The Christmas Tree

The tradition of Christmas trees began centuries ago. Citizens of Alsace, France, bought trees to set up, unornamented, in their homes in 1510.

In Germany and Austria, traditions in the 1700s were to hang evergreen tips upside down. Often decorated with apples and nuts, these Christmas trees also earned the name ‘sugartrees.’

German settlers in Pennsylvania had community Christmas trees by 1747, yet most Americans still considered them pagan symbols in the 1840s.

The White House’s first Christmas tree was with President Franklin Pierce in 1853, around the time Christmas trees began to be sold in the United States.

Even so, only twenty percent of American families had Christmas trees in 1900. Twenty years later, it was a tradition in most American homes. The popularity of the trees brought shortages, leading to Christmas tree farms.

Artificial trees, available from the 1880s, were often used by poorer families.

After World War II, the demand for Christmas trees by nostalgic British soldiers exceeded the supply of evergreens. The Addis Brush Company of America, who had manufactured artificial brush trees since the 1930s, sold thousands of trees in Great Britain.

Addis then manufactured a Silver Pine tree, made of aluminum, in the 1950s. It was sold with a Christmas tree color wheel that illuminated the tree in different colors as it revolved.

Another fad began in the 1960s—flocked Christmas trees, where spray is added to resemble snowy branches.

Whether your preference is for real or artificial trees, Christmas trees remain a beautiful holiday tradition.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources Editors. “History of Christmas Trees,”, 2019/08/15

“History of Christmas Trees,” National Christmas Tree Association, 2019/08/15

Waggoner, Susan. It’s A Wonderful Christmas, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2004.

Western Christmas Wishes

Two novellas included in Western Christmas Wishes

 His Christmas Family by Brenda Minton

Laurel Adams didn’t really want to return to her childhood home in Hope, Oklahoma. Her grandmother was ill and needed help—that’s why she went home.

Cameron Hunt rented a guesthouse from Gladys and had reasons to prefer his own company. Yet with Gladys in the hospital, he figured he’d have to show Lauren the ropes and help her with Rose, the teenager who stayed with Gladys under foster care.

There are some surprises awaiting these two as Christmas approaches.

Not only did the struggles of the main characters tug at my heart, but also the secondary characters battled major obstacles.

An enjoyable holiday romance.

A Merry Wyoming Christmas by Jill Kemerer

Michael Carr, in between job assignments, returns to his family’s ranch for the Christmas holidays. A rift between him and his brother guarantees that he won’t linger too long after the holiday.

Leann Bowden looks forward to a new start in Wyoming with her two-year-old daughter, Sunni. Leann arrives at Sunrise Bend a few weeks before her new job starts to get them settled. It didn’t matter that Christmas was coming—there was nothing tying her to St. Louis.

There’s something about Michael that draws Leann to his quiet strength. Yet, if he doesn’t plan on staying, she can’t give into her feelings. She’s already been through one man leaving her and her daughter … she can’t go through it again.

Believable characters, an adorable little girl who tugged at my heart, and a sweet romance made this an enjoyable read!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Colonial Virginia Christmas Feast

Christmas morning began with a bang in colonial Virginia. Literally. Men fired their muskets. Firecrackers popped and cannons roared in celebration of the day. If none of these noisemakers were at hand, men beat on pots and pans to join the merrymakers.

After church services, the colonists enjoyed a large dinner that might include up to eight courses.

George and Martha Washington, wealthy landowners before the Revolutionary War, served lavish feasts for their guests. Meats included crab, oysters, codfish, turtle soup, Yorkshire pudding, ham, venison, boiled mutton, and turkey with stuffing. Served with these were relishes, vegetables, biscuits, and cornbread.

Then, if the diner had any room for dessert, there were possibly a dozen choices. Tarts, puddings, pies, fruit, cakes, ice cream, and dishes of candy, nuts, and raisins were among the selections.

January 6th was known as Twelfth Night, and was typically marked with a celebration that marked the official end of the Christmas season.

Most of the colonists were from England or had English roots so it isn’t surprising that they enjoyed wassail (spiced wine or ale punch with apples), mince pies, plum puddings, and fruit cake.

Washington had an eggnog recipe that he made for his guests. They loved the potent drink.

Music, dancing, and visiting with friends might last for another week after the feast.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Christmas in America in the 1700’s and 1800’s, World Book, Inc., 2007.



An 1876 Christmas Appeal from Orphans

Undoubtedly children orphaned by the Civil War still lived in Cincinnati orphanages in 1876. Though the war ended 11 years earlier, citizens would never forget the horrors of the time.

