A banquet (; French: [bk?]) is a formal large meal or feast, at which a number of people consume special foods together. The meal may serve to enhance the prestige of a host, or may reinforce social bonds among joint contributors. It may be offered in support of a purpose such as a charitable gathering, a ceremony, or a celebration, frequently involving speeches in honor of the topic or guest of honour.
Banquets feature surplus luxury foods, often including animal meat. Many recent discussions of feasts divide them into two fundamental types: solidarity (or alliance, or empowering) and promotional (or aggrandisive, competitive, or diacritical). Solidarity feasts are a joint effort in which families or communities bring equivalent contributions together to reinforce the social ties of all concerned. Promotional feasts are intended to enhance the social status of the host, who provides the food in order to create obligations to themselves among the guests.
Communal feasting is evidenced from the early Neolithic in Britain. In Ancient Greece, symposia, formed a routine part of life involving the celebratory drinking of wine, conversation and performances of poetry and music.
Many cultures have developed structures for banquets. In the European Middle Ages, comprehensive ritualised elements were involved in a traditional three-course menu, which could have up to 25 dishes in each course (this structure persisted into the 19th century). The structure was later altered to two courses, with the pre-existing third course changed to the serving of fruit and nuts.
Banqueting rooms varied greatly with location, but tended to be on an intimate scale, either in a garden room, banquet hall or inside such as the small banqueting turrets in Longleat House.
A contemporary banquet may serve many purposes from training sessions, to formal business dinners. Business banquets are a popular way to strengthen bonds between businessmen and their partners. It is common that a banquet is organized at the end of an academic conference. A luau is one variety of banquet originally used in Hawaii. The Nei Mongol provincial government in China levies a tax on banquets.
^Bendall, L. 2004: Fit for a King? Hierarchy, exclusion, aspiration and desire in the social structure of Mycenaean banqueting. In Halstead, P. and Barrett, J.C. (eds), Food, Cuisine and Society in Prehistoric Greece (Oxford, Sheffield Studies in Aegean Archaeology 5), 105-35.
^Hayden, B. 2001. Fabulous feasts: a prolegomenon to the importance of feasting. In M. Dietler & B. Hayden (eds), Feasts: Archaeological and ethnographic perspectives on food, politics, and power, 23-64. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution
^Adams, R.L. 2004. An ethnoarchaeological study of feasting in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 23, 56-78
^Rowley-Conwy, P. 2018. Zooarchaeology and the elusive feast: from performance to aftermath. World Archaeology 50(1), doi: 10.1080/00438243.00432018.01445024
^Dietler, M. 2001. Theorizing the feast: rituals of consumption, commensal politics, and power in African societies. In M. Dietler & B. Hayden (eds), Feasts.Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food,Politics, and Power, 65-114. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution.
^Department of Greek and Roman Art. "The Symposium in Ancient Greece." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/symp/hd_symp.htm (October 2002)