Host a Literary Holiday Tea Party
The holidays are a fantastic reason to plan a gathering of friends and family, and luckily there are a tremendous number of books and stories for us to choose from to inspire our holiday scenes and foods!
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Today let's talk about how to plan a charming Holiday Tea Party inspired by an amalgam of literary settings. Did you ever notice that if you set up one traditional Victorian-ish background, you could drop characters into it from every story from A Christmas Carol, to Little Women, to Narnia, to Harry Potter, and they’d look right at home? Rather than limit ourselves to just one story, we’ll pull together our favorite vintage holiday elements to set the stage, then we’ll incorporate nods to an array of different classic books during our activities as the tea party progresses.
Today we’ll cover the three elements of a great event -- immersive decor, themed food & drinks, and literary activities.
HOLIDAY TEATIME DECORATIONS
Holidays bring to mind cozy settings that celebrate hearth and home, so choose a spot for your holiday tea party where you can feel snug, like near a fireplace. This particular tea party theme is both vintage and elegant at the same time, so if you have the choice between your kitchen and your living room, go with the living room. You can choose to seat everyone around one large table, or in a circle of chairs with a coffee table in the middle so everyone can reach the food.
Whichever layout you choose, you’ll want to layer your holiday decorations in a centralized spot. The tea party is much simpler to decorate than most other immersive parties, because your guests will be seated for the entire time. That means you’ll only need to collect a few beautiful items for the center of your space, rather than having to decorate all the walls, doors, floors, etc. Much simpler!
Vintage colors are deep and rich, so choose maroon instead of red, and forest green instead of kelly green. If you have gold or silver accessories, bring them out, and collect some of your favorite ornaments and decorations. Then arrange them at different heights by using cake stands, piles of books, or even upside down bowls. If you feel like your various items don’t seem to mesh together, grab a piece of fabric or even a holiday scarf to wind through them and soften the edges. You can also hint at snow with pretty lace accents.
Remember, you don’t need a specific “centerpiece” -- you can fill a glass bowl with ornaments, or collect pine greenery from outside, or even use non-holiday items that are just sparkly or fancy, like this gold tassel, which is actually a curtain tieback.
For a tea party, you’ll obviously need teacups, and this is a great time to mix and match all of your red and green teacups. If you have a red or green teapot, even better, or you can go with a silver tea service if you’re that lucky. Set out plates, napkins and teaspoons for everyone, and plan your serving dishes ahead of time so you can make sure they all fit on the table you’ve chosen - do a dry run to test that, and if you don’t end up having enough room, set a small table off to the side to function as a sideboard or serving buffet. Then your finishing touch is a traditional christmas cracker, or a tiny present at each place!
HOLIDAY TEATIME FOOD & DRINK
Traditional tea parties generally include three courses - starting with scones, then moving to sandwiches, then finishing with dessert, but don’t feel like those are your only options! You can offer just about anything you like, as long as it’s bite-size and easy to eat with your fingers. And tea doesn’t have to be the only beverage you offer! We’ll get back to that... You can set out all of your courses at the same time, or you can choose to serve each one separately - either way is fine - it just depends on how much space you have and how much getting up and down you want to do during the party.
For our holiday tea party, let’s incorporate some iconic holiday flavors into the traditional courses. For our first course, we’ll serve a cranberry orange spice scone presented to look like a gift, with some beautiful red currant jam and clotted cream on the side. If you’re baking these from scratch you can start with a plain scone recipe or mix and just add chopped cranberries, grated orange peel, and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice. Whether you bake your scones from scratch, or from a nice Stonewall Kitchen mix, or whether you buy them, remember to keep them small, because there’s a lot more food to come!