huh?

    What’s yellow and sweet and swings through the jungle beating his chest?



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