For today’s Sunday Dinner, I’m inviting you to pull up a chair as I share some fun research behind the history I include in my upcoming Christmas novella, As Silent as the Night. This is the third of three posts. If you missed the first two posts, you can read them here and here. Today I’ll share about a few Wisconsin Christmas traditions.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado please tell us interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
My favorite Christmas cookie is my Italian Grandma’s chocolate Spice Cookie. It mixes chocolate with cinnamon, clove, and orange zest and it’s so good!
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
As Silent as the Night is the third book in my Strike to the Heart series
He can procure anything, except his heart’s deepest wish. She might hold the key, if she’s not discovered first.
Chicago, 1933―Lucia Critelli will do anything for her ailing grandfather, including stand in a breadline to have enough food to make him a St. Nicholas Day meal. When she catches the eye of a goon who threatens her grandfather, she discovers the end of Prohibition doesn’t mean the end of the mafia’s criminal activity.
Retired Marine Scout Giosue “Gio” Vella can find anything, especially if it helps a fellow Italian immigrant, so he has no doubt he can locate his neighbor’s granddaughter, who has gone missing from a local church. Keeping her safe is another matter. Especially when he chooses to hide out with his Marine buddy in Eagle, Wisconsin, the site of a barely-held truce among striking dairy farmers.
Will Christmas bring the miracle they all need or will Gio discover there are some things even he can’t find, particularly when he stumbles upon the most elusive gift of all: love.
Why did you decide to set this story at Christmas?
I love Christmas! It’s my favorite holiday. I also love reading stories set at Christmas, so when I had a chance to write one set during the Christmas season, I couldn’t wait to get started.
In the story, Joey (from To Stand in the Breach) mentions his and Lily’s family celebrate on Christmas Eve, but Miles (from A Strike to the Heart) says he celebrates Christmas Day … what is the difference and why do these two men celebrate the same holiday on different days?
I learned this while growing up. As the daughter of a Wisconsinite with Swedish roots, Christmas Eve was our primary day to celebrate Christmas. Since many Scandinavian and German immigrants settled in Wisconsin, their traditions spread throughout the state. One of those traditions was to celebrate Christmas Eve.
Lucia and her new friends bake cookies on a newfangled electric stove using a specific recipe book. Can you tell us about that?
I wish I could have explained about this more in the story, but there wasn’t room. Back in the early 1930s, WE Energies (or Wisconsin Electric) wanted to promote the new electric ovens. But going from a wood stove to learning how to cook on the new contraption was a challenge, a challenge which Wisconsin Electric aimed to overcome. So, they created a Christmas cookie cookbook with recipes specifically designed to be baked in an electric oven.
Two interesting notes about this cookbook – 1) it’s free; 2) WE distributes it by hand all over the state. Okay, make that three interesting facts: they still produce and distribute a free cookie cookbook to this day!
Head over to https://www.we-energies.com/recipes/default to check it out. In fact, if you click on the archive button you can see recipe books all the way back to 1932.
There is a live nativity in As Silent as the Night, what is the history behind this tradition?
The first live nativity is considered to be conducted by St. Francis of Assisi in the 1200s. They are also one of those popular Wisconsin traditions. Add to it the opportunity to showcase Lucia riding a donkey, like I mentioned last week, and how could I not include this beloved Christmas tradition?
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
Resources were easy to find, but also because I’ve lived several of these traditions, research was personal in nature.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
Like I mentioned, I would have loved to include more information on the WE cookbook and electric ovens.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
I do! It’s the first book in a brand new series. Confessions to a Stranger is now available for pre-order. It will release in March 2023. You can find the links on the landing page on my website.
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Thank you for joining me today!
If you would like to purchase a copy of As Silent as the Night, you can find purchase links on this landing page. If you’d like to learn more about me, you can visit my About Me page, which also has my newsletter sign up and social media links.
Over Sunday Dinner next week, my aunt will join us with stories of her childhood growing up in an Italian neighborhood in Chicago. See you then!