I’m so happy to welcome Kimberly Grist this week. In Fresh Start For Christmas, a part of the Spinster Mail-Order series, she writes about a 19th Century Pandemic that some of us may not recall from our history lessons. After listening to this old-fashioned love story, I can guarantee it will transport readers back to a time when things might seem simpler, when a childhood and youth spent in an orphanage were not unheard of, and an old-fashioned love story might develop across the miles through hand-written letters.
And Miss Jane Austen shares her wisdom at the beginning of each chapter–what else would anyone want for Christmas?
After the Civil War, the yellow plague epidemic and gold fever sent young men west. A Fresh Start for Christmas is a mail-order bride story based on a matrimonial service started by several pastors and an orphanage matron. The group bases the agency on Rebecca and Isaac’s story and work together to find a way to match women to Christian men in the west to form H.I.M.M., short for Heaven Inspired Matrimonial Matches.
Kimberly is giving away a copy of Fresh Start For Christmas to a commenter, and below, she shares some of her rich research about Christmas celebrations in a bygone era. Now I’ll turn this over to her.
Did you know that the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” had much to do with shaping Christmas traditions that are still popular today?
Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book was an American women’s magazine published in Philadelphia from 1830 to 1878 and played an important part in shaping the cultural customs of the 19th century.
Sarah Josepha Hale, author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” was the editor from 1837 until 1877. When Hale started at Godey’s, the magazine had a circulation of ten thousand subscribers.
By 1860 it had 150,000 subscribers and was the most popular journal of its day. Hale used her influence to advocate for the establishment of a national Thanksgiving Holiday and other various causes, including advocating for women’s education.
Best known for the fashion plate that appeared at the start of each issue, other articles and editorials helped shape many of the traditions practiced by American families today.
The above picture is based on an image of Queen Victoria and her decorated Christmas tree previously published in The Illustrated London News in December 1848.
A revised version was copied in Godey’s in 1850 and removed what was referred to as royal trappings from Victoria’s tiara and Prince Albert’s mustache to remake the picture into an American scene. It was the first widely circulated picture of a decorated evergreen Christmas tree in America and was reprinted in 1860. By the 1870s, a Christmas tree was common in the United States.
Appearing in the December 1890 issue in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale wrote, At no time in all the year is the heart so filled with joy or the home so replete with genuine home love and home feeling as during the time that leads us up to the holiday season. Christmas Day is, to be sure our day of days-the most joyful of all the season; but surely every home-mother at least will agree that the days of preparation before Christmas are filled with a quiet, stead, soul-stirring happiness that could not be exchanged for any singe day of revelry.
For is it not during the weeks that precede the holidays that we prepare gifts for our dear ones? Are we not busy planning and scheming and perhaps denying ourselves some coveted thing that we may enrich those we love?
In Europe, it was fashionable to chop off the tip of a large fir to use as a Christmas tree. However, since this practice prevented the tree from growing taller and made it useless as a timber tree, statutes were enacted to limit people from having more than one tree. With the introduction of the “goose-feather tree” made in Germany as early as 1845, this problem was resolved. Goose feathers were plentiful, and what was perhaps the first artificial tree began to be produced as a cottage industry as the alternative to cutting a live tree.
Meanwhile, in America, cut live trees were the cherished way to make the holiday come alive. German immigrants brought their portable feather tree to the United States and introduced the Victorian feather Christmas tree. However, using artificial trees did not become popular until Sears Roebuck first advertised artificial trees for sale in their 1913 catalogs.
Here is the gist of A FRESH START FOR CHRISTMAS:
Memphis Rose Griffin loves teaching at Counting Stars Children’s Home. The girls and staff are like family, and working here ties her to her mother, whose last wish was for Memphis to take her place as teacher. But something’s missing. Now at the age of twenty-eight, her teenage dream of having her own family has all but faded.
Until her pastor and the orphanage founder come with a proposal that will change her life forever. Should she become their first candidate for their new matchmaking venture? Though grim, at least her future at the orphanage is familiar and certain. Can she risk an unknown future with a man she’s never met?
The last thing thirty-three-year-old Mike Montgomery wants is to marry again, especially to someone he’s never met. His family has other plans for him and completes the application without his permission–even changing some of his preferences to make him seem more intriguing. Can two star-crossed candidates dare to dream again?
Purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081SF6HCK
Kimberly Grist is married to her high school sweetheart, Nelson, a former teacher and coach, now a pastor. They have three adult sons, one with Down syndrome, and they have a passion for encouraging others with family members with special needs.
I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a young girl; however, I began writing my first novel in 2017. Inspired by so many things life has to offer, one of which includes our oldest son’s cancer diagnosis, it’s especially gratifying to write a happy ending.
I believe you should come away refreshed and inspired after reading a book. In my personal life, I wear so many hats, working inside and outside the home. I work hard, try harder, and then begin again the next day. Despite my best efforts, sometimes life stinks. Bad things happen. I need and want an outlet, an opportunity to relax and escape to a place where obstacles are met and overcome. My stories are designed to entertain, refresh, and inspire you, the reader. They combine History, Humor, and Romance, with an emphasis on Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun.
Sign up for my newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/a920c145512a/kimberlygrist
Amazon: Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kimberly-Grist/e/B07H2NTJ71
Talk about the origins of “Married at First Sight.” How scary an adventure that must’ve been; mail-order brides. I’ve read some accounts of them, and it almost always ended tragically as the “bride” was more servant then life partner. Different times I suppose, but I always felt sorry for those poor ladies. I thought, “Looking for love, finding sorrow.” Somehow, in looking at this author’s eyes, I suspect a very different ending.
I agree it must have been dangerous, scary, humbling to become a mail-order bride. I enjoy writing stores that combine history, humor, and romance with an emphasis on Faith. This special bride deserves her HEA. As a reader I think you deserve a chance to relax and enjoy her journey