Christmas in Japan with the Hallocks

After the passing of our beloved dogs, Mr. Hallock and I decided that we needed to travel before we adopted any more animals. (Well, just one pooch at a time. That’s our limit, I swear. I’ll let you know.)

Where to go for our first voyage? Japan! (Mr. H spent the very best years of his childhood living in Kobe, so there was a nostalgic element here. For my part, I just love the food.)

Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Christmas Eve shopping in the Ninenzaka and Sannen-zaka preserved districts of Kyoto.

A Buddhist/Shinto country may seem an odd choice for Christmas, but it was perfect for two Americans seeking an escape from the heavy pressure of the holiday in the States.

Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
A parade of Japanese Santas on motorbikes was a rare treat in Kyoto.

Not that Christmas is any less commercial in Japan. It may be more so. They have accepted all the fun stuff—Santa, big meals, and general jolliness—without expectations or drama. For us, that was a welcome escape.

Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
On Christmas Day, Santa guided us to the bamboo gardens of Arashiyama on the eastern edge of Kyoto.

Mr. Hallock postulates that the Japanese view Christmas sorta like Valentine’s Day: you won’t get the day off work, but you have a good excuse to eat chocolate.

Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
The tradition in Japan is cake with strawberries. I approve. But a scarce harvest has left the fruit more expensive than ever. I saw a box of 20 gorgeously presented white and red strawberries for $100. That’s $5 a berry. These cakes are not cheap, either, at $5 a piece.

I wonder if the popularity of Christmas is due to Santa’s suit. In Japan, red is the traditional color of joy, happiness, and good fortune. White means truth and new beginnings. White has an ambivalent message, in fact, because it is the color used for both funerals and imperial regalia, such as the emperor’s tatami mat edging at the palace in Kyoto. Red and white are the two colors of the Japanese flag and the Santa-image-shaping Coca-Cola Company. Had Santa’s suit been another color (or soot-colored like the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore), would it have still caught on?

Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Santa’s helpers selling delicious treats in the mall. These full cakes are about $30-$40 each.
Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Or how about a little Christmas fritter? This is more my price range.
Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
But, really, what says Christmas more than a $12 apple? It seems they grew the fruit with a sticker over it to discolor the skin. Cool, huh? Not cool enough for $12, but cool.
Japan travel photo Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
I just had to finish with this one. Mr. H and I have our own tradition born the first year of marriage. We were living in West Beirut—the Muslim half of a multicultural town—and everything was open for the holiday. And Beirut’s Santa (yes, there was one) sold pizza! We weren’t much of cooks back then so we bought the pizza, and it was delicious. We have eaten a Christmas pizza every year since, and I guess that we are not the only ones! (We did not eat this piece from the picture, though. Eww.)

There will be more Japan posts to come. Themes will include Hello Kitty, good food, sewer drains, and much, much more. I don’t know what is better than cool sewer drains, but trust me I’ll find it.

Christmas under the Sugar Sun

Click the image below for a peek into the world of the Sugar Sun series. Experience the daigon, or Christmas pageant, with Javier and Georgina of Under the Sugar Sun. The link will take you to Instafreebie, where you can download chapter 29 of the novel in the format of your choice.

Happy holidays, everyone! Maligayang Pasko!

Christmas daigon Under the Sugar Sun by author Jennifer Hallock in Sugar Sun series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

And have you signed up for the Sugar Sun newsletter yet? The holiday wrap-up is coming soon. Make sure to get all the latest updates on Sugar Moon by registering here!

newsletter for Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

Thanksgiving Over There in the Philippine-American War

I spent many Thanksgivings in the Philippines, and it was great. We had some fun parties, including one at our farm. The only drawbacks were that it was a normal workday for me, and I did not get to watch football live all day long. This year I have a little time off: my exams are graded and student comments written, so wheeeee! And, like in recent years, we will celebrate “Friendsgiving” in New England with two vegetarians. Meh, I’m not big into Turkey, anyway, so I’ll take it.

Thanksgiving 30th US volunteers Philippine-American War by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
30TH VOLUNTEER INFANTRY REGIMENT: Thanksgiving dinner for the men of Company “D”, 30th Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the outer Manila trenches at Pasay. The photo was taken on November 24, 1899 and shows the men sitting down to their meal laid out on a long bamboo table protected from the hot sun by a canvas awning. The Soldiers from Company “D” are wearing their blue Army service shirts and campaign hats. Some of the men wear a special red kerchief around their necks, which later became a hallmark of the regiment and earned them the nickname, “The men in the crimsom scarves.” Company D was lead by Captain Kenneth M. Burr throughout their tour in the Philippine Islands. Photo and caption uploaded by Scott Slaten on the Philippine-American War Facebook Group.

