Did you know that the first picnic may have been put on by crusaders? The origin of picnics is not known. We do know that picnics were around for the time of the Crusades because the Knights Templar arranged a grand picnic to celebrate their first non-European member.
While some used to believe that the word referred to the act of lynching African Americans while onlookers watched and ate packed lunches, this is not the true origin of the word. The story began as a political parody that got out of hand. The word originally meant an “outing with food” that was held indoors, sort of like a modern-day potluck. However in the 19th century that picnics moved outside.
The word’s roots were borrowed from French piquenique, a word which seems to have originated around the end of the 17th century. It is not clear where it came from, but one theory is that it was based on the verb piquer `pick, peck’ (source of English pick), with the rhyming nique perhaps added in half reminiscence of the obsolete nique `trifle.’ Originally the word denoted a sort of party to which everyone brought along some food; the notion of an `outdoor meal’ did not emerge until the 19th century.
There is also a German word “picknick” that has the same meaning. Given the time frames of these different developments, it seems likely that the crusaders may have been the first to truly use the word as we mean it today.