History of the hows and whens in banqueting


Who in the world doesn’t love a big fat banquet? A connotation of things always somewhat lavish at least, but essentially meaning just a formal large meal, banquets are most characteristic in the largeness of their occurring. A considerable congregation of people is one of the first principles for banqueting to assert as such while adhering equally to the core understanding of the food being served assuming likewise a status in considerableness. In being in fact an entire event generally held in honor of someone, though not being a case in such exclusivity, it is only expected that the fare on offer at these feasts of celebratory intent would be similarly special as well.

Such celebrations of extravagance, characterised by a profusion of food and drinks in particular have been a feature of the life and style of the human since ancient times. Pretty much every culture in the history of human civilisation has been holding banquets as indulgences much needed indeed. Be it the ancient Mesopotamians or the early Greeks or the Neolithic Brits, communal feasts of the kind that assumed the eventful extent of banquets had been popular. In fact, so regular had been banquets in their notable occurrence that there exists definite references to prominent some occurrences of this identity. Not only humans indeed, even Lord Jesus too had partaken of meals as part of the banqueted ceremony, particularly established a notion in the understanding of it as the Last Supper.

Source: Met Museum

Of course mentions of it have been encountered also in as much prominence across cultural entities. Homer’s Iliad for instance definitely mentions banquets even as evoking of the idea of them being essentially Godly and therefore affairs of opulence. From then on, it has been a continuing account in ceremonious, celebratory unfurling of occasional grandeur that banquets still find elegant expression as.

For all their essential grandness though, banquets rest upon a premise of minusculity in the essence of their etymology. Perhaps derived out of a French word meaning a little bench would be this non congruent idea in alluding and in intending, that strikes in a dramatic greatness instead of undisputed fancy. But while this magnification of the essence relayed itself is one unexpected in the extremity of that extents, stark also would be the assertion in which a seating medium would be made to cook up ideas in feasting instead.

And yet it should not strike as too weird a ‘leap of faith’ to be made if one considers the likelihood manifesting in this unlikely construing of connection. The trail of this transformation too would seem to make sense in the chronological construct of the followups. Somehow assuming the meaning of a small snack eaten while sitting on a low bench initially, banquet finally came to be this word of entirely feasting interpretation that has since been relevant in historic as well as contemporary holdings of it.

Much like its literal character, it also is the manner in which banquets have come to be enjoyed as part of their journeying through the times that manages to assert as striking. As documented through instances of history, iconographic records of banquets have always presented images of seated or standing banqueters. The prospect of reclining being a possibility as well in attending banquets would find acceptance by the 7th century B.C.

Likewise, the occasion in determining the hosting of banquets too would come to be diversified over the centuries. The third millennium B.C. for instance witnessed such celebrations of feasting nature unfold as agrarian festival. It would be the performance of marriage rites that the second millennium would identify as causes calling for banquets even as funeral banquets entailed as part of a first millennium practice. The essence would be maintained throughout of banquets being special cases made for occasional indulgences of the human.

An elaborate meal indeed it is then that banquets most ‘ordinarily’ is, even in all their extraordinariness, with additional and/ or associated elements of a specific cause or even a human sought to be celebrated through this formal arrangement made in food and drinks. More modern occurrences in the banqueted manner of happening can unfurl in even diverse considerations of essence, derived though essentially upon the necessity of significance. In fact so ‘versatile’ have banquets proved to be in the current manner of such hosting incorporating everything that is celebratory in some aspect of that recognition. As birthday parties and anniversary dinners as well as in acknowledging achievements and encouraging charities and even as social events without any specifically set purpose to attend to, banquets have been furthering their claim in an essential nature of living.

All through this coursing of the natural process in evolution and even as traditional instances of community feasting, banquets have been held in many a definite identities of them. The Manchu-Han Imperial Feast of China is one such enormous event of food and drink that does not really have an associated element of considerable concern to sum up its essence.

Contrasting this span of the Asian traditional narrative would be an American curation very specific in what it serves. The Beefsteak is what it expresses as, and it is sliced beef tenderloin indeed that is served to diners attending the event in upholding a 19th century emergence. A type of working-class celebration in its inception, “beefsteak culture was indisputably the frenzied consumption of beef and beer” indeed despite its basis also generally incorporating the additional strand of some specific cause, at least in their beginnings.

beefsteak banquet
Source: Pinterest

Contemporary curations of banquets occur also very commonly as part of esteemed events and shows, usually following the main event in the evening and hosted therefore as dinner. The Noble Banquet would be the most notable of such after-parties, that which dedicatedly follows the annual holding of the Nobel Prize Ceremony. A multi course dinner, required to be attended while adhering to a formal dress code and followed by a dance as well, this and similar other banquets happen to be characteristic celebrations today and are often as indispensable as the main event itself.

Essentially holding on to the traditions of its offering occurring as a panoply of lavishes would be Christmas banquets everywhere, or even banquets characterising pretty much every festival for that matter. But even within this assertion, it is the Scandinavian Julebord that commands special attention. Now occurring throughout the Christmas season, these Julebord feasts essentially features a variety of traditional Christmas food and alcoholic beverages. Partaken of also in community spirit, or at least as large congregations of diners even when they might be all colleagues, this is one of the more ordinary and yet still special banquets that are anticipated much in their annual character.

Such specific identities might not be the case in deciphering the banquet culture of Britain. But this nation of as much feasting fame as any other is furthering of the essence that banquets have held in the entirety of human civilisation. Banquet halls might be the very generic, modern day alluding to such places specifically ‘designated’ and designed to host these feasts of a grand scale. For the England of a time more rooted in history, it would be entire houses across which banquets would span the extent of their grandness.

Banquet Houses would shape up as pavilion like buildings of purely entertaining and particularly eating provisions. As essentially ornamental as well and featuring also plenty of windows built in with the intention of indulging in that activity of ultimate leisure- eating one’s food and sipping on their drink while taking in all the beauty of the world feeding the soul. Tanhat itself presented a premise for luxury to prevail but the dual connotation that banquet harboured within the precincts of the nation made it also a more intriguing idea to consider in this context.

banquet house whitehall
Source: Flickr

In the usual sense of the term alluding to a large formal meal, the banqueting house served as the setting strictly for sweet indulgence, reserved as it would be for gorging on dessert. Otherwise though in hosting such banquets that prevailed in the second meaning of a light meal, including tea and snacks, the banqueting house would be the venue where all the feasting- however ‘gentle’ but still grand would take place. The Banqueting House on Whitehall is one of the grandest and largest impression conjured up in this regard. Outside England, such globally resplendent halls specifically identifying in the banqueted essence would find expression as the Palace of Facets in Moscow, Russia.

Whatever the span of occurring for banquets to assert their extravagance in, the reception of what they accords in terms of food and status and therefore life in itself is something that is very universal indeed. No wonder banquets have been enduring events for the greater extent of the entire human existence itself.