What would it have been like in November 1899, though, just as the Philippine-American War was moving from conventional conflict to guerrilla war? Yes, the American military had more men, more guns (though not necessarily better ones), and more bullets. And without General Antonio Luna, who had recently been assassinated, the Philippine forces lost one of its greatest strategists. But Aguinaldo made the decision to disband his forces for an unconventional conflict, and that gave the Filipino revolutionaries a new edge. For the American troops, they had to realize they might not be going home anytime soon.

While I have the advantage of hindsight and can easily say that I do not support America’s imperialist cause in this war, none of that changes history. I wonder what was going through these young men’s minds on this day. Thanks to the Philippine-American War Facebook group, and especially Scott Slaten, for posting these photos. If you are interested in this war at all, you really should follow this group. It’s free, the discussions are strident, and the photos are amazing.

Thanksgiving 30th US volunteers Philippine-American War by Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
30th INFANTRY REGIMENT, USV – Thanksgiving Day at Pasay, outer Manila trenches with the 2nd Section, Company G, 30th Infantry Regiment USV, November 1899. The photo shows the men with their Krag rifles stacked on the street of their small camp. Note the sign for the 2nd Section in the middle of the photograph. Photo and caption uploaded by Scott Slaten on the Philippine-American War Facebook Group.

These photos are also nice reminders that even in war, people celebrate holidays and birthdays. They even fall in love. (That’s where we historical romance authors come in, as Beverly Jenkins so often reminds us.) But what these men’s families wanted to know was not whether they were having a good time, but when they would be coming home. They would not get their answer for another whole year:

From the November 22, 1900, edition of the Washington Post.

Since most of these soldiers had originally volunteered for what they had thought was a brief war in Cuba, this was probably a relief. Some did re-enlist as regulars, though, which meant a much longer commitment.

For your Sugar Sun readers out there, here’s a little Thanksgiving tidbit for you: Pilar Altarejos, daughter of Javier and Georgina, was born on Thanksgiving 1903. I thought that was appropriate. The couple could be thankful for being together— how romantic!—and I thought it would get Javier’s nationalist back up a little. (Yes, I’m terrible.)

Hopefully, wherever you are, I hope you have a great week. The best thing about this holiday is the reminder to be grateful for something. I am grateful for so many things, but I want to add you, my readers, to that list. Thank you for reading and for following the Altarejos clan through all its ups and downs. More adventures in love will be coming, I promise!

NaNoWriMo to finish Sugar Moon part of the Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

Sugar Sun glossary terms in alphabetical order

At long last, an alphabetical listing of the Sugar Sun glossary terms! Simply click on the graphic of your choice to open the annotated post in a new window. This list will be updated to include new terms as their posts are written.

Ah Tay bed glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

aswang glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

babaylanes glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

bahay kubo glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

bahay na bato glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

banca boat outrigger cockroach language glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

barong tagalog dress shirt glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

bodbod budbud rice dessert glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

boondocks backwoods wilderness mountain language glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

calamansi kalamansi glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

calesa carriage glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

capiz oyster shell window glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

carabao boat glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

casco boat glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

daigon Christmas pageant glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

hacendero haciendero sugar farmer glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

ilustrado Filipino elite education Spain mestizo glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

insular colony colonial Philippines glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

insurrecto Philippine insurrection war revolutionary glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

kristo cockfight cockfighting bet gambling glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

lechon roasted suckling pig glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

pandesal bread sweet food glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

parol Christmas holiday festival light glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

pensionado education university scholarship glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

glossary Pulahan war for Jennifer Hallock author of Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series. History ever after.

quartermaster army supply scandal Manila Hotel Oriente glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

sillon butaka planter chair furniture glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

Sinulog Santo Niño Spanish Magellan Catholicism saint glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

sipa hacky sack jianzi shuttlecock sport glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

card gambling sungka mancala panguingue glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

Thomasite education teacher school glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

tsokolate Spanish hot chocolate glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

water cure torture Philippine American war soldier glossary term in Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious fun. Happily ever after.

I hope the posts are helpful in rounding out the historical context of the Sugar Sun series. They are certainly fun to write! Enjoy.

Sugar Sun series glossary term #29: daigon (or daygon)

Christmas in New Hampshire feels surprisingly quiet this year. The holiday season traditionally begins the day after Thanksgiving on “Black Friday”—marking the start of the shopping season, which will bring stores out of the red and into the black with holiday sales. Recently Black Friday has become Black-Thursday-the-hour-after-you-load-the-dirty-plates-in-the-dishwasher. And then this year I noticed advertisements for Christmas-themed books, movies, and products on or before Halloween.

