I wanted to host an old-fashioned theme party for a few friends during the Christmas season. My husband and I issued invitations announcing this these before I began researching.
Christmas shopping, work deadlines, and family obligations prevented me from doing more than thinking about it until a week before the party.
I wanted a few ways to demonstrate how our ancestors entertained at parties a century or two ago. In the days for television and radio, how did folks pass the time? The best source for information like this are books and novels written during the time period.
How wonderful that the local library contained a book written in the 1880s on evening entertainments! There are various games, card tricks, forfeits, and even chemical surprises.
With a little planning, a dozen of us got into the spirit of the evening and enjoyed playing games that history seems to have forgotten.
I thought others might enjoy planning this type of evening so I’m sharing about it.
Instead of serving dinner, we simplified the menu to appetizers and desserts yet wanted to follow the theme.
I made gumbo soup using a recipe from 1877, a comforting dish that had many guests returning for a second helping. I prepared an old-fashioned stack cake similar to the dessert my grandmother baked every Christmas.
We drank wassail , which is warm mulled apple cider. The beverage also felt appropriate for the chilly weather.
Some guests got into the “old-fashioned” spirit with their pitch-in dishes. One couple brought a home-made apple pie. Another brought a variation of a yule log with peppermint shavings. Delicious!
After the appetizers were consumed, the ladies strung popcorn while the men opted for conversation. Fresh cranberries were added to the chain after every fifth popcorn piece making a pretty chain for the Christmas tree.
It was a fun and festive activity to begin our party.
Next time we will talk about party games. Hope you can join in the fun!
-Sandra Merville Hart
Planche, Frederick D’Arros. Evening amusements for every one; a collection of mirthful games, parlour pastimes, shadow plays, magic, conjuring, card tricks, chemical surprises, fireworks, forfeits, &c., illus. by George Cruikshank and others, Porter and Coates, ca 1880.