picnic, social gathering at which each participant generally brings food to be shared. The Picnic Society was formed in London early in the 19th cent. by a group of fashionable people for purposes of entertainment. Each member was expected to provide a share of the entertainment and of the refreshments, and this idea of mutual sharing or cooperation was fundamental to the original significance of the picnic. Later the word took on the additional meaning of an outdoor pleasure party. The word as now used includes almost every type of informal, outdoor meal or festivity, such as clambake, barbecue, or fish fry. The custom of cooperative dining is ancient; Greek men held symposia where the guests ate and discussed important matters.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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