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Celebrating Like Kings: 10 Rules of Etiquette at the Christmas Table



What to eat (a turkey or a goose), what to drink (cola or water), whether or not to take alcohol, how to make a toast and eat grapes correctly ─ talks about the main features of the etiquette of monarchs at the festive table

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Family traditions of Christmas in the aristocratic families of Europe prevail over New Year's. If the New Year can be celebrated at a ski resort or on a sandy island with a noisy company of friends, then Christmas is reserved for a home lunch or dinner with the family. From year to year, the tradition repeats itself in a similar setting, and on this occasion they do not start a themed party: the focus is on the sacrament of the birth of Christ, family ties, and a festive table.

What is the principle of serving the Christmas table and what is considered bad form during a feast in the residences of European royal families and aristocracy? All the intricacies of table etiquette are revealed by Ksenia Ferz, an image and etiquette instructor, a specialist in social and business positioning, and the publisher of the online encyclopedia of social competence

Dining room or kitchen

The separate dining room is the foundation of the Christmas reception. It is traditionally given in the dining room, but not in the kitchen. The owners of large houses rarely entrust the culinary and organizational chores to themselves, but even if they have to take part, they strictly separate the working area of ​​the kitchen with the ceremonial part of the refectory. In these houses from guests you will never hear the usual for many "Can I help you?", Because everything is ready for the beginning of the reception.

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Flowers or candelabra

Both flowers and candelabra have a place on the Christmas table. There are flowers at lunchtime, and candelabra only at dinner. The main rule: compositions should not be too tall or lush, but exactly such that all guests can freely meet their eyes with their companions.

In old estates, a surtout de table is used ─ a set of table decorations, the solemn crown of the festive table.

Thanks to the memoirs of the Russian ballerina Matilda Feliksovna Kseshinskaya, we note that this decor item can also be a luxurious gift. For example, she writes: “From the Muscovites I received a coat-de-table ─ a silver-framed mirror in the Louis XV style with a silver flower vase. The names of all those who took part in the gift are engraved under the vase, and you can read all the names in the mirror without lifting the vase. "

Turkey or goose

The turkey takes pride of place on the table of the British royal family from year to year. But Christmas in the Swedish royal family is not complete without whitefish jellied fish, a dish known as Lutefisk. In Denmark, a traditional delicacy is Risamalande rice pudding with one whole almond hidden in a common dish (according to the omen, whose portion contains the nut, he will find family happiness until next Christmas). However, it cannot be said that gastronomic experiments are alien to royal families: for example, in 1989, bortsch was on the Christmas menu of Queen Elizabeth II - yes, borscht.

Coca cola or water

Attempts by Coca-Colla to usurp the celebration do not resonate in the hearts of the A-class representatives: in principle, bottles with sweet soda do not appear on the traditional table. First of all, because the bottles on the table are not comme il faut. According to royal traditions, soft drinks are served in jugs, alcoholic drinks in decanters.

The crystal set of glasses on the aristocrat's table will have little in common with the many different-sized glasses of enophile, an admirer of Riedel. Wine connoisseurs are divided into two camps: some believe that the shape of the glass makes the wine taste, while others are convinced that if wine needs a special glass, it is bad wine. From the point of view of aesthetics and practical serving tasks, a set in which the Burgundy glass does not resemble the size of a bowl is the best option. It is these glasses of the same elegant shape that we see at formal feasts, be it Windsor Castle, the Elysee Palace or the White House.

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On a plate or from a tray

The manner of serving dishes common in estates is not taking out arranged portions on individual plates, as is customary in restaurants or at banquets. The staff bypasses guests with a meal divided into portions and invites them to treat themselves. According to the English tradition, the butler lays the portions on the plates himself, and according to the French tradition, the guest selects and transfers the portion to his plate with the serving utensils. If he can't stop and takes more than is acceptable by decency, and awkwardly apologizes, the butler sounds only good-natured “Nice to see such a healthy appetite, sir. The chef will be pleased! "

Take a sip or to the bottom

Second, never. Draining a glass dry means being greedy or indulging in alcoholism. You drink to the bottom and leave marks on the glass from your lips ─ you will be relegated up the social ladder faster than you can say "You don't respect me!" The manner of holding the glass is equally important. If it has a long leg, then it is held by it; if it is short, by the base of the bowl. Never ─ by the base of the glass, which is in contact with the table. This professional manner of the sommelier has become a rule of good form for secular cocktails, but it can be compared to a ballerina's pirouette at a drugstore. There is a place for everything, even if you are eager to emphasize that you are aware of the concept of "terroir" (a set of factors of winemaking that determine the final characteristics of wine. ─ Approx. Ed.).

What to talk about

According to the table conversation, one can judge how familiar it is for a person to socially dine at a common table or eat while sitting on the couch in front of the TV. In the first case, he easily copes with his dish and naturally maintains a conversation without phlegmatic pauses or hasty remarks with a chewing mouth. In the second, he will be betrayed by awkwardness of hands and excessive attention to food, including during a conversation. Aristocrats do not talk about food, serving, decorations and other luxuries that have become everyday. The subject of their conversation is events, people, ideas. Here you will not hear "Bon Appetit!" from the owners and "How did you cook it?" from the guests ─ food is mentioned only in prayer.

How fruit is eaten

Yes, a banana can be eaten not as the primates bequeathed to us, but in a civilized manner ─ with a knife and a fork for fruit. This is how it will be eaten at an informal family Christmas table: they will put it on a plate, cut off the petiole on one side and the rest of the inflorescence on the other (they will be moved to the top of the plate), then they will run a blade along the skin on both sides, remove the top, and set aside. And only after that they will cut them into small rings (like any other dish). The situation is quite different with grapes. The grape scissors used in the Victorian era were and remain in the eyes of aristocrats a caricatured tool of the bourgeois. According to upper-class etiquette, a small bunch of grapes is pinched off with your fingers, put on your plate, after which they pick the berries one by one with the same fingers and send them into your mouth.

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How to sit

Posture at the table is the first marker of the class. Companions from high society are easy to distinguish by their manner of naturally and without hesitation in wielding instruments, as well as the ability not to bend over the plate, no matter how challenging a spoonful of soup half a meter from the mouth. It is not hard to imagine where the tiara would have ended up if the ladies rested their elbows on the table and bowed their brows over the dish (and real jewelry relics are not the easiest jewelry). When the young Queen Mary complained about the weight of the tiara to the courtier Evelyn, the Duchess of Devonshire, in charge of her wardrobe, the Duchess, according to her grandchildren, thought: “The Queen just does not know what a heavy tiara is” (yes, two large diamond Devonshire tiaras are enormous) ...

How to drink tea and coffee

Afternoon tea at the Royal Family of Great Britain is as mandatory a part of Christmas as the fancy dress ball with fireworks in the Danish kingdom. Tea is drunk in the salon at low tables sitting comfortably on upholstered furniture.

Milk is added to tea, not vice versa!

Pouring milk first, then tea was the duty of the servants, who drank from unburned clay mugs and feared for the safety of the dishes. The sugar in the cup is not stirred in a circle, but by moving the spoon vertically so as not to make a noise and prevent the sugar from collecting in a handful at the bottom. Lemon is rarely added to tea, and if it is added, then the slices are no longer taken out of the cup. During tea drinking at a low table, the tea pair is inseparable: the saucer is held at chest level, and the cup is brought from the saucer to the lips. Aristocrats do not stick their index finger into the handle of a cup ─ such a sign is practicality bordering on vulgarity. The protruding little finger at the same time speaks of false manners.

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