Last week I was woefully silent on 19th Century Modern, but with good reason! I was sprucing up and putting the finishing touches on my home, decorations, and festivities for Victorian Christmas at the Cottage!
It was a very abbreviated formal affair. All participants were instructed to wear something 19th century-inspired or at the very least dressy clothes. They were lead through the backyard lit by luminarias to the fabulously decorated Parlor on the Patio. I attached two blankets and thick red velvet curtains to the outside rim of the patio to create an enclosure. My mother hauled her circular oriental rug to town just for me to use. I moved my chaise lounge, my wingback chair, my side table, my kitchen table which was so elegantly draped with white linen, and two candelabras outside to transform the space into the Parlor. Everyone mingled there and deposited their cell phones and/or keys into the basket.
As any good hostess, I paired up the people with the Female Guest of Honor on the arm of the host leading the processional into the dinning room. The Female Guest of Honor in question happened to be Baby E. All other guests were paired up by age, men on the left, women on the right. The hostess, yours truly, and the Male Guest of Honor; my brother Mr. D brought up the rear. My Fiancé and I pulled names out of a hat to choose the Honored Guests, out of fairness and democracy. I explained to my guests that the privilege of leading or ending the processional was an extremes honor, “right up there with shooting craps with the Queen.”
Since, my home is a cottage, it took all of four steps from the patio to the dinning room. Three tables were laid with white lace and a bunch of candles, a proper, if sparse table setting, place cards and a 19th century factoid shoved in their wine glasses (I always like my guest to leave a bit more informed when they came in. I am a sucker for pedagogy, like that.) I made sure to consult my Victorian reference books, and indeed, the seating arrangement was male-female-male. Couples were broken up and usually not seated next to one another. The Female Guest of Honor sat to the left of the Host at the head of the table. Likewise the Male Guest of Honor was seated at the bottom or foot of the table with the hostess on his left.
True to tradition we had a soup course. Broccoli and cheese! Then the Male Guest of Honor was to give a toast. Mr. D gave a surprising excellent succinct toast and we sipped the Beringer Pinot Noir. This wine was chosen first because the company was found in the 1800s. Second, Pinot Noir is the wine of choice pairing with ham, our main course. Lastly, it is a Pinot Noir that tends to be a bit palatable for non-drinkers. Although, quite a few guest did not agree. For dinner we had ham, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, spiced apples, and dinner rolls. All passed to the left. Save for the teenager who chucked the roll down the table to his mother. Food was catered from the local grocery store with my brother finalizing any preparations.
After pumpkin pie, men retreated to the cool air of the patio to take their port, cheese, nuts, and French bread and move away from the insufferable heat of the candles. Ladies moved to the Drawing Room (actually my bedroom that was somewhat converted) for tea and cookies. Sadly, the men got to talking and did not eat or drink anything. The women had tea and read their tea factoids and watched Baby E “drink” from her plastic tea cup. As Female Guest of Honor she was instructed to pick the Christmas carol we all would sing after the gifts were opened. Since she is 14 month old, she picked the page from the song book with baby Jesus on it. Jabbing the page and yelling “BABY!” . . . .
After 20 minutes of girl talk we regrouped with the men in the dinning room, while in actuality the men would have joined the ladies in the drawing room. This was not going to happen in my little cottage. All presents were antiques, replicas, revivals, or the item’s company was established in 19th century. The gifts for the Guest of Honor were handed out first. Baby E received a nifty looking rocking horse. She was in awe and a bit unsure. This was by far the most fun gift My Fiancé and I bought, because we were did some research prior to purchase. We looked up websites about Victorian childhood and leisure, then we made our way over to the Toy Museum. There, we found the oldest toy known to man–a stick. My Fiancé really wanted to give Baby E a stick for Christmas! I told him she will poke her eye out. We decided on an item she did not already own. My brother, Mr. D received a tan waistcoat (That ended up being a bit small. Looks like somebody lied about their measurements . . .) We doled out the rest of the gifts much to everyone’s delight.
My Fiancé went over to my newly tuned piano and played The First Noel, Baby E’s pick. Some of us sang, some of us swayed, but we all enjoyed it. We took many pictures with an old fashion camera, which left much to be desired. The images are grainy and dark (as candlelight does not photograph well. I am not including any pictures in the post, due to my immense frustration in trying to upload them.) After which we bid adieu to the group and I flopped on the sofa all exhausted like.
I have Christmas themes planned out for the next sixteen years, so we probably will not repeat something like this until we move into the Bungalow, sometime after 2020!