Amateurs.

The Philippines celebrates the longest Christmas season in the world, starting on September 1st—when you’ve officially entered the “Ber” months—and lasting through the beginning of January. (Or Easter, according to how long some of my neighbors had their decorations up.) Once September arrives, stores break out the holiday albums, parols are offered for sale alongside highways, and malls get so crowded that you literally cannot drive by them. Seriously, don’t plan on it. And if you do, don’t fight the standstill. Just put on some good tunes, sit back, and relax. You’re going nowhere quick.

This may not be a picture of me driving by SM Southmall in Christmas season, but it is close enough. Photo by Matzky.
This may not be a picture of me driving by SM Southmall in Christmas season, but it is close enough. Photo by Matzky.

But here’s the secret: if you want to drive anywhere in Manila during Christmas season, do so on Christmas Eve. The roads are deserted. The toll booths are unmanned. Skyway is free for everybody!

This “good night,” Noche Buena, is the real holiday. The day begins with a midnight (or pre-dawn) mass called the Misa de Gallo, or mass of the rooster. (Because by the time you leave church, the roosters are crowing.) The evening is for family dinners, and by midnight on Christmas Day the faithful head back to mass.

There is one tradition that may have gotten lost in big city life in Manila and elsewhere: pastores, or shepherds. This pageant-carol of the Nativity drama came from Mexico, thanks to sailors on the Spanish galleons. Its details, though, soon varied by region. The villains could be anyone from the devil (in half-man, half-monkey form) to King Herod to snooty homeowners.

A cultural dance performance at the 2015 Daygon performance in Dumaguete. Photo from Dumaguete.com.
A cultural dance performance at the 2015 Daygon performance in Dumaguete. Photo from Dumaguete.com.

Today, in many places, the daigon has become a set piece dancing and singing performance. But in the early 1900s Visayas, the daigon (or daygon, from “starting a fire” or “lighting up”) was more like what I described in Under the Sugar Sun:

Javier guided Georgina to a house with a pronounced balcony, the perfect place to start the daigon. Mary, Joseph, and a chorus of shepherds and angels were already assembled. Mary was dressed in a blue and white gown, her “pregnant” belly stuffed full of pillows. The band fell silent as the holy couple sang a plea for shelter to the owners of the house. One did not have to know Visayan to understand the girl’s predicament.

The owners of the house responded in turn, and Javier translated in a whisper. “They’re saying that the house is already bursting with people.”

Then Mary sang again. “She’s promising them heavenly rewards,” he explained. “I think a literal translation is that ‘their names will be written in the book of the chosen few.’”

“It’s beautiful,” the maestra whispered. “What did the people in the house just say?”

“They’ve turned her down. They said their house is not for the poor.”

“How awful.”

He found Georgina’s innocence endearing. No doubt she knew the story of the Nativity as well as he did—probably better, since she actually went to all the novenas—but her rapt expression made it seem like she was hearing the story for the first time.

They trailed the crowd to the next house, where Joseph begged for a place for his wife, “even in the kitchen,” but was told that the mansion was “only for nobles.” When Mary insisted, the doña threatened to let loose her dogs on them.

Georgina looked around, noticing that they were almost at the school building. “They won’t sing to us, will they? More importantly, I don’t have to sing back?” She looked truly alarmed.

“No, don’t worry. They’ll finish before that, at the ‘stable’—by which I mean the church. The crowd and the band will amble on, though, begging for refreshments, so we should go prepare.”

Georgina’s eyes lit up. “Your aguinaldos!”

He laughed and squeezed her hand on his arm. “Exactly—including your favorite: chocolate.”

There is a fair amount of seduction over food in that book, even at fiesta. Maybe especially at fiesta!

For a young woman, landing the role of Mary was like being crowned the homecoming queen, though she had better be able to sing, too. Fortunately, my character Rosa Ramos, heroine of Tempting Hymn, was both pretty and talented:

Singing had pulled Rosa through her childhood. Instead of being just the daughter of a disciplined maid and an undisciplined field hand, her voice had made her the best known fifteen-year-old in Bais. Out of all the girls on all the haciendas, she had been cast as the Virgin Mary in the local Christmas pageant. It said something about her life back then that she could not have imagined anything so grand anywhere in the world. She could have been crowned queen of Spain and still not been as happy as she had been that night.

‘Tis the season! I will leave you with the lighting of the huge Christmas tree at Bais.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas (Maligayang Pasko!), Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year.

Featured image of the 2010 nativity from the Dusit Thani hotel in Makati, Metro Manila. Creative commons photo courtesy of Daniel Go.