Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tea Time - The Importance of Formal Ceremony at Home

Tea table at Mrs. White's Vermont Home

I usually have tea in a regular coffee cup. It is almost always plain "Salada" tea. I do not take cream or milk. I only add a small amount of table sugar.  In my healthier days, I would drink peppermint tea with honey (never sugar).  Recently, for special occasions, I have been using dainty china cups.

I will not have "tea time" unless some of my grandchildren are present.  I do this to entertain them, to teach them manners, and to help them develop a sort of refined culture in daily life.

I will say to Miss Grandgirl (currently age 3), that I would like to have tea. This is usually after we have done some chores together and have colored with crayons.  She immediately says, in a rather dignified way, "okay." And immediately walks over to the hutch to get my tea cup and saucer.  She places it on the table for me, and we begin the process of preparing a "formal" tea.

I have to say that I was very hesitant to let her handle my fragile dishes. But after a few lessons at the sink washing some of them, she has proven to me that she cares very much and will try very hard to be cautious.  I also have to say that I am willing to give up any of my china and dishes with a sympathizing smile should there be an accident.  In other words, if Miss Grandgirl drops and breaks my cup or plates, I will gladly take the loss.  After all, at the end of life, we cannot take things with us.

At the table, there is a sugar bowl.  Just for fun, I have this filled with sugar cubes.  This is the "company best" sugar that adds to the fun of tea time.  I will say to one of the grandchildren, "I would like one sugar please."  They take turns getting me a cube and placing it into a tea cup.  This delights them!

We always use linen napkins. Some are homemade, some are store bought, and others have been given to us.  These are neatly folded and kept on the hutch or sideboard table.  The children will get one for each of us.  "These go on our laps," I tell them.  We also have extra napkins on the table beside our plates.

I keep a "creamer" container on the table which is always empty. It is there for looks, since none of us take cream or milk in our tea.  Perhaps in winter I will fill it with miniature marshmallows and turn "tea time" into "hot chocolate time."

There is a silver call bell at my place setting.  This is what one would use to call the maid to the table or ask for help.  Since I am the only maid (gentle smiles), I ring the bell to make the children smile.  I might say, "Time for tea," just before a ring.  Or I might say, "lunch is served" and then give the bell a little shake.  The children find this endearing.

In my kitchen, there is a small canister full of flavored teas.  The children and I have enjoyed papaya, and apple cinnamon the most.  I give the children only a taste with a teaspoon, and then I drink the rest.  They love the scent, the fancy cups, the sugar cubes, and watching the steam.  Then they are happy to enjoy juice and a treat in their own seats at the table.

We sit up straight, we talk politely, and we say our prayers with folded hands.  We ask each other, "Is there anything else you need?" or "Would you like some more?"   Here at the tea table, we learn to take care of each other. We learn to be kind and considerate.

Tea time is very short, but the lessons extend to meals.  The children always use linen napkins at grandmother's table.  We always use our very best manners, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner time.  This does not mean that every one of us is perfect, or without fault.  There are still the gentle sounds of an argument among young ones.  There are still complaints about not wanting crust on one's sandwich, or the whining request for more juice. But the ideal is here.  The foundation is being taught by example each time we are at the table.  The children may have interruptions of trouble, but then we get back to our sweet and happy times of placing that linen napkin on our lap with a sweet smile, and then saying, "should we say our prayers now?"  This makes the children very happy.  We do the good things in the middle of the distractions.

If a home had more formal times of ceremony in daily life, there would be more respect and kindness. Manners have always been known to be a virtue and the foundation of a civilized society.  This is why, even though there are mostly little ones at my table, we find joy in a formal approach to tea.

My home is humble and old. My dining table was obtained from a neighbor's front yard with a "free" sign on it, almost 20 years ago. It seats 8.  A white tablecloth I use for "best" is more than 2 decades old.  My chairs do not match. My dishes are an assortment of mostly gifts and hand-me-downs. Yet, it is so very precious and beautiful to have formal manners and tea time in our very poor family. 

It will never be about the money we have, or the quality of the possessions we own.  It is about kindness, and morality.  It is about virtue, patience, longsuffering, and bringing beauty into our lives by our sweet behavior.


From the Archives -

Honoring Husbands - Cooking for Mister.

For The Hard Days - Make the Mess Look Pretty.

The Virtuous Mother - Amazing Dedication.

Find Home-keeping Inspiration, in Mrs.White's book - For The Love of Christian Homemaking.  Paperback, 274 pages.

An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email. 


Mama Said No said...

There is nought to say to this but "Amen!" Your grandchilcren will be a refreshing breath in a culture that cares little for social grace. Well done!

Mrs. Laura Lane said...

A fine post and a fine practice. I shall share this in my daybook and Happy Homemaker Monday post of October 2, 2017. You have such wisdom to share. I want other ladies to find you.
Bless you!
Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

Regina said...

I used to drink tea from a regular coffee cup but the last few months I have enjoyed drinking tea from pretty tea cups. I have a tea for one and two tea cups I keep out for drinking out of.

When my girls were little I was also a bit nervous about them using their china tea cups but we made such memories and I'm glad you get to have those memories with your "grandlovey"!

TheLoriA said...

Thank you for this post. It is lovely and calming for me at this time. With this shooting in Vegas tonight, I am waiting for my husband to arrive on a delayed flight out of there. A few frayed nerves. =) He is safe and on his way home. This post was timely in calming me. Best blessings and prayers for all affected in this situation. Lori

Tammy said...

Lovely post. You are right, it isn't about the 'things' but the people and the love involved.

