Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas is a time when you get homesick — even when you’re home. ~Carol Nelson


As evident from this family photo of me and my three siblings, I was a big Christmas lover as a kid. ***Note. Hum Somewhere in My Memory from Home Alone as you read this.

From age three until not quite six, I lived in Taiwan with my parents and younger brother, John, where my mom and dad taught English at Tunghai University. Christmas gifts were hand-me-downs from other Missionary families, which John and I were ecstatic to receive. We knew no better than gently used toys, until our family returned to America and we discovered modern toy stores, television, and were bombarded with commercials. The stupendous merchandise wowed us, and we were ardent believers in everything Christmas.

My grandmother, called Mommom, prepared for the big day all year long and was a devotee of the holiday. She made Christmas a mystical blend of the Nativity and Santa Claus, which worked for me. The generous old guy in the red suit was equally devoted to Christmas and a great boon to a family with limited funds. However, I learned Santa could be touchy and kept a naughty list. I hoped he had absentmindedly omitted my name. Fortunately, I also learned the Christ Child forgave sins, and prayed Jesus gave Santa a heads-up on the forgiving Beth thing. A miracle transpired because I never got switches in my stocking as my ancestral Uncle Gus was said to have done. That horrifying tale struck fear into his descendants, and I was super good those last few days before Saint Nick’s timely arrival.

Visiting Mommom and my aunt, uncle, and five cousins at the old Virginia homeplace for Christmas was like being part of a Hallmark movie. Nothing could match the wonder I experienced there as a child. My uncle even reported seeing reindeer hoof prints in the snow on the roof, and one year a jovial neighbor dressed up as Santa–I recognized him– came to the house to delight us kids. I was concerned this facade might offend the REAL guy, and he’d stay away. But we heard the sleigh bells out in the meadow, as we did each Christmas Eve. The warning jingle sent us scrambling to bed before Santa’s arrival, and inspired the title of my holiday romance, Somewhere the Bells Ring. The home in this ghostly time slip Christmas romance was also inspired by the homeplace pictured below. Built in 1816, Chapel Hill, as it’s called, has been in the family for generations and is where I spent some magical holidays.

(Virginia Family homeplace in the Shenandoah Valley)

With such fantastic childhood memories, Christmas as a bigger kid/adult was a bit of a letdown. Maybe it is for everyone. Christmas really belongs to children, but I still cherish it in my heart. As Scrooge says after hard lessons learned, “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.” And so I do.

My mantle is perpetually decorated with angels and lights. Also a Dalek Supreme and the Tardis…a little random, I suppose. Still, it’s festive year round. The holidays can be rather overwhelming. I try to keep our celebration simple but fun, especially for the small people in my life. I truly must love Christmas because I’ve written three romances with the holiday as a central theme and I’m pondering a fourth. Maybe with an angel in the story…I love angels. But not the weeping kind, thanks to the creepy ones in Doctor Who.

Don’t blink.

(My mantle)

(I especially love angels.)

Several years ago, my mother found a number of vintage Christmas cards in an old trunk. This marvelous find took us on a trip down memory lane, back to people who lived before I was born. I’m terrible about remembering to send cards, but these are great. I may have shared some of them before, but here’s another look at a few.

(Vintage Santa and a Norman Rockwell print on cards among Mom’s finds.)

Somewhere the Bells Ring (Somewhere in Time)

Blurb:

December 1968: Caught with pot in her dorm room, Bailey Randolph is exiled to a relative’s ancestral home in Virginia to straighten herself out. Banishment to Maple Hill is dismal, until a ghost appears requesting her help. Bailey is frightened but intrigued. Then her girlhood crush, Eric Burke, arrives and suddenly Maple Hill isn’t so bad.  To Eric, wounded in Vietnam, his military career shattered, this homecoming feels no less like exile. But when he finds Bailey at Maple Hill, her fairy-like beauty gives him reason to hope–until she tells him about the ghost haunting the house. Then he wonders if her one experiment with pot has made her crazy.
As Bailey and Eric draw closer, he agrees to help her find a long-forgotten Christmas gift the ghost wants. But will the magic of Christmas be enough to make Eric believe–in Bailey and the ghost–before the Christmas bells ring?~
I really think Hallmark is waiting for me with this story.

From Romancing the Book: “Ms. Trissel captivates her reader from the moment you start reading the first page. She has written a compelling love story that spans some fifty plus years and keeps you entertained every step of the way with the story within a story…I fell in love with her characters and look forward to the next delightful story ready with Kleenex box in hand. A must read for every romance fan.” ~Reviewed by Robin

Somewhere the Bells Ring is available in eBook from all online booksellers. Plus a smashing new audio version from Audible is out at Amazon. For the kindle and audio visit:

Follow my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Beth-Trissel/e/B002BLLAJ6/

(Tag from the earlier 20th century)

Did Someone Say Christmas Romances?


