Smorgasbord Christmas Celebrations – The First Day of Christmas with guests Mary Smith, Jacquie Biggar and John W. Howell

Welcome to the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas party where guests will share their best ever Christmas presents ever…and there will be food, drink and of course music and to get you into the spirit of the season.. here are some choristers with particular appeal..

I tried to remember the first Christmas that I was aware of as a child. I must have got the general idea of the concept of presents quite young as at age seven when we moved to Malta I began the practice of putting a pillowcase on the end of my bed from around mid-October…. I think this ticked my mother off somewhat because she sat me down at the beginning of December and told me that Father Christmas did not exist and that from now on I would have my presents around the tree like my two sisters who were in their late teens….. My brother would only have been three years old at the time and so was not really interested one way or another.

It must have made quite an impression on me as I then related this story to my husband before our first Christmas when we were talking about how we would spend our first together. Since we had only known each other for six weeks when we married in mid-November it was not surprising that there were a few things that we had not had time to discuss, especially something as trivial as Father Christmas! However, imagine my delight when I woke early on Christmas morning to find a heavy weight across my legs (oy… Nothing like that this is a family show) I switched the light on to find a pillowcase packed to the rafters with carefully wrapped presents… Nothing too grand as we were pretty broke but I remember bursting into tears at the time at this act of love and kindness…

Every year since then for the last 38 Christmas mornings we have woken early and sneaked a stocking full of nonsense on to each other’s side of the bed and when we had Sam still, he had one too. There is a frenzy of unwrapping or ripping in the case of Sam, and much laughter and illicit consumption of chocolate oranges and cashew nuts. In the case of Sam it was the sniffing out to the bottom of the snack to find his customary pig’s ear… I always put a tatty duvet cover on for this occasion and it was necessary.

As to my favourite Christmas present of all time……that would probably be the year that my parents came up to London to stay with us and have Christmas dinner. My father loved big band music and at the time was still listening to a 1960s record player. We gave him a fairly flat package, and he unwrapped it to find four CDs of Glen Miller Big Band Music.. He tried so hard to look excited, but then looked at me and said ‘I don’t have anything to play these on’. David then handed over another large package to my mystified father, who tore of the wrapping to find a box containing a combined radio and CD player with detachable speakers. The look on his face is still very clear in my mind today. Priceless.

Just in case my father is listening in from somewhere over the rainbow.. here is Glenn Miller with In The Christmas Mood…..

Actually the 12 days do not begin today but from Christmas Day until the evening of the 5th January. These days are associated with religious calendars and rather than the fun approach in the song we sing, many are in tribute to someone who met a tragic end. The 12 Days have been celebrated in Europe since before the Middle Ages and were a time of celebration of various events around the birth of Jesus or to celebrate the life of a saint or martyr. Each day had its own significance.

Day 1 (25th December): Christmas Day celebrating the birth of Jesus and the setting of the nativity.

Now time to meet our first guest who is someone who has accompanied during the last five years of blogging and whose books I have enjoyed. Author Mary Smith lives in Scotland but has her experiences of working in Afghanistan and Pakistan to draw upon when writing her novels and short stories. Mary has also written in collaboration a series of books on her home in Scotland.

This is Mary’s very best Christmas present ever….

As soon as I read your  post I remembered my best ever Christmas present – roller skates. It was a completely surprise gift from Santa (my four-years-younger sister was still a believer), something I hadn’t asked for. It took me a while to master them because I kept trying to walk rather than roll but once I got the knack I was off, skating up and down the pavements. Those skates gave me such freedom. In the summer the grounds of the High School became my giant skating playground. I didn’t mind if I was alone but often other kids joined me. A steep, ridged concrete path ran from the playground to the tennis courts, which was great for testing our nerves. We tied a rope onto a bike and took turns being pulled down the slope, faster and faster – the ridges on the concrete made my teeth rattle. I can still feel the exhilaration and sheer joy my skating days gave me. Very tempted now to put skates on my Christmas wish list!

