The Victorian Holiday Tea at Historic Reid House in downtown Matthews is a highly anticipated way to start the season right.
This was the 21st year the Matthews Woman's Club Service League hosted the tea the first weekend of December as a fundraiser for the club's service projects.
After all these years, the event now sells out as soon as the reservation lines open Oct. 1, with repeat guests and newcomers rushing to secure spots during one of seven tea times. This year, the league also offered its first children's tea, where mothers, daughters and families enjoyed homemade goodies, live music and a visit from Santa.
The Reid House was built in 1890 and inhabited by the Reid family until 1986, when Nancy Reid, the last child of Dr. Thomas Reid, died.
The house was donated the next year to the Matthews Historical Foundation by Nancy Reid's niece, Sarah Reid. Much of the Victorian-style house remains unchanged since, making it the perfect location for the Christmas teas.
On the porch, carolers wearing period clothing entertained guests with holiday songs. Each room was decorated with a Christmas tree, and every table was set with antique china and a printed menu.
Throughout the night, friendly servers kept the teacups full. A harpist played holiday tunes in the foyer.
During adult tea times, Patty Proctor, a Victorian re-enactor, went from table to table telling stories about traditions gone by. Caldwell Russell, a local historian, gave the history of the Reid house, which he knows from firsthand experience, having grown up across the street.
This year was Amanda Pack's third year attending the Woman's Club tea. She and some of her close friends make reservations the day the phone lines opened. They arrive decked out in hats, gloves, dresses and furs.
"It wouldn't feel like the Christmas season without starting the month of December with the Reid House tea," said Pack, 27.
At the children's tea this year, girls showed off their Christmas dresses and, for the boys, their holiday ties.
Annabelle Fath, 4, was excited to attend her first real tea party. Not only did she get to drink tea from a china cup, she even had her own special menu, which included mouse-shaped cookies, gingerbread men and peanut-butter-and-jelly roll-up sandwiches.
Reagan Rissmiller, 9, has been coming with her grandmother, Lynn Gorski, to the teas for several years. With the addition of the children's tea, Reagan invited three friends.
The menu, which included items like "The Vicar's Scone" and "Queen Mary's Delight," was hand-crafted by the Woman's Club members.
Recipe collection for next year's menu starts at the close of the current year.
Barbara Miller, who manages all the cooking (which starts in October), does most of the planning and tastingtaste testing.
"I remember years and years ago, we had the food catered, and now we do our own food," said hostess Becky Willard.
"We had four teas originally and I couldn't fill those, and now I've had waiting lists of over 100 people trying to get in. It's just become a real holiday tradition. Some people have come every year since the beginning."