With Mother’s Day around the corner I thought I would take the time to learn more about women of our past, their traditions, and how those traditions reflect our current behaviors. I was intrigued by the culture of tea time within the western world and how this trend grew in popularity around the eighteen fifties.
During this era, dwellings became more than just practical, but rather a place to entertain and welcome friends or relatives into the home. The parlour or living room was specifically designed with the intent to entertain guests. With the rise of individualism during the industrial revolution it became more and more common for gentlemen to be out of the house during the day time as opposed to managing the home. As men spent their days banking, trading or running their business, ladies of the era began to embrace their ability to nurture and care for the household. In addition to taking a more active role in parenting, women also ensured that the home was more than just a house. The trend of tea time captured women’s new found interest in embracing household nesting. Scheduled tea time allowed for hosting company; whether for a spontaneous visit or for expected guests.
This tradition was a form of indulgence. Its purpose was not to relieve one’s appetite like other scheduled meal times. If offered an opportunity for ladies to spend the afternoon chatting, catching up or even gossiping. This tradition has lasted over time as women today still hold such powerful bonds with each other. Though tea time is no longer as popular, we still love to get together with our girlfriends and catch up, whether over coffee, dinner or cocktails. That’s what makes us so amazing; our ability to be emotionally vulnerable together and in turn empower each other.
Imagining this era of women seated around a parlour room and sipping their tea I decided to check out a vintage shop to learn more about tea cups. A popular item during the trend of tea time, each cup was hand painted on bone china. Highly decorative, they were a popular gift item at the time. After the turn of the century tea cups became mass produced, however originally it was common to have uniquely crafted tea cups of varying patterns. From what I learned, if you can find a tea cup that does not have a stamp or embossing on the bottom of the cup, it is likely made pre-1900s; that is, before they became mass produced. To determine whether or not they are bone china hold the cup up to the light. If the china is somewhat translucent it is likely to be bone china. I am by no means a historian expert, but it was a fascinating experience learning about such an incredible tradition.
Whenever I visit my Mum, we spend hours chatting in the yard, drinking tea. This Mother’s Day we will celebrate our current traditions while honoring past trends – tea time and sharing our stories. Happy Mother’s Day!