My Christmas gift to Mary courtesy of the most entertaining virtual giftstore ‘Youtube’

It took some doing Mary but my Christmas gift to you, is annual membership of this international group of skaters…Moxi Girls… who are preparing a wardrobe for your debut performance…they were thinking Mary, Queen of Scots as your moniker……

Books by Mary Smith:


A recent review for No More Mulberries

Thru the eyes of a converted Scottish midwife and her 2 husbands. Miriam is an highly trained midwife who meets an handsome Afghani engineering student in Edinburgh University. They fall madly in love, she converts to the Muslim faith for him and they marry and have a child. Not too long after their son is born, tragedy strikes and she is widowed. She marries again and the story, “No More Mulberries”, is the intricate unwinding of these lives in the midst of a war torn country.

The writing is rich with descriptions and emotion. The characters are well fleshed out, complex and burdened. This is not a one sided political treatise but rather an inside look from the vantage point of a common village family and some slightly higher up; but only slightly. Life in early 1990’s for the Afghani people was akin to 1890’s America, extraordinarily so for the women.

Altho’ M. Smith portrays the realities in her book, this story is not without a feeling of love and hope. These are resilient people in tragic circumstances trying to maintain families and some semblance of normalcy. There are moments of humor to relieve the tension so deftly written about.

There is nothing offensive in this book. All the language, violence and sexual content are easily within a PG rating with nothing being gratuitous or overly descriptive. You will get the picture without being given a high-def, 4K, knockout punch. This book will effect you, I know it did me. The invasion of Afghanistan was almost 25 years ago and the battle still rages. “No More Mulberries” will give you a chance to see what it might be like on the inside, from the inside.

We assume that carols are of religious origin but in fact they are pagan songs that were sung to celebrate the four seasons. For thousands of years at the Winter Solstice for example people would dance around large stone circles and the word carol actually means to dance in praise and joy. Over time the practice of singing carols became synonymous with Christmas and was adopted by Christianity as a way of celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Over the years it has become a tradition for musicians to bring out their own compositions in honour of the season and over the coming days I will be sharing the carols and music that are sung all over the world by those who celebrate this particular festival.

And to start us off, where is a wonderful choir called Proclaim with Mary Did You Know……

My next guest is USA Today Bestselling author Jacquie Biggar who writes across the fantasy and romance genres. Here is what she shared about her best Christmas gift ever.

Jacquie’s best Christmas gift ever.

My favorite Christmas gift arrived six years ago, not long after I moved to the island. Hubby was working in Alberta and only came home every three weeks, and my daughter and grandson had started school—I was lonely.

Knowing my love of animals, hubby brought me a Christmas surprise, a tiny calico kitten! I fell immediately in love with her furry body and sea-green eyes. And best of all, I wasn’t alone anymore. I’m attaching a pic of her above. Her name is Harley

My Christmas Gift for Jacquie is a hamper of all the top cat lover’s gifts… I hope you and Harley have a blast…….

Discover all of Jacquie’s books, read the reviews and buy:


Here is one of the recent reviews Mistletoe Inn

I love Christmas books and the perfect holiday book has to be full of heart and romance, healing, redemption, warm and cozy Christmas themes and maybe a hint of the magic of the season. Throw in a small child and a dog and you have me. Mistletoe Inn has all that and more. Noah is on his way to becoming a grumpy recluse. He bears the scars, inside and outside from the fire that killed both his parents when he was a small child. His aunt, who raised him and he loved, recently died too. I think that she was a wise woman because just before she died she sold part interest in her B&B called Mistletoe Inn to a young divorcee with a small child wanting to make a new start. Like it or not, Molly starts to thaw the ice that encases Noah’s heart. And, in a place like Christmas, Michigan, covered in snow and Christmas joy,and surrounded by young families and couples coming to the Inn for a romantic holiday who can resist romance? The novella has some depth and lots of heart too with themes of grieving and starting over. You will quickly feel like Christmas when you read this!