So, when an ad for the Cincinnati Orphan Asylum asked for a bag filled with “anything you can think of to eat, wear or use”, generous folks must have responded.

Here are a few foods they requested: split peas, raisins, coffee, cake, sugar, tea, hominy, turnips, spices, ham, beets, cheese, poultry, potatoes, apples, beans, and rice.

They needed clothing, woolen cloth, cotton cloth, calico, flannel, shoes, stockings, combs, brushes, pins, sheets, dishes, knives, forks, and spoons.

There was a list of ideas for gifts under “Send to our Christmas Tree”: gloves, hair ribbons, nuts, candy, handkerchiefs, skates, sleds, slates, hoods, scarves, mittens, neckties, baskets, thimbles, lead pencils, drawing paper, Dominoes, evening games, Backgammon, Games of History, Games of Authors, color boxes, work boxes, scissors.

This variety would fit almost any budget.

Many of these items are on Christmas lists today, aren’t they?

We have a time-honored tradition of giving at Christmas. If your budget allows, look for a charity to bless with a gift.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Berten, Jinny Powers. Cincinnati Christmas, Orange Frazer Press, 2011.



M is for Manger

I love this book!

The authors take a word from each letter of the alphabet that ties into the Christmas story. For example, “C” is for Carpenter. Joseph was a carpenter.

Each letter’s word is written in a poem.

There is a Scripture reference included with each letter.

This is an excellent book for toddlers through the second grade.

The beautifully-illustrated hard cover book makes a wonderful Christmas gift.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Boar’s Head Festival

In 1340, according to legend, a student at Queen’s College in Oxford, England, read a metal-bound book of Aristotle as he strolled through the forest to Christmas Mass. Wild boars, a menace to society, roamed the woods and one attacked the young man. With no weapons, he rammed his book into boar’s mouth, choking the animal to death. Roasted boar was often served at medieval banquets. A procession carried in the boar’s garnished head into the dining hall that night while carolers sang. This presentation at Christmas became a symbol of Jesus’s triumph over sin.

St. John’s College in Cambridge celebrated the Boar’s Head Festival by 1607. An expanded cast of historical characters, lords, ladies, knights, hunters, and others told of the birth of Jesus. Magi and shepherds were added later.

Mince pie and plum pudding were served at the festival and the Yule Log was lit.

The medieval festival is still celebrated in Europe and the United States. The formal program at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati includes: Orchestral Prelude, Procession of the Beefeaters, The Yule Sprite Comes, The Boar’s Head Procession, The Yule Log, The Waits, The Angel, The Shepherds, The Magi, The World joins the Kings and Shepherds, Recessional, Orchestral Postlude and The Yule Sprite Returns.

During the Boar’s Head Procession, a boar’s head is carried in by knights and others.

There is symbolic meaning to the parts of the medieval service that occurs between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The costumes and processions transport guests back in time and is worth experiencing.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Berten, Jinny Powers. Cincinnati Christmas, Orange Frazer Press, 2011.

“The Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival Tradition,” Christ Church Cathedral, 2019/07/29 ttps://

50% Off Book Sale from Black Friday to Cyber Monday!!!

Mt. Zion Ridge Press, LLC, is having a massive sale to celebrate the coming holiday season. All eBooks purchased at this link are 50% off–what a sale!

You must use the sales code EBOOKS (case sensitive) to receive the discounted price.


This sale includes the brand new Christmas collection– Christmas Fiction Off the Beaten Path! I am thrilled that my story, Not This Year, is included in this collection.


Another eBook included in this sale is From the Lake to the River. All stories and novellas in this anthology are set in Ohio locations and were written by Ohio writers. Something that adds to the book’s uniqueness is that there are different genres, so there is something for nearly everyone.

Sandra’s novella in the collection, Surprised by Love, is set during the tragic 1913 Great Miami River Flood in Troy, Ohio.

A young boarding house owner,  struggling to keep her siblings and boarders safe during the worst flood in years, is shocked to see her rescuer…

Civil War Novel Turns 1!

I am thrilled that my third Civil War romance, A Musket in My Hands, has its first anniversary this month!

The novel is 2019 Serious Writer Medal Fiction Winner and a 2019 Selah Awards Finalist.

Two sisters have no choices left. Callie and Louisa disguise themselves as men to join the men they love and muster into the Confederate army. It’s the fall of 1864 and the situation worsens for Southerners as they march closer to the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee.

