News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
YOUNG LIFE: A History Lesson With Tea
BY COLLETTE CAPRARA / FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
The folks at the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center welcome children and their parents to join them this Saturday for a spot of tea and a glimpse into the life and times of the Colonial era.
A long-standing annual tradition of the museum, the widely popular event has become a part of the Second Saturday series of kids activities and has been broadened to include educational craft components. Under the tutelage of tea mistress Martha Crimmins—a certified etiquette consultant who has conducted the tea for nearly a decade—educational coordinator Janelle Kennedy will be conducting the event this year.
As guests arrive, they will engage in the first of three craft sessions designed for the event: decorating straw hats with an array of flowers, ribbons, and feathers. In the process, they will learn the functions a hat served in Colonial times.
“Nearly every item we consider today as a fashion accessory began with a very utilitarian purpose,” said Kennedy. “The hat, for example, served not only to guard against the sun and rain but also to stop the spread of lice in those days. Those who were wealthy enough also made it into a statement of fashion and station in life.”
Visitors will then move into the museum’s Council Chamber where formal tables will be set with china, awaiting a pouring of winter harvest tea and a sampling of tea sandwiches. As participants enjoy the refreshments, they’ll receive etiquette tips and learn about the important role the tea played, especially as a social hub for women of the 18th century who could not frequent taverns or coffee houses.
“The women would meet, discuss current topics and even do a little match-making,” said Crimmins, “A daughter who was eligible for marriage might serve tea so the other women could see how she carried herself, since manners and poise were very important in selecting a suitable mate.”
Kennedy will explain that the beverage was a precious commodity in Colonial times, kept in a tea safe under the watch of the tea mistress who carried its key. The formal tea was typically within the domain of the wealthy class who could afford a setting to host guests. A family of four that was less well-off would possess only four plates, cups and spoons. They would have afternoon tea less frequently, and in their home.
Following the first course of “savories” and before a second course of sweets, visitors will make and decorate fans, another staple of the colonial era that, again, served an important function at a time when electric fans and air conditioning did not exist.
In addition, children will have an opportunity to try on Colonial garb, including dresses, breeches and vests, and are welcome to take photos. As the event draws to a close, guests will gather once more to craft Valentine cards to take home as a surprise for their special someone.
Second Saturday guests who do not participate in the tea can join in craft-making sessions in the museum’s Learning Center, free of charge.
All guests are also invited to tour the museum’s exhibits on Second Saturdays. A favorite for children is the “Portal, Passage, and Power” gallery highlighting the role the Rappahannock River played in the history and culture of Fredericksburg. The gallery features a life-size diorama of the river’s edge, complete with flora and animal tracks; interactive displays highlighting Fredericksburg’s bridges and historical sites; an explore-able replica of a Virginia Indian hut; and a display of the many river-powered mills that peppered the town in its industrial heyday—complete with simulated river ripples and an audio recording of the mills at work.
“We strive to engage all senses in this touchable gallery to bring Fredericksburg’s history to life,” said director of education programs Tramia Jackson.
Collette Caprara is a local writer and author.
WANT TO GO?
What: Second Saturday Colonial Tea
Where: Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center, 1001 Princess Anne St., Fredericksburg.
When: Saturday, Feb. 9, 1–3 p.m.
Cost: Colonial Tea: $10 members, $12 non-members. Crafts only: free of charge. Pre-registration is required for the tea and all children must be accompanied by an adult.
Info and Reservations: 540/371-3037; famcc.org