Traditionally mince pies were a bit of luxury and also a status symbol for those living in 17th century and very wealthy folk would show off at their Christmas gatherings by having their pies in all kinds of shapes and sizes and were more a reflection of their ability to employ a high end pastry cook more than anything.  In the early days they would have contained minced meat of lamb, beef, chicken etc rather than those we eat today made with dried fruit and spices.

Traditionally it is said that if you have one a day from Christmas Day through to Twelfth night you will enjoy much happiness for the next 12 months… If ever there was an excuse to eat something sweet and fattening then this is the best yet….

They are really straightforward to make and our own Foodie… Carol Taylor shares her recipe in her post including how to make your own sweet mincemeat:

And my third guest today is thriller and paranormal mystery author John W. Howell who lives on the Texas coast, has three dogs who have him right where they want him.. Lucy, Bailey and Twiggy..for example when it came to the Christmas Decorations

John was very quick to share his most favourite Christmas gift every and you can tell it made quite the impression on him…

John’s most favourite gift ever

When I was about six years old, I wanted an electric train. I told my parents that a train was all I wanted. They said a train was not in the cards that year.

I went to bed accepting the fact that a train was not going to be under the tree. My older sister had told me there was no Santa Claus, so I had not sent a letter to the North Pole with my request. If there was a Santa, which I believed before my sister filled me in, I could make a wish even at this late date. So before finally falling asleep, I asked Santa to please leave a train.

The next morning the living room was a magic land filled with presents. The tree sparkled with colored bulbs, and I could see a Lionel engine with ten cars sitting on tracks that went all the way around the tree. I could not believe my eyes. As a consequence, I still believe in Santa Claus.

My Christmas gift to John is a re-creation of that magical Christmas morning… kindly provided by Karla Hemingway

 Read all the reviews and buy John Howell’s books:

A recent reviews for Circumstances of Childhood Aug 24, 2018 Karen rated it it was amazing

This book provides you with a first look at Greg, whereas Keith introduces you to the story.

With Circumstances of Childhood, John W. Howell has created a unique story of friendship, loss, and much more. Greg and Keith are very likeable characters; as the story proceeded, I became their invisible friend. The story comprises a variety of craftily elaborated characters with depth and interesting interactions until the last page. I had a great time reading Circumstances of Childhood – it is a very intriguing and intense read; it turned me into an invisible ally and/or friend of the believable protagonists. I was drawn into the story right away, eager to learn more. Some of the events may start a new train of thoughts, maybe even shine a new light on something familiar.

This is for you if you like thrillers with excellent twists, interesting and complex characters, a touch of the paranormal, and – food for thought. A compelling and remarkable read by a master of story-telling.

And something for you to drink before you head off into the cold. – The Eggnog

There is some debate about the origins of Eggnog but it probably goes back to what was called Posset in medieval Europe -it was a sweetened dairy based drink made with milk, cream, sugar and eggs which would have been beaten together to form a frothy drink with some cinnamon or nutmeg sprinkled on top. Over time of course some bright sparks began to add some alcohol to the mix depending on where they lived at the time… Today in various parts of the world you will find a version of Eggnog served with rum, brandy or whisky. It is very warming and sweet and if also combined with rum I understand it has an impact on short term memory…..

What is quite delicious is to make the concoction into an ice cream and that goes beautifully with mince pies or Christmas pudding.

There are a number of great recipes online and I can suggest that you check this one out:

Thank you for joining us today…The Second Day of Christmas… tomorrow….with guests, Darlene Foster and Miriam Hurdle

What was your most memorable Christmas gift? it would be amazing if you would share.. thanks Sally

76 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Christmas Celebrations – The First Day of Christmas with guests Mary Smith, Jacquie Biggar and John W. Howell

