Old Christmas Book Review by Author Peggy Bird

I’m a Christmas fanatic. So “Old Christmas” is perfect for me, the book I’d want to read on Christmas Eve. It’s sweet, romantic and introduces the reader to some interesting Christmas traditions even Christmas freaks like me didn’t know.

The story starts with Casey Gray returning to her Texas hometown around the holidays because the grandmother who raised her is in the hospital. Casey left town for cooking school and a job in New York after being dumped by Kalin McBryde who spurned her advances. She afraid it’s because he thought she was like her mother who went off to Hollywood, had a romance (and a baby) with a famous movie star and died young.

Kalin is now an attorney who wants to be a writer—almost as much as he really wants to sort things out with Casey. He’s just published his first book and now he has his chance to get it right with her.
Casey’s grandmother believes in “Old Christmas” traditions and the rekindling of the romance between Casey and Kalin takes place during the Old Christmas observances culminating in a magical Old Christmas Eve when the last of the twelve presents from Kalin to Casey—I’ll let you find out for yourself what it is—is opened.

Altogether, as I said, a sweet treat for the holidays on every level, including a yummy-sounding cheesecake recipe at the end of the book.

This entry was posted on October 22, 2012. 1 Comment

Loving Again, by Peggy Bird

By Peggy Bird

Peggy Bird’s Loving Again is the perfect way to spend an evening. Her smooth writing style carries the reader effortlessly through the developing story, and the romance between glass artist Amanda St. Clair and cop Sam Richardson is hot and fulfilling. Readers will root for both Amanda and Sam.

Amanda St. Clair doesn’t like the police after being the chief suspect in the murder of her former boyfriend, and her reputation as a glass artist has been damaged by the case, so she accepts an out-of-town art fellowship, only to look up at a showing of her work to see Sam Richardson, who has decided to see how she really feels about him. Their ensuing affair almost convinces Amanda that she can love again, until events cast her as the number-one suspect in yet another murder. Can Sam ever convince Amanda that he can be trusted with her heart and her reputation?

Loving Again is a well-developed, smoothly flowing romance that will leave you satisfied and eagerly awaiting her next book.

Book Review: Hell Hawks! The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler’s Wehrmacht by Robert F. Dorr & Thomas D. Jones

Robert F. Dorr and Thomas D. Jones are veteran writers and former military men who collected information and memoirs from the men of the Ninth Air Force, 365th Fighter Group, who flew P-47 Thunderbolt planes.  Hell Hawks! The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler’s Wehrmacht tells their story in a highly readable fashion.

The 365th was composed of three squadrons of fighter-bomber pilots fresh out of flight training, who flew in close support of the ground forces as the Allied forces entered France on D-Day and advanced across France, Belgium, and on into Germany. They had one mission, and that was to harass and destroy anything that looked Nazi.

The P-47 Thunderbolt was a big, stable plane that held up remarkably well, no matter how much flak was thrown at it. They flew on D-Day, providing air support and dropping 385 tons of bombs on anything that looked like a target and strafing anything that moved. Every day of the European campaign, the Hell Hawks flew their missions, and kept flying them until the war ended. This book tells the story of those fighter pilots and what it took to keep them in the air.

My father, Mitchell M. King, Jr., a “civilian pilot” and a Hell Hawk in the 388th Fighter Squadron, found himself captain of one of the ground crews whose responsibility it was to keep the planes in repair, the runways ready, the and the pilots ready to fly. One of his favorite tales was the day the pilots ate a rice pudding dessert the night before and fled the mess hall during breakfast the next morning. He spent his day carrying soup to the pilots as they lay ill in bed, in a vain attempt to get them ready to fly the day’s mission. (My father rarely ate much and had given the rice pudding a pass.) The pilots could not fly the mission, the “Brass” descended on the outfit, and the cook was busted and reassigned.

This book is extremely readable and tells the tale of these ordinary men who found themselves in an extraordinary situation, and in true American fashion, they made the best of it. Mr. Dorr & Mr. Thomas interviewed many of them, including my dad, for as Mr. Dorr says, these men are fading away rapidly now, and their biannual reunions are much more sparse. This is the story of hometown heroes, who did extraordinary things during their youth, then returned home and reared families and lived ordinary lives.

I recommend Hell Hawks! to all who enjoy World War II history. My father died in 2010 at the age of 95, and he had already outlived many of the younger men in his outfit (he was drafted at the ripe old age of 26). I am thrilled that these men and their deeds have been recorded in this exciting book.

Joe Combs, Southeast Texas Nature Columnist, on Old Christmas

Joe Combs wrote a regular column for the Beaumont Enterprise for many years. He wrote about nature,

Here are some paragraphs from his “Farm Corner” column of December 26, 1959.