Hauntingly beautiful Christmas Romance

Hauntingly beautiful Christmas Romance

I’ve written two Christmas romances, hauntingly beautiful Somewhere the Bells Ring and my sweetly scintillating colonial American historical, A Warrior for Christmas.

The ghost in Somewhere the Bells Ring appears whenever the heroine is drawn into the past in the beautiful old Virginia house inspired by my father’s homeplace in the Shenandoah Valley.

“An intriguing, gripping ghost story with a focus on romance rather than terror.” ~Reviewed by Stephanie E with Fallen Angels Reviews

From Romancing the Book: “Ms. Trissel captivates her reader from the moment you start reading the first page. She has written a compelling love story that spans some fifty plus years and keeps you entertained every step of the way with the story within a story…I fell in love with her characters and look forward to the next delightful story ready with Kleenex box in hand. A must read for every romance fan.” ~Reviewed by Robin

AWarriorforChristmas_7288_300Historical romance A Warrior for Christmas features a deaf heroine and a Shawnee captive turned warrior, recently returned to upper class colonial American society. A vastly different life from the one he knew in the frontier. The romance between this unlikely couple is one of the best I’ve written.  This novella is also available in audio.

A Warrior for Christmas took me by complete surprise. I expected the usual tale of a former Indian captive transcending his past to live the life of a gentleman, but Beth Trissel’s exquisite writing skill made me love this story…No reader of historical romance will want to miss A Warrior for Christmas, even if it isn’t Christmas.” ~Two Lips Reviews (Five Lips and A Recommended Read Rating)

These two novella length romances published by The Wild Rose Press are available from all online booksellers.

Visit my Amazon Author Page, My books at Barnes & Noble

If you enjoy these, or any of my other stories, please leave them a review at Amazon, Goodreads, and/or any of the other online book sites.

Christmas Memory from the Shenandoah Valley by Beth Trissel


Chapel Hill at Christmas

When I was new and the world was young, at that wonderful age of six,  my younger brother, John, and I celebrated our first Christmas in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia at the Churchman family home place where my Dad was born and raised.  Called Chapel Hill (all these old Southern homes have names) the gracious Georgian style house has been in the family since 1816.  In those early days, John and I had only just grasped the concept of Santa Claus because our family had spent the previous three years in Taiwan where my parents taught English and only returned to the states that previous summer.

Everything about an American Christmas was new and wondrous to us, especially the amazingly generous fat guy in the red suit who was just waiting to give us presents.  But it seemed that he required snow, the cold white stuff we had not yet witnessed, for sleigh travel with his flying deer.  A bit eccentric perhaps, but I was an imaginative child and willing to indulge him.  It wasn’t lost on us, though, that this weather phenomenon didn’t fall from a clear blue sky.

Beth and JohnOur parents hadn’t made much of Christmas in Taiwan.  We were tiny tots and toys  scarce, the few there were being some that other missionary families shared with us from those their children had outgrown.  There were no toy stores in Taiwan then like there were here.  Chewing gum was a major treat.  We caught our breath at the delights we saw in the American shops.

Barbie dolls had just been introduced and I longed for one with hair to comb, an endless perfect wardrobe, and furniture of her own. John had his eye on a racing car set.  We’d seen picture books with Santa in them and there was always snow.  What to do, what to do?  Nothing but wait and hope.

The journey to Virginia began in the mountains of Tennessee, jolting along in our old Ford on Route 11 to Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley.  Our grandmother, whom we all called Mommom, Aunt Moggie, Uncle RW and our five cousins awaited us on the family farm.

Dad spent what seemed like days in preparation for the trip, packing and repacking the car.  Finally we got underway.  I’m amazed as an adult to find that the trip normally takes about six hours, or less, because I have vivid memories of this ride going on all day and far into the night, playing ‘I Spy with My little Eye,’ and singing carols until we were hoarse and my parents must’ve been nearly half mad.

horse and sleigh

Mom taught us a song on the way about Santa, ‘You’d Better Watch Out,’ a worrisome ditty.  I wasn’t an exceptionally naughty child, but knew there were the occasionally times when I had been what, in some person’s minds, might be construed as bad. What if Santa, this wonderful provider, had seen me at less than my best?  What if I got switches?

My father told us about his Uncle Gus who’d received switches.  Horrors of horrors.  Deep down I felt it was no more than I deserved if my every move had been carefully noted. I hoped Santa was a forbearing fellow, but doubts lurked, a new worry on top of the snow thing.

