Monday, December 26, 2011

History Of New Year's Celebrations

New Year's Day is this coming Sunday…welcome to 2012.  This has become a traditional time of celebration.  We party on New Year's Eve and celebrate the moment the clock strikes midnight signaling the beginning of a new year.

And, of course, when the year 2000 arrived we celebrated for twenty-four hours as each time zone around the world welcomed the new millennium on live television broadcasts.

But why and how did the New Year's celebrations become part of our annual routine?  The earliest recorded account of a celebration in honor of the new year dates back four thousand years to ancient Babylon.  For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox announced the arrival of the new year.  They celebrated this spring time event with a massive 11 day religious festival called Akitu.  It was during this time that a new king was crowned or the current ruler's mandate renewed.

Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed more sophisticated calendars with the first day of the year associated with an agricultural or astronomical event.  For example, in Egypt the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius.  In China, the new year occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice…a day that is still celebrated with many Chinese New Year's celebrations around the world, including a large parade in San Francisco.

The early Roman calendar had 10 months and 304 days with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox.  Tradition holds that it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C.  Numa Pompilius, a later king, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius.  Over the ensuing centuries, the Roman calendar grew out of sync with the sun.  In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar used today by most countries.

As part of his reform, Julius Caesar declared January 1 as the first day of the year and Romans celebrated by exchanging gifts, decorating their homes, and attending raucous parties.  In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first day of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 as the anniversary of Christ's birth and March 25 as the Feast of the Annunciation.  It was Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 who re-established January 1 as New Year's Day.

In many countries, New Year's celebrations begin on New Year's Eve and continue into the early hours of January 1st.  These celebrations often include specific foods that are said to bring good luck for the coming year—grapes in Spain, round fruits in the Philippines, suckling pig in Austria, soba noodles in Japan, rice pudding in Norway, and black-eyed peas in the southern United States.  Other customs that are common worldwide include making new year resolutions (a practice started by the Babylonians) and watching fireworks displays.

In the United States, the most famous New Year's tradition is the dropping of the giant ball in New York City's Times Square.  This event, first instituted in 1906, occurs at the stroke of midnight.  The original giant ball was made of iron and wood weighing 400 pounds.  Today's giant ball is a brightly patterned sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing nearly 12,000 pounds.

So, however you celebrate the arrival of the new year…whether you go out to a party, have family or a few friends to your home, or simply curl up by a cozy fire and watch the festivities in Times Square…I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year.

And peace on earth.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ancient Roots Of The Christmas Celebration

Next Sunday is December 25th, Christmas Day. Where did December 25 as a day of celebration originate?

Early Europeans celebrated light in the darkest days of winter. They rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to extended hours of sunlight.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from the Winter Solstice on December 21 through January.  In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs and set them on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out which could be as long as twelve days.

In Germany, people honored the pagan god Odin during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Odin. They believed he made night flights through the sky to observe his people and then decide who would prosper or perish.

In Rome, where winters weren't as harsh as in the far north, Saturnalia was celebrated beginning the week before winter solstice and continuing for a full month. It was a hedonistic time with lots of food and drink. For that month the social order was turned upside down with slaves becoming masters and peasants in charge of the city. Business and schools were closed so everyone could join in.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, on December 25 members of the upper classes celebrated the birthday of Mithras, the god of the unconquerable sun.

It wasn't until the fourth century that Christian church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. The Puritans denied the legitimacy of the celebration, pointing out that the Bible does not mention a date for his birth. December 25 was the date chosen by Pope Julius I. The common belief is that the church chose the date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia.

By the Middle Ages, Christianity had mostly replaced pagan religion. Christmas was celebrated by attending church then celebrating in a drunken carnival type of atmosphere similar to today's Mardi Gras celebration.

In the early seventeenth century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. In 1645, Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces gained control in England and vowed to do away with decadence. As part of their agenda, they cancelled Christmas. When Charles II regained the throne, he restored the holiday.

The pilgrims who came to America in 1620 were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. In fact, from 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston. In contrast, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all in the Jamestown settlement where they also enjoyed eggnog, first made in the United States in 1607 in the Jamestown settlement.

Christmas wasn't a holiday in early America until June 26, 1870, when Congress declared it a federal holiday.

One of our Christmas traditions is kissing when standing under mistletoe. But why do people kiss under the mistletoe? After all, mistletoe is a parasitic plant you find in the forest attached to and gaining its sustenance from its host tree. The entire plant is poisonous, especially the berries which are extremely toxic. Ingesting the berries causes acute stomach and intestinal pains, diarrhea, weak pulse, mental disturbances, and the collapse of blood vessels. Death has occurred within ten hours after eating the berries. Not exactly what first comes to mind when you think of kissing.  :)

The tradition of linking mistletoe and kissing started in Europe. According to Norse mythology, Baldur, the god of peace, was shot and killed by an arrow made of mistletoe. After the other gods brought him back to life, Frigga, the goddess of love, transformed mistletoe into a symbol of love and peace. And to this day, everyone who passes under the mistletoe must receive a kiss.
CHRISTMAS WARMTH is a 2011 anthology from XOXO Publishing. I have a short story, The Ghost Of Christmas Presents by Shawna Delacorte, as part of this anthology. Available at   Amazon in ebook for Kindle   as well as other online ebook stores.


