Collecting the literature associated with dark December's various holidays can be an expensive and time consuming proposition. As we pointed out in our series on the literature of Christmas, so much has been published that most book collectors tend to restrict their collecting efforts to something fairly specific: festive food cookbooks, for example, or holiday-themed genre fiction, or books about snow, or fiction about December holidays that don't involve a fat guy in a red suit.
One of the more interesting ways to focus one's collecting efforts is to collect books about a specific holiday tradition. From the various Christmas traditions, for example, one might choose to collect only books that are devoted to caroling. From the various Hanukka traditions, one might choose to collect only books devoted to dreidels. And so on.
One of Great Britain's best-known traditions, teas actually are a fairly recent concept:
Afternoon tea was [supposedly] introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o'clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o'clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter ... and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her....
This afternoon tea was at first associated with high society, as only an elite few were able to spend a leisurely amount of time socializing in the afternoon instead of working, but the rise of tea houses and tea gardens across Great Britain quickly made the pastime an acceptable form of socializing for the fairer sex in general.
Americans have a tendency to confuse this afternoon, or low tea, with the much later, and meatier, high tea, a relic of the period when most working-class Brits had their main meal at midday:
Traditionally eaten early evening, High tea was a substantial meal that combined delicious sweet foods, such as scones, cakes, buns or tea breads, with tempting savouries, such as cheese on toast, toasted crumpets, cold meats and pickles or poached eggs on toast. This meal is now often replaced with a supper due to people eating their main meal in the evenings rather than at midday....
The Christmas Tea can be either a low tea or a high tea. Although afternoon (low) teas probably are the most popular Christmas Teas offered by commercial establishments in both America and Great Britain, high Christmas Teas probably are more often offered at home.
For the book collector, the main draw of either tea is the wide variety of books that are associated with such affairs, both fiction (right) and nonfiction (left):
Collecting books about this popular holiday tradition is actually a sneaky way of collecting several different Christmas-themed topics, since one usually collects not only books devoted to the food and drink served at such affairs (image below left via University of Iowa Special Collections)...
However you take your tea ... whatever holidays you celebrate ... The Private Library wishes you and yours a safe and joyous holiday season!