  1. Sally, what a beautiful first night. You, Mary, and Jacquie told marvelous stories. The presents were terrific, the songs enchanting, and the food tempting. Thank you so much for including me along with the four of you gorgeous people.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Wow! I loved reading about the Christmas gifts and the exhilaration connected with them. I liked the story of John the most. It touched my heart and I could feel his joy of seeing the train under the tree, which strengthened his belief!
    I didn’t know anything about Christmas gifts till I read the Gift of Magi, a story by O Henry. I have no childhood memories of receiving any gifts or their magic. That’s why I love giving gifts now. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  3. So fun! I loved roller skating around the neighborhood as a child, and this brought back fond memories of skinned knees and lost roller skate keys:) And I loved “real” egg nog…hard to believe that we thought nothing of drinking raw eggs years ago, and I don’t think that it ever made us sick!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Sally, thank you so much for this marvelous presentation and collection of such warm Christmas Memories. I can’t get The Glenn-Miller Big Band out of my head.😊 I’m heading off now to search for my own CD. It’s going to be a foot tapping day here in Australia. Great post and books I will most certainly seek out. I have read all but one of John Howell’s books, and I loved them. His next is coming up very soon on my TBR.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Such delightful stories, Sally. John, I was my Dad’s first little girl (of four) and HE always wanted an electric train. After my Mom and Dad were married when I was two years old, he bought me an electric train for Christmas. It was the train of HIS dreams. I was so scarred of it I ran away and hid in the spare room under the junk. They couldn’t coax me out for 2 hours. The train was returned to the store and I got a baby doll instead. When Greggie was born (Dad’s first grandson), he got an electric train for his second Christmas. Fortunately, Greg loved it and then Michael loved it and then Ryan and Ben. Thank God for grandsons.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. A wonderful opening night and thank you for the mention, Sally I have made some mincemeat today ( albeit late) but had to wait for Jay to bring the suet( I can’t get it here) Loved John’s story and the video of the train it bought it all together…

    Liked by 4 people

  7. A really fascinating read Sally – DH always gets a visit from Santa, he even found him on a Christmas cruise once. 🙂 I adore mince pies and when we could’t get any in Libya I decided to make my own. To my surprise, it needed suet. The word got around and soon all the wives were buying suet. The butchers cottoned on quickly and a week later the suet – which they had previously tossed away – was the same price as fillet steak.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Great post, Sally. It’s a whole party in a post with stories and music. The roller skating video is fantastic. I’m going to love being a Moxi Girl and getting to wear such cute outfits. I enjoyed reading John and Jacquie’s Christmas gift stories.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Great to read about all the memories and festive fun from those lovely bloggers. I just wish I could still get even remotely excited about Christmas. But after I worked for the first time on Christmas Day, 1980, I lost the spirit of it. Then 32 years of shift work followed, and public holidays were so often working days, I never got it back.
    Best wishes to all, Pete.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I loved this first day of Christmas and everyone’s memories of their best gift. John’s reminds me of The Polar Express for some reason, but glad he still believes…so do I:) A kitten is a perfect gift and Mistletoe Inn is on my holiday reading list. Loved the skates and the filled socks at end of bed, too. This really put me in the mood for Christmas!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Pingback: Christmas Traditions, Treats and a little Trivia… | Retired? No one told me!

  12. Pingback: Smorgasbord Christmas Celebrations – The First Day of Christmas with guests Mary Smith, Jacquie Biggar and John W. Howell – Where Genres Collide

  13. Sally, this is a fabulous way to celebrate Christmas sharing one’s favorite Christmas. I wrote a post about my memorable Christmas gift one year. I will give you the link. Maybe you can use it on your blog. It is scheduled for the 18th. This is the preview.
    Thank you, dear Sally, for making this holiday season so joyful by your fantastic posts and kind heart! Much love & hugs and Christmas blessings go out to you!
    Hugs to Mary, Jacquie and John for sharing their special Christmas memories. They were beautiful! ❤️ 🎄 🎁 🎅 🍪 🧁

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sally, these posts are wonderful. It feels like we are sitting around in a lounge room, drinking good wine (or eggnog), eating mince pies and swapping stories. Thank you so much for sharing so generously. I wonder what will be in your pillowslip this year. Enjoy!


  15. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Christmas – Weekly Update – Christmas parties, guest posts, books, Traditional Christmas menu and music. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  16. Pingback: Christmas Traditions, Treats and Trivia | Retired? No one told me!

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.