Monday, June 16, 2014

Midsummer Eve dining with newcomers

New residents in some parts of England held a dinner in front of their home on Midsummer Eve to meet their neighbors.  This custom was still observed in the Georgian and Regency periods as described in an 1814 book.

Midsummer's Eve (this year on Friday, June 20) is the shortest night of the year.  It is the night before the 'summer solstice,' 'Midsummer's Day' or 'the first day of summer.'  It is still celebrated in the U.K. and Sweden with bonfires or maypoles.  And let's not forget A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare (c1590s) or Mendelssohn's exquisite Overture (1826 at age 17!) and Incidental Music (1842, with the Wedding March).

From George Walker's The Costume of Yorkshire, 1814:
"Every custom which tends to promote social intercourse and hospitality should be zealously encouraged. Of this class is the one here represented, which is still observed in some parts of Craven, and other districts of Yorkshire. New settlers in a town or village, on the Midsummer Eve immediately succeeding their arrival, set out a plentiful repast before their doors, of cold beef, bread, cheese, and ale. Those of their neighbors who feel inclined to cultivate their acquaintance sit down and partake of their hospitable fare, and thus eat and drink themselves into intimacy."

©2014 Patricia Bixler Reber

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