For 25 years Robert Carson worked in the same job, took the same bus to and from work, and lived in the same small studio apartment. His was a very orderly and structured life...and admittedly a lonely one. Then one snowy December day a chance meeting at the bus stop changed his entire world.


Gray clouds hung low in the sky, with the forecast calling for snow. Robert Carson emitted a weary sigh as he hunched his shoulders against the cold December air. Turning up the collar of his overcoat, he took his customary seat on the bench at the bus stop in front of the Yummy Cookie Factory, where he'd worked as an accountant for twenty-five years. The number nine bus took him within a block of the small studio apartment where he'd lived alone for the same twenty-five years. It was the procedure he always followed at the end of each workday.

But this week had not been the same. It had been a disturbing week, upsetting his normal work routine. He didn't like change, especially when it came as a total surprise. On Monday his supervisor had brought a woman to his cubicle and introduced her as Helen Winston, a new employee in the accounting department. She seemed to be a pleasant woman, about his age, but why had the supervisor foisted this new employee off on him? He had been given the task of showing her the ropes and familiarizing her with company procedures, definitely an unwanted disruption to his set routine.

The week had progressed without further incident and he had gradually accepted her presence in the office work environment. Friday finally arrived, signalling the end of the work week. Then, just that morning, he had been hit with another change at work. For years the company Christmas party had been cookies and punch, with the factory manager handing out the annual Christmas bonus check. Shortly before lunch, a company-wide announcement informed the employees that this year's office Christmas party would be different. For the first time, it would include a gift exchange. Each department would have its own party and draw names for a departmental gift exchange, without any of the employees knowing who had drawn his or her name. The plant manager had referred to it as a Secret Santa gift. Each worker would receive one gift, with the recipient not knowing the identity of the giver.

Robert, who'd been the last one among the office personnel to draw, pulled the slip of paper from his pants pocket and stared at it again. The only name remaining had been Helen's. The knot of anxiety tightened in the pit of is stomach. Another heavy sigh of resignation escaped into the air. He had no idea what kind of present he should buy for a woman, especially one who was no more than a business acquaintance he had met only a few days earlier.
And on that note, I'll close this week's blog. Next week's blog will be posted on Monday, December 26. I'll be talking about New Year's celebrations. Stop by and take a look.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season, whatever beliefs you follow.  And most of all—Peace On Earth.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH—a conversation with Chance and Marcie

Harlequin has reissued 13 of my 21 backlist titles in ebook.  Today I'm talking with Chance Fowler and Marcie Roper about THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH, a Silhouette Desire originally released in print December 1998 and currently available in ebook.

Good morning Chance and Marcie.  I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

Chance:  Thank you, Shawna.  It was nice of you to invite us.  So…what would you like to know?

My first question is for whichever of you wants to answer it.  How did the two of you meet?

Chance:  (Winks at Marcie) Do you want to take that one?

Marcie:  My pleasure.  I was minding my own business, doing a little window shopping on my way back to my car from the book store, when he came along and accosted me in broad daylight.  He grabbed me against my will then proceeded to kiss me.  I was truly shocked and also a little frightened.  I had no idea who he was or why he had picked on me.

Chance:  Wait a minute…in my defense that wasn't quite the way it happened.

Marcie:  (grins) My way sounds more mysterious.

Did he literally grab you on the street, a total stranger, and kiss you for no reason?

Marcie:  Oh, yes…that's exactly what he did.

Chance:  Well…not really…not like that.

Ah, ha!  What's the true story?

Chance:  I was being followed by another one of those tabloid photographers who were always trying to get candid pictures of me that they could exploit. 

As sole heir to the Fowler Industries fortune, I can see where there would be an interest in your activities.

Chance:  Since I was on my way to one of my special projects, I had to lose the guy following me.  I was looking for a place to duck away from him…hide in plain sight, so to speak.  My intention was to put my arm around her shoulder so it would look like we were a couple window shopping together, but for some strange reason she objected.  So I did what I had to do.  The photographer ran on down the street without paying any attention to a couple kissing in front of a store window.  I tried to explain to Marcie, but she ran off without listening.

Marcie:  It was later that I discovered who he was…Take-A-Chance Fowler, as the media referred to him.  Major playboy, always being photographed with different women, sailboat racing, seen at all the trendy clubs.  In other words, a spoiled rich guy living off the family wealth.

