Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How the Victorians Dined on Thanksgiving

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Thanksgiving has been celebrated in America since the first autumn feast was shared by the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. Although the holiday was celebrated annually since that first feast, it wasn't until Abraham Lincoln named it an official holiday in 1863 that a simple feast was turned into a full-blown celebration.

No group knew quite how to celebrate the holiday quite like the Victorians. The Victorian Era was full of opulence in all areas of life. Women, as the ladies of the household were expected to provide a memorable holiday meal for family and friends. Entertaining for Thanksgiving meant lots of etiquette, decorations, and heavy menus. A proper Victorian could even take a cue from Harper's Bazaar magazine. In 1904, the magazine published tips and tricks along with menu options worthy of a Thanksgiving feast.

According to Harper's Bazaar the dinner should comprise of several courses and an array of tasty dishes. One suggested menu includes: oysters on the half shell, brown-bread tartines, celery, radishes, clear soup with grated cheese, fish fillets with hollandaise sauce, potato balls, cucumbers, roast turkey, sweet potatoes, turnips, cranberry jelly, and much more.

Thanksgiving Menu in Harper's Bazaar magazine circa 1904

Decorations were also important to Victorian entertainers, and Thanksgiving was the perfect excuse to paint pumpkins and bundle wheat or grass to create the perfect table centerpiece or wreath. The place settings at the table were not complete without a proper place card. Names were written in script and positioned on the table for the best possible dinner conversation. Hot mulled cider was the preferred beverage prior to dinner and was expected to be presented in perfectly pressed glass vessels.

The expectation for the Victorian Thanksgiving holiday also included the furniture in the room. The dining room was formal and very masculine with massive furniture including a sizable dining table, enough proper dining chairs for each guest, and a sideboard to display the meal. The table should be set with the finest silver and best porcelain and glassware. Cloth napkins with silver rings were all a necessity for the Victorian festivities.

If you're looking to add a touch of Victorian opulence to your holiday table this Thanksgiving check out our website for great Victorian era antiques! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

   Harper's Bazaar Magazine

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