Our Top 5 Christmas Table Setting Tips and Traditions
This year, Sally and I thought we’d share our Top 5 Christmas Table Setting Tips and Traditions. While we have several basic ground rules, no year is the same . . . We look into our crystal obelisk and ask ourselves, “What shall we do this year? What do we feel like this year?” Our interiors are as much about feelings as about furnishings.
Our rules are simple, and time tested.
1. Table centerpieces need to be either low, or high, so as to not interfere with dinner conversation (and song . . .)
This was a historic home that Sally decorated for the holidays, in which the scale of the room allowed her to create tall festive floral arrangements for the dining table. She used glass beakers filled with fresh cranberries for color, and greens, lilies and ivy cascading from the top. Note that white linen placemats were used in lieu of a formal damask tablecloth. This was so the warm color of the wood could show itself to best advantage, and a white cloth might have made this room too white, with all the white trim.
I snapped this photo while at a holiday event hosted by The Trustees of Reservations at Castle Hill, Ipswich. It is a terrific example of a low and long centerpiece. I particularly love how the evergreens are accentuated by the gold runner.
2. Candles follow the same rule, for the same reason. Keep the candles short or use a tall candelabra so the candle flame isn’t flickering in your eyes.
Votive candles can add a wonderful soft glow right at the table surface.
Sally set this client’s Christmas table with both a low centerpiece and tall candelabra, with the room’s color palette inspiring the overall theme for the room. This centerpiece is an easy one you can create quickly. Have on hand a very large cache pot, and then fill it with pots of cyclamen, and cover with moss. Done!
3. Serve the Christmas meal informally, so you can go to the beautifully set table and savor the time with family and friends. We gave up on the formal carving and passing dishes at the table a long time ago. Consider serving buffet style on the kitchen island or table, allowing the crowd to serve themselves from both sides of the table. Then retire to the dining room, away from all those serving dishes and enjoy the conversation. The below table shows a late morning Christmas soup set up, saving room for the big dinner later in the day.
Set up a separate serving station for drinks and cocktails, as Sally did with the eggnog station shown below.
Serving with your polished silver makes your guests feel special. They always comment upon it to us when we entertain.
4. “What about the Christmas place settings?” you ask. Use that china and silver you inherited from your parents or grandparents, or your wedding set! There is no sense in saving it for later. It will help establish your own Christmas traditions that your children will remember. Over the years, Sally has inherited 4 sets of china and 4 sets of silver, in addition to our own. We have been able to pass along some to the next generation, but we still have more than enough, which we use every day.
5. Last but not least, part of Christmas at the Wilson-Kelsey Ranch is ritual. The ritual of preparation, which of course, heightens anticipation. Polishing the sterling silver is one of those rituals. I know, you’re thinking, “Really? That’s a TON of work!” We pour ourselves a glass of wine, play Christmas music and tackle the worst of it. The end result is so worth it!One of our clients let us in on a little secret this past year about polishing silver, that makes us want to try it. She uses tin foil, hot water and baking soda. Add a mixture of water and baking soda to an aluminum store bought baking pan and simply drop in your silver. Essentially, through a chemical reaction, the silver is re-plated.
Here are a few points we learned as we researched this technique. For most silver, you don’t need to immerse it very long. Be sure the water us hot and there is good contact between the silver piece and the tin foil. If you have old ornate silver that has built up tarnish in the grooves of the decorations, you may not want to use this technique as it will remove this patina. We read cautionary tales regarding sterling silver. The reasons were somewhat unclear to us. Our advice, proceed with caution.
We’re going to do a test piece before we drop several pieces in the”bath”.
Let’s take a few moments to recap.
- Make your table centerpiece low or high enough that it will not interfere with table conversation.
- Use short candles on the tabletop or tall candelabra to keep the glare of the candle flame out of dinner guests’ eyes.
- Serve the Christmas meal informally. Keep the day relaxed.
- Use the family china and silver! Consider using it every day as well. That’s what it’s there for.
- Identify your rituals. Savor them – even polishing silver.
With these points in mind, you can sleep easy, knowing your Christmas table and meal will be a success!
May you have a wonderful Holiday Season!
If Sally and I can help you with any aspect of the design of your home, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form on our website, here:
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