“Booking” Your Holiday Party Plans

The following is from our newest contributor to the Library’s blog, Erin Allen, in the Office of Communications.  Erin is a writer-editor who writes our Wise Guide, helps coordinate our calendar of events, and contributes to many of our publications.  She also was acting editor of The Library of Congress Gazette, our staff newsletter, for much of 2010:

The holiday season is in full swing. And, aside from shopping, eating and spending time with family, there are also the parties. Whether you’re accepting invitations or you’re the “hostess with the mostess,” rest assured the Library has got your back, in a manner of speaking.

They say everything old is new again, so take a cue from “Masquerades, Tableaux and Drills,” published in 1906 by Butterick Publishing Company, New York. The manual is one of three books newly mounted in the classic books for adults section of Read.gov. The others are “A New System of Sword Exercise” (1872) and “Handbook of the New Library of Congress” (1897).

Looking through the manual’s pages – thanks to our handy page-turner for digitized books – it’s not such a stretch to envision modern appliance of these early 20th-century traditions.

Because I consider Halloween a favorite holiday (yes, I know it’s now December), I’m all for costumed parties or themed get-togethers. And, this book is chock full of ideas. How about ringing in the New Year with a masquerade ball?

Here the borrowed plumage leads to merry happenings among the maskers … and fun and frolic grow apace, leading up to the unexpected disclosures and laughable climaxes at the hour of unmasking.

The manual also offers party-planning advice, from fancy dress to a “bal poudré,” replete with powdered wigs, to examples of costumes. My favorites are the butterfly and the music muse.

Another section of the tome presents instructions on tableaux or living pictures. The term describes a striking group of suitably costumed actors or artist’s models, carefully posed and often theatrically lit. A good example would be the living nativity scenes that spring up around Christmastime.

So, party on this holiday season! As Lord Byron, one of my favorite poets, wrote:

On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.


  1. Carolyn Browne
    December 20, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Thank you for this delightful insight into Christmas past! Some faculty at Leyden high scholl were discussing the challenge of creating traditions for young people who have numerous sources of distractions to color their holiday season. I will share your blog information with them as they may prove enticing enough to lure children of all ages away from their iPods…at least for awhile! I suspect the tableaux can capture their imagination and attention.

  2. Eddie
    December 23, 2010 at 11:55 am

    What a great find! This must be the real fun in your line of work! Books like this would make my day!

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