This month is also the 155th anniversary of the tragic Tennessee battle that claimed so many lives. The Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864. The fierce fighting was over within hours but left thousands dead and wounded. Six Southern generals were killed, including General Patrick Cleburne, and others wounded–losses the South could not recover from.

The sisters in our story find themselves in the thick of this battle. No one can emerge from such an event unchanged.

I’d love to know what you think of the story!

When the Morning Glory Blooms by Cynthia Ruchti

A page turner!

Something unusual binds three women of different generations together. They are not related yet Anna, whose story begins in the 1890s, and her mission in life trickles down to touch the life of a young woman in 2013.

Anna, a single woman in the 1890s, has a mission. An inheritance will help her, yet she is a woman alone. How can she make a difference in anyone’s life?

In the 1950s, Ivy anxiously waits for her boyfriend to return from war. Bad news from the fighting in Korea adds to her anxiety as she looks down at her expanding middle. Will he understand and support her when he returns? Will he marry her and raise their child together?

In 2013, Becky’s whole world has turned upside down. Her high school daughter, Lauren, won’t even tell them the name of her baby’s father. Becky quits her job to care for her grandchild so Lauren can finish high school. This isn’t the life she dreamed of for her daughter.

I loved this multi-layered story! The struggles faced by each woman tugged at my heart. There are many twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I couldn’t put the book down!

This isn’t the first novel I’ve read by this author. I will look for more. Recommend!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Primer Pecan Pie

Today’s post has been written by friend and fellow author, Cathy Krafve.  I shared my mom’s pumpkin pie recipe  with her last week so I asked her to share her mother’s pecan recipe with us.😊 Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Cathy!

Dear Sandra and all her reading friends! What a treat to share one of my favorite recipes with you. It makes me so happy to remember about all the ways my mom blessed our family. Thank you for inviting me to share!

Greetings from Texas

I spent many happy hours under pecan trees in my youth, helping my grandmother pick up pecans. As kids we laughed and frolicked like baby squirrels, hoarding the prize of nuts for winter. For my grandmother it was a win-win. She made the family budget go further and she kept three busy grandchildren occupied for a little while!

Of course, Texas’s state tree is the pecan tree and we grow tons of pecans here. Recipes using pecan are a staple in most homes.

Mom’s Primer Pecan Pie

1 Pillsbury Pie Crust

3 eggs, mixed together with a fork in a separate small bowl

1 cup white Karo syrup, mix with eggs

2 Tablespoons flour

¾ cup refined sugar

2 teaspoons melted butter, cooled slightly

dash of salt

1 cup whole pecans

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons cinnamon and sugar mix

Preheat oven to 350. Place uncooked piecrust in pie pan. In a large bowl, mix flour and sugar. Add eggs and syrup and stir again. Add butter and salt to mix. Stir in pecans until well coated. Pour into the uncooked piecrust. Bake 30 minutes, then sprinkle cinnamon-sugar on top of the pie. Bake 15-30 more minutes until golden brown and the center rises slightly.

To double (or triple or quadruple), I just set out several bowls and make pie filling in each bowl.  Great recipe to share with neighbors!

My dad always requested Mom’s Pecan Pie instead of a birthday cake. In the last few years, my sister innovated with the genius idea of using glazed pecans, adding another generation’s love to this family-tested holiday favorite! We send our best wishes and prayers for your holidays to be filled with family fellowship, laughter, and happy memories!

-Cathy Krafve

More about Cathy

 Queen of Fun and Coffee Cup Philosopher Cathy Krafve just announced collaborations to publish TWO books in 2020!

How do we create healthy conversations when it really counts? Look for The Well: Drawing Our Authentic Conversations, publisher Elk Lake Publishing, for release in the spring 2020. Need to ramp up communication in your marriage (is that even possible)? The Gentle Art Of Companionship: Communicating Your Way to a Delightful Marriage, CrossRiver Media, is due out in early fall 2020.

Cathy puts a snappy spin on deeply spiritual truths. Her family, affectionately known as Camp Krafve, is devoted to transmitting healthy, joy-affirming ideas. Today, through Fireside Talk Radio, they bring together wise people to share stories of courage, hope, and companionship.

Having learned most stuff the hard way, Cathy writes with a never-met-a-stranger attitude. Like a friend you met for coffee, she passes along practical strategies for creating tender fellowship and a big, beautiful view of communication. Truth with a Texas twang!

 To find Sandra Merville Hart’s interview, blog, and podcast with Cathy for Fireside talk Radio, click here.