A bean-feast was primarily an annual dinner given by an employer to his or her employees. By extension, colloquially, it describes any festive occasion with a meal and an outing. The word, and its shorter form "beano," are fairly common in Britain, less known in the United States. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the beanfeast often took the form of a trip to some beauty spot, where the meal was provided. (e.g. ..And Epping Forest glades /Where we had beanfeasts with my father's firm - John Betjeman Essex)
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition, it is derivative of the feast of Twelfth Night at which a cake with a bean buried in it (a king cake) was a great feature. The bean-king was he who had the good fortune to have the slice of cake in which was the bean.
In popular culture
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory - The term bean feast was spoken by Veruca Salt during her rant at Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Tempers flared as she demanded numerous, unobtainable items... most notably, said bean feast. She went on to demand that her bean feast be filled with "Cream buns and doughnuts and fruitcake with no nuts,".
- The British pop group XTC make reference to a bean feast in their song "We're All Light" from the album Wasp Star in the lyric "just a couple of lips away is an evolutionary Bean Feast whose insides are jumping".
- The British pop group Squeeze also refer to a bean feast in their song, "It's Not Cricket" from their "Cool For Cats" album. "The Deptford had a beano to Southend for the night. With 40 crates of lager, to see the Southend lights. They got home for their breakfast pissed out of their minds"
- In the 1923 play The Ghost Train by Arnold Ridley, the station master recounts to the stranded protagonists a grisly tale concerning a group of people returning from a bean feast when the train derailed, killing all aboard.