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Museum hosts Colonial tea party

 Tea was an important social ritual in Fredericksburg's Colonial era. Continue the tradition at the Fredericksburg Museum.
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Date published: 2/7/2013



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.

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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