We live in a 2008 doublewide. We've painted it throughout, and put down new carpet. The light flowing in from the front living room and back family room and dining room (pretty much all open to each other) is spectacular, and it makes me so happy!

My dining table is used, and seats 8. It is the 'wrong' color to my mind, but we don't have the money to have it restained, nor the time to really do it ourselves. We live with it. The chairs are large and comfy, and we enjoy meals, games, and homeschool at this table. Much of our furniture came from our old house, with some new pieces added. They will have to last a long, long, time. Likely they will be replaced with used when the time comes.

That's okay. We are together, fed, clothed, and warm/cool as we need. God is good. God's got this. :)

Elizabethd said...

Taking time to teach one's children good manners is such a wonderful thing. In this modern world respect and mannerly behaviour seems to have disappeared. For children to experience the orderliness and the charm of a beautifully laid table is a part of growing up to be respectful adults.

Mrs.O said...

Oh Mrs White, you have done it again.(smiles) I wish your writings were mandatory reading in some way for ladies young and old!
"We do the good things in the middle of the distractions". Priceless...
Also, our table was a hand me down and when we moved my husband cut it down and rebuilt it. We moved to a much smaller home and it would not fit.
God bless

Traveling Oltmans said...

Wonderful post today! I read your blog and have enjoyed it for years, never posted before. But I loved this writing today. Thank you!

Debby in Kansas said...

Your post today has me once again thinking about donating all my big clunky mugs!

I have two sets of china that we use during the year. My set is white with ivy that we use in spring & summer. And my mom's set is a brown transferware that we use in fall & winter. Since my mom's set is older, everything is smaller. That encourages less consumption in the months we're not so active. Well, it occurred to me last month that I have NEVER used a cup & saucer from either set!!
And they're lovely. Instead, in our house of 2, I use one of about 30 mugs that take up an entire shelf. Adding with the sets and the 5 fancy teacups I have, that is approximately 55 hot beverage cups. For 2 of us....and 1 of us never drinks hot beverages!!! I found myself looking at the beautiful cups & saucers and wondering why mugs were ever invented! Granted, some are pretty, funny, or reminders of fun excursions, but I rarely notice that anymore. I'm thinking that I would prefer to drink my coffee and tea from a cup and saucer. I'm battling my sentimental self for the strength to donate the mugs!! I've already taken my most sentimental, like the ones that belonged to my grandparents & mom and I use them for pencil cans.

I've gone on quite enough about the subject, but I thank you for reminding me that a cup and saucer can really add a lot of fancy to an ordinary morning...and I can always enjoy that!

It's also great that your grandchildren are learning a priceless lesson in manners that will always benefit them.

Lana said...

I love this and you have done well by your grandchildren. My grandmother gave us cambric tea and I have no idea where that came from but it was half tea and half milk. We loved it and always had it in cups with saucers but I am not sure she ever owned any china. It was always only at her house and we felt so special. Our grandchildren are moving to Germany next week because their Daddy is a pastor and will be planting a church there. I will miss these things that we do with our little people.

Deborah Montgomery said...

You are building wonderful memories with your grandchildren. I let my children use my good china teacups when we had tea together. In all those years, they never broke anything. It was ME who broke two cups over the years! All the money in the world can't buy love and kindness, good manners and precious memories. xo Deborah

Cathy said...

Even the comments on your blog are from lovely people. I spent many days last year reading all your posts, and I walked away with a sense of peace and calm. Yet, your life is not without struggles and challenges too. The LORD uses ashes to give crowns of beauty. Thank you for all the ways you share grace, truth, and beauty in this space.

Deanna said...

Blessings to you! Taking time to sip tea or coffee is a sweet treat.

living from glory to glory said...

Oh, what a delightful post! I can see them all, saying, Please and thank-you and saying grace... And your little bell! What a wonderful learning experience for them all! They will never forget those times with you!!
As you said money and the wealth is nothing without love and kindness and manners. I enjoyed this so much!!
Happy Day to you, dear friend...
Hugs, Roxy

Heavenly Home said...

Thank you for sharing how you have tea with your grandchildren--how precious! I am learning here that whenever anyone comes for a visit, it is expected to serve tea (smiles). How neat that this tradition is still going on, even in our modern times.

I was feeling unwell yesterday, but was glad to be able to curl up with one of your books and was comforted by your writings of home life. God bless you, Mrs. White.

Amy @ The Quiet Homemaker said...

Dear Mrs. White,

This is such a beautiful post and such a wonderful memory for your sweet grandchildren. I can just see it, and it makes my heart smile! Thank you for such an endearing post!



Beckyathome said...

I have a few tea cups and nice dishes that we do use. I, also, decided long ago that I wasn't going to keep things if I was going to refuse to let anyone use them, so also decided to risk breakage. Surprisingly, very little has broken over the years. In years past, I've even done tea parties that included a bunch of was amazing how much they enjoyed the fancy food and dishes. For daily use, I use mugs. On special occasions...fancier dishes. I feel special dishes help make holidays special, and have served some pretty inexpensive, plain food on or in fancy dishes and everyone felt like it was a party:) Last spring, I hosted a birthday tea party for my youngest daughter. The 3 girls she had over enjoyed it very much. They really "upped" their good manners during the party. They were very appreciative, and had not seemed to have experienced this kind of party before, which makes sense in this day and age. I was glad to be able to let them enjoy the experience at my house.

Kathy Jackson said...

Mrs. White, you are not poor. You’re one of the richest people I know. ❤️