We have our Christmas celebrations on December 25, and few persons know there was another Christmas Day observed by the old-timers up until recent times. It is called “Old Christmas.”

Around the turn of the present century there were many families who insisted that Old Christmas was the real day of Christ’s birth and the one that we should be celebrating.

January 6, by our calendar, is the day the Eastern Church celebrated Christmas Day. The people ofEnglandandScotlandwere especially concerned about the change from that date to December 25. There were many Scottish and English families that would never celebrate or feel fully satisfied with, December 25.

In the fourth century theWestern Church adopted the date of Christ’s birth as December 25. There were several changes in the calendar in ancient times, made to try and fit the number of days in a year to the actual time it took the world to make its trip around the sun.

 They have never been able to do exactly that, so we still lose about a day every four years. This brings about leap year, and gives February 29 days so we can catch up with the earth’s revolution around the sun.

 Before the present calendar was adopted, however, the number of days in a calendar year was so far from the actual length of a year, that something like four years was lost in the shuffle. With that trend in dates, they knew they would have to do something about it; or else the first thing they knew, January would be in summertime.

 But the calendar has continued and we still have December 25 as our greatest holiday. In this observance, however, we may be off several days on the actual date of Christ’s birth. There are many theories about it. Our churches think the one we have is best; so it will no doubt remain. After all, we are not celebrating a date, as much as we are the gift of a Savior to mankind. That is the all-important thing.

 Old-timers thought that Old Christmas had a lot of influence upon the plants and animals. They declared that if you watched cattle or horses on Old Christmas night, you would find that each rose to its feet at exactly midnight on Old Christmas Eve.

They said also that you might observe the limb of a fig tree and that it would sprout, or swell its buds on Old Christmas Eve night.

It might be covered with ice, they said, but the bud would swell enough to crack its ice covering and show signs of growth.

 From:  Farm Corner: A Collection of Little Essays On Nature , by Joe F. Combs.

This entry was posted on April 24, 2012. 1 Comment

Old Christmas Morning, A Poem by Roy Helton

“Where you coming from, Lomey Carter,
So airly over the snow?
And what’s them pretties you got in your hand,
And where you aiming to go?

“Step in, Honey: Old Christmas morning
I ain’t got nothing much;
Maybe a bite of sweetness and corn bread,
A little ham meat and such,

“But come in, Honey! Sally Anne Barton’s
Hungering after your face.
Wait till I light my candle up:
Set down! There’s your old place.

Now where you been so airly this morning?
“Graveyard, Sally Anne.
Up by the trace in the salt lick meadows
Where Taulbe kilt my man.”

Taulbe ain’t to home this morning . . .
I can’t scratch up a light:
Dampness gets on the heads of the matches;
But I’ll blow up the embers bright.”

“Needn’t trouble. I won’t be stopping:
Going a long ways still.”
“You didn’t see nothing, Lomey Carter,
Up on the graveyard hill?

What should I see there, Sally Anne Barton?
Well, sperits do walk last night.”
There were an elder bush a-blooming
While the moon still give some light.’

Yes, elder bushes, they bloom, Old Christmas,
And critters kneel down in their straw.
Anything else up in the graveyard?
One thing more I saw:

I saw my man witb his bead all bleeding
Where Taulbe’s shot went through.”
” What did he say? He stooped and kissed me.’
What did he say to you?

“Said, Lord Jesus forguv your Taulbe;
But he told me another word;
He said it soft when he stooped and kissed me.
That were the last I heard.”

“Taulbe ain’t to home this morning.”
“I know that, Sally Anne,
For I kilt him, coming down through the meadow
Where Taulbe kilt my man.

“I met him upon the meadow trace
When the moon were fainting fast,
And I bad my dead man’s rifle gun
And kilt him as he come past.”

But I heard two shots.” “‘Twas his was second:
He shot me ‘fore be died:
You’ll find us at daybreak, Sally Anne Barton:
I’m laying there dead at his side.”

This entry was posted on April 14, 2012. 1 Comment

Old Christmas

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of Old Christmas since I first read the poem, “Old Christmas Morning” by Roy Helton in high school.

On Old Christmas Eve, legends say, elderberry bushes bloom, even if covered with snow, and fig trees bud, even when covered with ice. Roosters crow at the hour of midnight, and cattle and horses kneel down in their stalls out of respect for the Christ Child.

Also, spirits walk on Old Christmas Eve, which really fired my imagination. Some years back, I began plotting a romance novel that would use the events of Old Christmas Eve as a part of the plot. My upcoming romance novel, Old Christmas, forthcoming from Crimson Romances, is the result.