How did the napkin originate and how does one of our most needed dining tools play its most role in etiquette today? How did it become so creatively folded, and beautifully embroidered?
The napkin has a variety of contributions from different cultures. The word originates from Middle English, and nappe from French meaning a cloth to cover a table and the completion of the word with kin meaning family and relatives.
- The first origination began with the Spartans in Greece. They used dough to clean their fingers.
- The Romans were the first to use small cloth napkins to wipe one’s face. When guests were invited for dinner they would bring colorfully embroidered linens and silks to the host to place leftovers.
- In the Middle Ages, the cloth napkin vanished and people began wiping their faces and fingers on their cuffs and jackets.
- During the Renaissance, everyone used the table cloth to wipe their hands. In time, the cloth napkin made the way from the table cloth to a single small cloth, one for everyone.
- England, in The 16th century, used fine linen fabric or diaper (an English term) folded in the shape of a diamond and the size would depend on the special event.
- In 1729 the gentlemen in the French Court would tie their cloth napkins around their necks to protect their collars. The highest ranked person’s napkin had their initials embroidered on the cloth and placed to the left of their plate. This person would open their napkin first, allowing the others to do the same.
- The 18th century the fork was accepted and reduced the napkin in size to 30’ x 36’. Today we use the cloth napkin folded in large sizes for multicourse dining, medium for smaller menus and smallest for afternoon tea and drinks.
- Upon sitting at the table unfold your napkin and place folded in half on your lap
- Use the napkin to blot carefully your lips and before you take a drink
- During a meal if you leave place the napkin on your chair
- Do not tuck in your collar
- Do not wipe your face, teeth or nose with your napkin
When the meal is concluded place your napkin loosely to the left of your plate or if your plate has been cleared, place in the middle of your own place setting
Debra's Etiquette Business says
I thought I would help out by letting you know that you do NOT leave folded napkin on the chair any longer. If you think about it, that’s where people’s bottom has been! Now you place it neatly on the side of your plate so that the waiter knows you are coming back. Facebook page: Debra’s Etiquette Business
Mariya Carrillo says
I have a question. Where do you place your napkin at the end of the meal? When you leave the napkin on the left of your plate, you are saying, the waiter will know you are coming back. If that’s the case, where should you place it to let the waiter know you are done and will not return to the table?
Suzanne Willis says
The napkin should be placed on your chair when you’ll be returning and to the left of the plate when you’ve completed your meal. Some people don’t like to place it in the chair and may place it on the top/back of the chair.
When you start with the meal, napkin should be on the left side from the plate . If you leave the table and you come back, napkin should be on the left side from the plate. When we finished the meal we should leave the napkin on the right side. It is not recomendable to leave napkin on the sit because it could fall down on the floor easilly and because of hygenic reason.