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A picnic is an excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors (al fresco), ideally taking place in a scenic landscape such as a park, beside a lake or with an interesting view and possibly at a public event such as before an open-air theatre performance, and usually in summer. Descriptions of picnics show that the idea of a meal that was jointly contributed and was enjoyed out-of-doors was essential to a picnic from the early 19th century.
Picnics are often family-oriented but can also be an intimate occasion between two people or a large get-together such as company picnics and church picnics. It is also sometimes combined with a cookout, usually a form of barbecue; either grilling (griddling, gridironing, or charbroiling), braising (by combining a charbroil or gridiron grill with a broth-filled pot), baking, or a combination of all of the above.
On romantic and family picnics, a picnic basket and a blanket (to sit or recline on) are usually brought along. Outdoor games or some other form of entertainment are common at large picnics. In established public parks, a picnic area generally includes picnic tables and possibly other items related to eating outdoors, such as built-in grills, water faucets, garbage containers, and restrooms.
Some picnics are a potluck, an entertainment at which each person contributed some dish to a common table for all to share. When the picnic is not also a cookout, the food eaten is rarely hot, instead taking the form of deli sandwiches, finger food, fresh fruit, salad, cold meats and accompanied by chilled wine or champagne or soft drinks.
- The 1955 film Picnic, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by William Inge, was a multiple Oscar winner. The film has been remade twice, in 1986 and 2000.
- Picnickers are used to illustrate the scale of one metre in the film Powers of Ten (1968).
The Office Picnic (1972) is a dark comedy set in an Australian Public Service office. It was written and produced by filmmaker Tom Cowan, who is now famous for his work on the series Survivor.
- In Peter Weir's mystery film Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), three girls and one of their teachers on a school outing mysteriously disappear. The only one who is later found remembers almost nothing. It is based on a 1967 drama and mystery novel of the same name by Australian author Joan Lindsay.
- In Bhaji on the Beach (1993, titled Picknick on the Beach in the German version), nine Indian women of various ages flee from their everyday lives by taking a joint excursion to the British resort town of Blackpool.
Blissfully Yours (2002), features a picnic in a jungle.
- Perhaps the most famous depiction of a picnic is Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) by Édouard Manet. The 1862 painting depicts the juxtaposition of a female nude and a scantily dressed female bather on a picnic with two fully dressed men in a rural setting.
- In Fernando Arrabal's Picnic in the Field, the young and inexperienced soldier Zepo is visited unexpectedly by his devoted parents. Despite the war setting they have a cheerful picnic together.
- In Jane Austen's novel Emma, at the Box Hill picnic which turned out to be a sore disappointment, Frank Churchill said to Emma: "Our companions are excessively stupid. What shall we do to rouse them? Any nonsense will serve..." (Project Gutenberg Entry:)
- The novel Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, which was written in 1972, was the source for the film Stalker (1979) by Andrei Tarkovsky. The novel is about a mysterious "zone" filled with strange and often deadly extraterrestrial artifacts, which are theorized by some scientists to be the refuse from an alien "picnic" on Earth.
No Picnic on Mount Kenya, by Felice Benuzzi, recounts the attempt of three Italian prisoners of war during the Second World War to picnic on top of Mount Kenya.
- From Charles Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood: "...Miss Twinkleton (in her amateur state of existence) has contributed herself and a veal pie to a picnic." (Project Gutenberg Entry:)
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, begins with a boating picnic enjoyed by Rat and Mole that exemplifies an English tradition:
- In 1906, the British composer John William Bratton wrote a musical piece originally titled "The Teddy Bear Two Step". It became popular in a 1908 instrumental version renamed "Teddy Bears' Picnic", performed by the Arthur Pryor Band. The song regained prominence in 1932 when the Irish lyricist Jimmy Kennedy added words and it was recorded by the then popular Henry Hall (and his BBC Dance Orchestra) featuring Val Rosing (Gilbert Russell) as lead vocalist, which went on to sell a million copies. "The Teddy Bears' Picnic" resurfaced again in the late 1940s and early 1950s when it was used as the theme song for the Big Jon and Sparkie children's radio show. This perennial favorite has appeared on many children's recordings ever since, and is the theme song for the AHL's Hershey Bears hockey club. lyrics and audio from the BBC
- "Stone Soul Picnic", by Laura Nyro (released in 1968), was a major hit for the group The 5th Dimension.
- "Malcolm's X-Ray Picnic" was a moderate hit for the indie-pop group Number One Cup.
Roxette's "June Afternoon" depicts images of people having fun and eating on a park during a warm June day.
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