As time goes by, Jane Austen and tea never go out of fashion. In fact, they’ve both become almost trendy in recent years. So what better way to celebrate Jane Austen’s genius than with a tea party re-creating a few hours of her everyday life?
Invite guests to bring along a favorite passage from one of Austen’s books. The invitation can include a pictures of typical costumes from the early 1800’s. Encourage guests to consider wearing a shawl over modern clothes or experimenting with period dress. Empire waists were popular then, as were choker necklaces.
Bare polished wood was the look in decorating at the time, so be sure to have at least one dark wooden table to set off your most charming porcelain knick-knacks. Print out some scenes of Regency England from this Jane Austen website: http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/rgnclfil.html. Glue them to rectangular doilies and hang three doilies vertically, at least four inches apart, on a long strip of velvet ribbon. Hang heavy tassels from lamp pulls, window shades, and curtain tie-backs.
Greet each guest with the offer of a glass of sherry. Invite them to choose refreshments from a buffet table covered with a white table cloth, with lace borders separating the four areas serving tea, sandwiches, scones, and cookies. Run dark green ribbons through the lace borders for a decorative effect.
Have several card tables set up around the room, covered with dark green cloth. Each table can be set with a small teapot filled with hot water, plus milk, sugar, thinly sliced lemons, napkins, and silverware. The hot water is for refilling guests’ cups if they have kept their tea bags or are using individual tea strainers. Have a plate of sweet butter and a bowl of jelly at each table. Use tall candles in polished brass candlesticks to cast a flattering glow down on the seated guests.
As guests settle in, they can take turns reading their chosen passages from a Jane Austen book. If anyone has chosen a section with several speaking parts, ask for volunteers to act out the scene. If people seem shy about reading to the whole group, let them read just to the people at their table.
The Austen family liked many kinds of music, so you can’t go wrong with anything by Bach, Haydn, or Handel, or with Scottish or Irish folk songs. If you have guests who like to sing, invite them to perform, perhaps accompanied on the piano.
Once each table has four guests, announce the opening of a game of whist. No Jane Austen novel would be complete without a few rounds of whist among friends. This card game is simple enough for players to learn the rules in a few minutes, unlike its offspring, the game of bridge. Give each table a copy of the rules of whist, which you can print out from this website: http://www.pagat.com/whist/whist.html.
- Green and black tea
- Sliced chicken and cucumber sandwiches
- Dilled salmon and cream cheese sandwiches
- Drop biscuits
- Freshly sliced French bread
- Violet, mint, or rose jellies
- Camembert cheese
- Pound cake
- Almond pudding
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