Eventually we arrived in the Valley and the paved highway turned into bumpy dirt roads as we wound deeper into the country with its unique smells.  My father pointed out the lights of Chapel Hill glowing in the distance, then unbelievably we were driving up the long lane and the yard filled with family to warmly welcome the weary travelers.

The first night we went straight to bed.  I slept upstairs in the yellow room––every room has a name––with my two cousins, Margaret and Elizabeth Page.  In the morning, John and I got our wish.  We awoke to heavily falling snow, a magical world.  We went sledding down the lane, made a giant snow bunny with my father and had the time of our lives, clambering back into the kitchen ravenous and soaking wet.  We peeled off layers of pants––no snow pants back then––and took our wet clothes and mittens to hang them by the stove in Mommom’s room, before downing bowls of homemade soup.

Dog UNDER CHRISTMAS TREEThe day before Christmas finally came and the old brick house filled with tantalizing smells.  The kitchen door opened periodically, the sleigh bells on it announcing the arrival of yet more friends bringing yet more gifts.  Friends, neighbors and family all exchanged gifts, even if it was only a plate of cookies exchanged for yours.

Presents were stashed in every corner of the front room, covering the old piano and stacked beneath, wrapped in paper and ribbons which I found almost too beautiful to bear. I knew there were some for me among them, that I was not in total reliance on Santa.  Even so, I longed to be kindly remembered by him.

As any child can attest, Christmas Eve is the longest day of the year and one in which we made extreme nuisances of ourselves, asking endless questions and climbing over and under the furniture to see which gifts were ours.  At last we gathered together in the front room in the presence of the magnificent pine decorated shortly before our arrival.  My uncle cut it from a nearby woods and I loved its fresh smell, also new to me.  A stern glance from him quieted us down and my grandmother read the Christmas story from The Book of Matthew.

Vintage American Christmas Card--excited boy peering through windowThe ancient story evoked a new-found sense of awe at the holiness of this night as I gazed at the little wooden crèche and the figures carved by my father.  I felt the love in the room and understood that it had something to do with this sacred child whose birth we were celebrating.

All right, Jesus loved me, so did God, but what about Santa? After all, he was the one to fill the stocking I’d hung carefully in between my cousin’s on the mantle under the portrait of our great-great grandmother.  All of our stockings had been knitted for us by an elderly relative and had a scene of Santa on one side and a reindeer on the other with little bells that jingled when I lifted it.  A reminder of his imminent arrival.

After the stockings were hung and The Night before Christmas read, we heard sleigh bells ringing far off in the meadow.  Good heavens, Santa was that close.  We tumbled over each other in our haste to get to bed lest the old guy should discover us still up and promptly leave.  Touchy fellow, peculiar ways, but ours was not to question why.  We scampered under the covers and did not dare to peep until dawn.

Vintage Santa Christmas CardAfter that, it was every child for him or herself.  We launched out of bed, vying to be the first one to wish each other “Christmas Gift!” then paced about in acute impatience while the adults had a leisurely breakfast.  Who could eat at a time like this?  And dressed with slow, careful deliberation.  I was wearing the same clothes I’d donned two days ago.  As for bathing, only under duress.

We practically gave up all hope of ever seeing inside the front room and paced outside the closed double doors where no child could enter until everyone had gathered.  Mommom, her blue eyes twinkling, reported that Santa had come and relieved our troubled minds.  Uncle RW told us he’d seen reindeer hoof prints in the snow on the roof of the house.  Imagine that.  We never once questioned what he’d been doing on the roof.  Not that this would make the slightest difference if we eked out our days waiting in the hall.

Then, glory hallelujah, the family assembled and lined up according to age, as required by the law of our clan.  The all-important doors opened.  Great was our wonder.  There was the tree lit, the stash of presents sorted into individual piles, and the stockings filled.  Mine bulged with promise.  Praise be!  The old fellow was extremely tolerant.  I’d truly feared to see those switches.

It’s ages later now and Mommom has gone on before us.  Lining up outside those omnipotent doors with my brother, cousins, parents, aunt, uncle and her at the end is a distant cherished memory.  Christmas is a place I return to in my thoughts whenever I need the sense of joy and reassurance it brings.  And I remember that time so long ago when my brother and I despaired of snow.

A Very Virginia ChristmasThis account is included in A Very Virginia Christmas collection by Wilford Kale

*Pics of Chapel Hill, the old Virginia Family homeplace in the Shenandoah Valley

*The dog under the tree is Mia, a friend who has passed on, taken by daughter Elise. Images of vintage family Christmas cards by our mom, Pat Churchman.

*Pic of Beth Trissel and younger brother John Churchman from our Taiwan days taken by our mother.

Image of Old Order Mennonite horse and sleigh passing our farm in the valley taken by my husband, Dennis, last winter