Chance:  Definitely not a very flattering assessment of someone she didn't even know.  I was determined to set her straight and change that opinion.

Take-A-Chance?  Where did that come from?

Chance:  One of those stupid tags the press pinned on me.  "Always willing to take a chance on some wild stunt."

Marcie:  I can't begin to tell you how embarrassed I was when he told me Chance was his legal first name, not some cute little nickname.  It was his mother's maiden name.  And the more I found out about the real person behind all those tabloid headlines, the more impressed I was and the more I liked him.

You mentioned your special projects.  What did you mean by that?

Chance:  I have several projects I finance and am actively involved with, things I don't want the media to know about.  I don't want the other people involved to find their pictures and names on the front page of a tabloid newspaper.

What type of projects?

Chance:  (flashes a sly grin) You can find out all about them in the book.

Marcie, did you encounter any unusual problems when you began dating someone of Chance's…uh…notoriety?

Marcie:  (furrows her brow in a moment of concentration) Well, there were some uncomfortable moments with his family, such as the Christmas dinner at his father's house—

Chance:  (laughs) Merely uncomfortable?  That's an understatement!

Is there more to the family story than you're saying?

Marcie:  You mean other than his father being responsible for driving a wedge between us that nearly destroyed our relationship?

Chance:  My family is synonymous with the word dysfunctional.  You'll find out all about them when you read the book.

I'd ask you to explain, but I already know what you're going to say.

Marcie:  (laughs) You have to read the book!

Thank you, Marcie and Chance.  Wishing you happy holidays and to everyone Peace On Earth.


Commencing next Sunday, December 18, I'll be posting holiday blogs until after the first of the year.  I hope you'll stop by and take a look.

THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH, a Silhouette Desire by Shawna Delacorte reissued in ebook format.  Available at (do search for author).  Also available from Amazon for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook.


When millionaire Chance Fowler first kissed the pretty stranger in his arms, he'd only meant to dodge the photographers who'd tailed him. Then she ran off—but he couldn't forget her tempting taste on his lips. So he sought out the tantalizing woman who'd ignited his long-dormant desire….

Lovely Marcie Roper was the first woman to close her eyes to Chance's fortune. And though she'd captivated the jaded tycoon, Marcie yearned for what his wealth couldn't buy—a man who would say "I do" and mean it forever. Could Marcie convince Chance that love—for the right woman—would last a lifetime?

Inside front cover excerpt:

She was certainly different from the type of women he usually encountered. Her eyes sparked with the fire of emotion and her stance declared a very appealing independence. Yes, indeed. Marcie Roper was quite different—a breath of fresh air. He recalled the way she felt in his arms, the taste of her delicious mouth. He fought the almost overwhelming desire to pull her into his arms and kiss her again.

He watched her walk away from him—for the second time since he first encountered her. She had turned out to be a very intriguing woman. He already knew about the golden flecks in her hazel eyes, her soft pliable lips, her addictive taste and how good she felt in his arms. And now he knew she was certainly a challenge—and Chance had never been one to back down from a challenge.
Text Copyright © 1998 by SKDennison, Inc.  Cover Art Copyright © 1998 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Check out my Shawna Delacorte website for more excerpts from THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH and my other Harlequin ebook reissues.

Monday, December 5, 2011

COWBOY DREAMING—a conversation with Melanie and Cody

Harlequin has reissued 13 of my 21 backlist titles in ebook.  Today I'm talking with Melanie Winslow and Cody Chandler about COWBOY DREAMING, a Silhouette Desire originally released in print August 1996 and currently available in ebook.

Good morning, Melanie and Cody.  Thanks for joining us today.

Melanie:  Thanks for the invitation.

My first question is for Cody.

Cody: (grins) Hit me with it.

As I understand it, you're from the New England area with a background in international finance.  How did you end up as foreman of a cattle ranch on the eastern slopes of the Rockies foothills in Colorado?

Cody:  My family had been involved in banking and finance for literally generations and that's what they groomed me for…college degrees in business and finance including advanced education in Europe, travel, and foreign languages.  Bottom line—it wasn't what I wanted out of life.  So, defying family tradition, I looked around for something I felt comfortable with.  I knew I wanted to get away from the regimen of board rooms, suits and ties, and big business.  The great outdoors and ranching appealed to me.  And that's when I met Buck Winslow…a day that changed my life and gave me the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment I had been seeking.

What about you, Melanie?  You left home at eighteen and established a successful career as a freelance photographer.  The ranching life didn't appeal to you?

