Thursday, October 1, 2015

Decorating for a Festival

Well, our annual Greek Food Festival is upon us again, and I have been in charge of decorating the grounds. Got me to thinking about how folks decorated for parties, holidays, event, in the 18th Century.
As we well know, in Colonial America, fruits and natural elements like pine cones, pine branches, nuts and seeds were used to make wreathes for Christmas holidays. Candlelight was employed in windows and outdoor lamp posts. The effect, which is still in use in Colonial Williamsburg to this day, is extremely effective.

During the 18th century, the art of floral design progressed to a state of perfection, with grand vases and garlands of fresh as well as artificial flowers. These artificial buds were made from silk or paper, and were known as French Flowers or Gum Flowers. If you think artificial flowers is a new concept, think again. Of course there were no plastic pozies, but who would want them anyway?!

Candlelight is always in fashion! In the 1700's, spermaceti, or oil produced by the sperm whale, was employed in candle production. It made a superior candle, but colza oil or rapeseed oils were also used, and were cheaper to manufacture.
Now days if we want a "glittery" look, we go with strings of mini lights, but there's nothing like candlelight to set a mood.

Of course, the display of food was also used for d├ęcor, showing an elaborate display of food in silver tureens is awfully inviting. This kind of thing happened at more palatial events. Gardens, architecture, pastoral scenes were recreated in sugar and sweetmeats, sometimes overwhelming the guests, like a dessert table described by William Farington in 1756:

"After a very Elligant Dinner of a great many dishes...The Table was Prepar'd for Dessert which was a Beautiful Park, round the Edge was a Plantation of Flowering Shrubs, and in the middle a Fine piece of water with Dolphins Spouting out water, and Deer dispersed Irregularly over the Lawn, on the Edge of the Table was all Iced Creams, and wet and dried Sweetmeats, it was such a Piece of work it was all left on the Table till we went to Coffee."

Our festival I don't think can compare, but it really is a picnic event, and I don't think people will be in satin and lace, unless of course, it's got a lot of cleavage and sets a provocative tone on the late night dance floor! haha

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