When the cold winds are a distant memory, and the sun is shining brightly in the summer sky, that is when we plan to celebrate National Picnic Month, in July.
What better way to welcome the summer than with a basket full of goodies, some cool drinks, and the fresh outdoor air? National Picnic Month was founded to celebrate the history of this activity and the way it brings people, cultures, and even countries together.
History of National Picnic Month
Outdoor dining in one version or another has been around for ages. People have used picnics for everything from family gatherings, to celebrations, to being a form of peaceful protest. The earliest known record of picnics by people is the outdoor meals served to medieval royal hunters. These early picnics were large fancy meals, and this trend continued through the Victorian Era, before eventually becoming a light repast with whatever a person could carry. The 19th century cemented the picnic as a light meal in cultures everywhere. We can attribute the modern version of picnics to the French. The revolutionaries opened up royal parks to the public after the French Revolution, and picnicking became a popular activity for the newly freed citizens. Even the word ‘picnic’ is likely of French origin, or at least that is what some people believe — it might come from the French verb ‘piquer,’ which means to ‘pick’ or ‘peck’, and ‘nique,’ meaning ‘thing of little importance.’
In literature, one of the very first references to picnics was in the tale of Robin Hood. This heroic outlaw and his band of Merry Men would frequently dine on bread, cheese, and beer under the shelter of the trees.
The charm of eating meals outdoors grew in leaps and bounds in proportion to the growth in busier lifestyles. People needed a dedicated reason to relax, so much so that a Picnic Society was even formed in London. Members met at the Pantheon — a popular public entertainment space in Oxford Street — and they would share entertainment and refreshments. Now, cultures over the world have added their own spin to picnics and made this tradition their own.
As for Americans, they pull out picnics on every major holiday — Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day — with special additions like races and eating contests included.
Another tradition followed today by multiple cultures is picnicking next to headstones, when people enjoy recreational activities in the cemetery as a way to celebrate their dead loved ones. England followed this tradition in the Victorian Era, Mexico celebrates the Día de los Muertos lunch among family gravesites, and the Chinese have their Chung Yeung Festival to honor their ancestors. Less common in the U.S., some morticians and preservationists support this tradition, believing it to be a good way to enjoy life at all stages and honor our loved ones.
The non-profit organization American Bakers’ Association, founded National Picnic Month.
National Picnic Month timeline
“Origines de la Langue Françoise de Ménage” mentions this word as being of recent origin — this word is believed to be the origin of the English word ‘picnic.’
Royal parks open to the French public after the French Revolution, starting a new picnicking trend.
The Scotch egg — fried-sausage-wrapped boiled eggs, is marketed as a luxury lunch item for upper-class travelers, as they are easy to eat on the road.
Tables are designed especially for picnics, in a style we still use today.
The American Bakers’ Association establishes National Picnic Month.
The Pan-European Picnic is a peaceful protest that is held on the Hungarian/Austrian border this year.
France celebrates the millennium’s first Bastille Day in style, with a picnic that spans the country from coast to coast (measuring over 600 miles).
National Picnic Month FAQs
What day is National Picnic Day?
National Picnic Day is celebrated on April 23 in the U.S.
What is the meaning of ‘picnic’?
A picnic is a meal taken outdoors, ideally in surroundings like a park, lakeside, or other place affording an interesting view, or in places where public events like games and performances can be viewed.
Who invented national picnic day?
No records exist currently of who invented National Picnic Day or even when it was first created.
How To Celebrate National Picnic Month
Plan and host a picnic
Pick a nearby park and bring your favorite foods along. You can turn this into a solitary adventure or a family get-together. Either way, pick your spot, choose your food, and enjoy the outdoors.
Get the family involved
While solitary meals are great for a bit of soul-searching, nothing beats some family time over a delicious meal. Entice your family into sharing picnics by planning a fun day of events along with a smorgasbord of finger foods. You can choose from board games, cards, barbecues, ball games, and games like Hot Potato for the younger crowd.
Celebrate a picnic a day
There are so many benefits to taking a meal outdoors, away from a screen, that we can't even count them all. So take a minute to plan multiple quick and easy picnics this entire month and even beyond that. You don't have to stray far away from your homes and offices. Step into the backyard, take your food onto the patio, or visit the closest park. The key is to enjoy a meal in the fresh air. Take a quick picnic break for lunch or explore a new park.
5 Fun Picnic Traditions Around The World
Japan's cherry blossom picnics
Hanami — cherry blossom-viewing season — sees many Japanese picnicking beneath these lovely blooms.
France's dining ware
When the French dine outdoors, their wine is always poured into stemware that allows it to breathe instead of being stifled in a normal cup.
New Zealand's picnic beverage
In a tradition stemming from the 19th century, New Zealanders almost always have tea while on a picnic.
Iceland's berry-hunter picnics
Berry hunters pack picnic lunches to take along with them as they pick berries throughout the summer months.
Turkey's lavish picnics
Turkish families set up picnic spots with cushions, rugs, and furniture, along with games, string lighting, and a potluck-style meal — these picnics continue well into the nighttime, with bonfires, music, and dancing.
Why We Love National Picnic Month
Picnics help us enjoy the outdoors
We've been cooped up inside for far too long by the time July rolls around. This makes it the perfect month for an outdoor excursion, and what better way to enjoy the fresh air than with a meal with loved ones? We love getting out there and enjoying a meal amidst nature's bounty.
Picnics are family bonding time
After a stressful week, all you want to do is relax; plus the weather in July is perfect for a picnic. We can indulge in an activity we all love and give our loved ones our undivided attention without any distractions.
We explore our cities
These outdoor meals are a wonderful way for us to get to know our surroundings and explore the city we live in. By finding new places to visit with each picnic, we learn about beautiful new parks and gardens and other locales we might otherwise not have known about.
National Picnic Month dates