Just five days after the last day of Chanukah, ten days before Christmas, and one day before the 243rd birthday of Jane Austen, the Southwest Florida JASNA group held our Fourth Annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea on Saturday, December 15th. We gathered in Naples, FL at the lovely home of longtime JASNA members, Jerry Vetowich and Nili Olay.
Tasty Tea Treats for the Occasion!
The participants enjoyed a variety of sweets, sandwiches, and teas and more, generously provided by those in attendance. During the meeting, we gathered in groups and selected a Jane Austen character to write a letter to Father Christmas in that character’s voice.
A Writing Exercise for the Season!
Thanks to a member of the New York Metro region, Meg Levin for the Letters to Father Christmas exercise. It was great fun getting to become the characters for a short time and get our creativity flowing. The instructions read as such:
Letters to Father Christmas
“Old Christmas” or “Father Christmas” represented Hospitality and good cheer. He evolved over time to become the British equivalent of Santa Claus. Around this time of year, he receives a lot of letters. For this ice-breaker, we ask that you add to his pile. Please write a letter to Father Christmas in the style of a character from one of Jane Austen’s novels. You can pick a star, a supporting character or someone with a walk-on role.
We gave it a go!
There was a great deal of good laughter as each group attempted to write in the style of Mr. Collins, Lydia Bennett, and Charlotte Lucas.
Our first group to share their letter was Anja, Karen, and Merari.
Most Esteemed Father Christmas,
I’m sure you have observed my effort to enlighten my flock and always set a good example. I humbly ask for a few items to help with these endeavors. Foremost among my requests, I ask for the latest edition of Fordyce’s sermons. It must be an impeccable leather-bound version with gilt edge pages.
Secondly, on a more personal note, you know of my interest in landscape architecture, as my noble patroness Lady Catherine de Burgh, always says, “a large formal garden reveals the splendor of our Lord best.” As such, I desire another book by Capability Brown. This well-known landscape designer has been most favored by the Lady and as such, by myself. Lastly, Mrs. Collins, my dear Charlotte, is in need of a new bonnet. Nothing too ostentatious please, as she is a plain woman.
Most Sincerely Yours,
Our next group was Cherry, Rosemary, Vic.
Dear Father Christmas,
I am exceedingly excited about Christmas gift giving and gift getting. Three gowns with bonnets to match are desperately needed. I am the youngest and best sister and need new garments, which are not hand-me-down or made over from any of the others. I saw some perfectly lovely fabrics in Meryton last week that would be perfect. The regiment will be having several balls and I must attend them all. My dear Wickham will insist on my not appearing in the same ancient garments everybody has seen before. I have been a good girl all year and look forward to my just rewards.
Lydia Bennett (Wickham)
The third letter was by Laurie, Nili, Susan.
Dear Father Christmas,
I know it is a little early but some new gentlemen have arrived in the neighborhood. I know I am getting older and I do not want my brothers to be responsible for me for the rest of my life. Blessed Father Christmas, I would be so grateful if you could see your way to bring me a kind gentleman, who will look after me. If it is not too much trouble, I would like to stay in my neighborhood.
Last but not least was the letter written by Betsy, Jerry, Sara.
My Dear Father Christmas
Forgive me for imposing at your busiest time of the year. I would forgo any requests for my personal benefit, but for your information, my esteemed patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of the esteemed Sir Louis de Bourgh, has an elegant, charming, talented daughter who is eligible to share her high position with a suitor of the highest virtue, rank and in possession of a large fortune, who would be fortunate enough to obtain her attachment. For myself, I humbly ask that it would fall to me to perform the holy sacrament of marriage for the fortunate couple.
A new banner was revealed!
Anja unveiled the new banner which she designed and we took a group photo of everyone in attendance.
Sara delighted us with a viewing of Emma Thompson’s Golden Globes speech from 1996; we very much appreciated Thompson’s cheeky take on what Austen’s acceptance speech would be like!
We ended the afternoon with a toast of Constantia wine – yes, the one mentioned in Sense & Sensibility.
Volume II – Chapter VIII
“My dear,” said she, entering, “I have just recollected that I have some of the finest old Constantia wine in the house that ever was tasted, so I have brought a glass of it for your sister. My poor husband! how fond he was of it! Whenever he had a touch of his old colicky gout, he said it did him more good than any thing else in the world. Do take it to your sister.”
All in all, we believe Austen would have approved of our merry celebration of her birthday!