Melanie:  (wrinkled her forehead in a moment of contemplation)  It's not quite that cut and dried.  My father and I had a strained relationship at best…at least that's the way I saw it at the time.  Putting that together with my mother's death when I was eighteen, all I wanted to do was get away from what I felt was a painful place.  I had been interested in photography starting when I was about nine years old and new that's what I wanted as a career.  Over the ensuing ten years after I left home, I established a successful career which had me traveling all over the world.  During that time I didn't have any communication with my father.

After a ten year estrangement, what prompted you to return to the ranch where you grew up?

Melanie:  That's another one that's difficult to answer.  For the last couple of years my thoughts had regularly turned to the ranch and the fact that my father was getting older.  However, my actually showing up at the ranch was a truly spontaneous thing.  I decided to do it and drove non-stop from Los Angeles to the eastern foothills of the Rockies.

Cody:  I'm a light sleeper.  It was the sound of someone entering the house in the middle of the night that woke me.  I immediately assumed it was a burglar breaking in.  You can imagine my surprise…actually my shock at discovering the intruder I tackled and pinned to the floor was a woman.

Melanie:  (laughs) Well, you can image my shock, too.  I don't think I've ever been as frightened as I was at that moment when Cody threatened me with bodily harm if I dared to move.

Cody:  In my defense, that was before I realized the intruder was a woman.

I assume you got everything straightened out as soon as you turned on the lights to see what was going on?

Cody:  Far from it!

Melanie:  Not even close.  Instant animosity which got worse as soon as I identified myself as Buck Winslow's daughter.  He made it very clear that he had no use for me and questioned why I had even bothered to return to the ranch at that time.  He was obviously very protective of my father, but I didn't understand why until I found out my father was…that he was dying.

With Buck being very ill and the two of you at each other's throat, how did you work that out?

Cody:  I suggested a truce until I could assess the situation.  I know how much it had hurt Buck when his only child abruptly left home without warning and he never heard from her again, how much he missed her.  It was going to be enough of a shock for him with his fragile health to have his long absent daughter suddenly show up without the added stress of the two of us arguing.  The last thing I wanted was for Buck to be upset.

Melanie:  I had no idea that my father was ill.  Cody said he had tried to reach me a year earlier, mailed a letter to the magazine where my photographs had just appeared, but I never got it.  When he didn't get any response he assumed I didn't care.  After I realized what was going on, I understood his attitude toward me—didn't like it, but understood it.  Over the next couple of days I learned so much about my father that I never knew.  He wasn't the cold unfeeling man I had painted him to be.

Cody:  But then another roadblock appeared.  Mel decided I was taking advantage of Buck.  She misinterpreted something she saw and thought I was embezzling.

That sounds like more than just a wariness of each other.  What turned the two of you around?  When and how did you start seeing each other as something other than adversaries and start developing trust?

Melanie:  It's all in the book.

Cody:  (puts his arm around Melanie's shoulders and draws her close to him, then offers a mischievous grin)  I can disclose that we definitely did work out our differences and there's a happily ever after ending to our story.

LOL…and on that note I guess there's nothing left to say except thank you for being here with us today.


Next Sunday, December 11, I'll be talking with Marcie Roper and Chance Fowler from my Silhouette Desire ebook reissue, THE MILLIONAIRE'S CHRISTMAS WISH.  I hope you'll stop by.

COWBOY DREAMING, a Silhouette Desire by Shawna Delacorte reissued in ebook format.  Available at (do a search for author).  Also available from Amazon for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook.


When Melanie Winslow returned to the Colorado ranch where she was raised, she never expected to find herself stranded in a mountain cabin with Cody Chandler. The rugged ranch manager was the answer to every daydream Melanie had ever had about strong, sexy cowboys.

But this one was real, with a kiss that made Melanie's heart beat faster, and a smile that hinted at the most intimate things. The trouble was, the last thing Melanie intended to do was fall in love with an untamed cowboy—no matter how perfect he seemed. If only her heart felt the same way….

Inside front cover excerpt:

Melanie felt Cody's warm breath across her cheek, then his lips on the side of her neck. His words tickled her ears. "We should figure out the sleeping arrangements for tonight."

He rose suddenly and added a couple more logs to the blaze. "There should be some sleeping bags in the cupboard," he said. "And another cot…" It was almost a question.

All right, Ms. I-can-take-care-of-myself-and-don't-need-anybody, what do you plan to do now?

This was not the time to panic, Melanie told herself. She was a self-sufficient woman who would handle this logically and intelligently.

As she watched, Cody jabbed the burning logs, causing embers to fly—like the hot sparks she felt every time he kissed her. The intensity in his face and the captivating pull of his masculinity drew her to him. Her insides melted into a simmering pool of desire.

Maybe common sense and levelheaded thinking weren't all they were cracked up to be….
Text Copyright © 1996 by SKDennison, Inc.  Cover Art Copyright © 1996 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Check out my Shawna Delacorte website for more excerpts from COWBOY DREAMING