Hello friends! I’ve been waiting all year to do a Christmas tea and wanting to do one with the Queen of Crime herself… Agatha Christie. Originally planned to be held in the library this soon changed as I looked up afternoon tea on youtube just to get some recipe ideas. I was met with the most beautiful and posh London department store tea vlogs which I promptly inhaled.
Now my goals were higher. I wanted to have a real Christmas afternoon tea not just a pot and some scones but something truly special. So I made a plan for a whole three-course tea and kept Christie’s words in the back of my mind:
Christmas was the supreme Festival, something never to be forgotten. Christmas stockings un bed. Breakfast when everyone had a separate chair heaped with presents. Then a rush to church and back to continue present opening. At two o’clock Christmas dinner, the blinds drawn down and glittering ornaments and lights.-Agatha Christie, Her Autobiography
Agatha’s publishers usually put out her new yearly book right before Christmas. This led to the saying “A Christie for Christmas.” Christie also wrote several short stories and books specifically about Christmas here are a couple:
Also I recently discovered her book Star Over Bethlehem and I am reading it through the internet archive (archive.org) with my local library account. I adore this site. The books you read on your screen are actual scanned pages of actual books! I discovered it last year about this time when I wanted to read “The Ghosts” by Antonia Barber. This is the book the lovely Christmas movie “The Amazing Mr. Blunden” is based on. Agatha has such a wonderful sense of place and time in her books and her Christmas books are a treat. I am looking forward to reading her books over the holidays and watching Mr. Blunden!
Then, right in the middle of preparations and plans the weather forecast started trickling in. I had planned to use the library originally but then changed it to the dining room where our tea could be much more formal and awe-inspiring among my mother’s mahogany table and chairs, the backlit china cabinets (that now live in our home since my mom downsized) and the loaned Wallace Grand Baroque silver (also from my mother who used to love to give dinner parties). I could see it in my minds eye with our wedding china sparkling on the festive Christmas tablecloth printed with poinsettias, but alas, it was going to be single digit temps very soon.
Now since we live in a very old, very spacious house (a big old drafty barn) we do all we can to conserve heat in the winter and that means minimally heating and shutting off as many spaces as we can. Downstairs we shut off our dining room and library, but we open them for special occasions in the winter and this tea was going to be one! But nope, with the severe weather coming in and days till Christmas dramatically running out, I had to move venues.
As I tried to think where we could hold our tea I started cooking by trying my hand again at petite fours. I’ve been entranced with them since childhood but I can never get them to come out right. They are always too messy looking. Oh well. Here I used recipes from The Butt’ry Shelf Cookbook by Mary Mason Campbell and Tasha Tudor.
I finally decided on the living room and set up a big folding table there and draped it with fine damask tablecloths ($1 each at an estate sale). Put round it our little cafe chairs that serve as extras. I carefully folded the starched napkins (same estate sale) and the set the board with our Noritake Stoneleigh wedding china, and my mother’s beautiful sterling silver. Candles were lit, dog shooed away and my husband and I prepared for the evening service at our “cafe.”
Days before, I started making and shopping, now there was a hustle in my bustle as all the last-minute preparations were finished. A big three-tiered tray was laden with our three courses which my husband helped to prepare as well:
Sandwiches: tuna salad, roast beef and horseradish mayo, and pimento
Scones: sweet and regular with clotted cream, jams, and whipped cream
Dessert: eclairs (remember this Christie post?), petite fours, and macrons
Plus Tea-Harney and Sons Tower of London Blend and champagne for the grown-ups
It doesn’t sound like a full meal but it is. And it was very filling!
When everything was ready we called in the kids and all sat down, thanked God and then the Christmas music started on the record player: our magical evening had begun!
I can’t help but think that this would be how Christie might have enjoyed afternoon tea at Fortnum & Masons or Harrods. I felt like we got to experience it a little bit too.
I hope you have some special family fun planned for you and yours in the next week or so!
On a side note: the wonderful Christmas movie “The Amazing Mr. Blunden” is all over the internet and streaming services for free, but the version is cut! Now this is a movie you don’t want to miss any of with the great Diana Dors and the wonderful Lionel Jeffries. If you want to watch it in all its glory for free it is on archive.org! Just sign up with your library card! Happy Christmas!
From Kansas Street to you,