If you host the celebration of any of the various year-end holidays, chances are you dress up your holiday table. This month’s article offers up some ideas for your dinner table to wow your holiday guests.
Your tablecloth is one of the main considerations. If the table surface below it is wood, be sure to use an inexpensive table protector; most often these are made of fabric-backed plastic which protects your table from spills and high heat. The tablecloth itself can be cloth, plastic or even paper. If your dishes (paper, china or anything in between) have a design to them, you may want to opt for a plain colour tablecloth. Just the opposite is true too – white dishes look beautiful on a backdrop of all sorts of Christmas designs. Don’t have one that will work? How about a large scarf? Often these come in holiday plaids and would work well to cover smaller tables.
Want to create an heirloom that will be passed down through the family for years to come? Buy light-coloured fabric that lends itself to being sewn into a tablecloth and ask all guests to sign their name with an ink pen. Stitch over their names with embroidery thread and use the same tablecloth each year, adding names to it as your family grows. Obviously, this isn’t for everyone – but if you’re a sewer or know one, this could be the lasting memory of the many Christmas dinners spent around your table.
Place mats are very useful and simple to make (no sewing required!) for a children’s table. Cut out rectangles from kraft or other paper and decorate with pictures for the kids to colour. Simple leaves, pinecones, Christmas trees, bells and stockings are images that are easily found online to copy or print and trace. More importantly, these images are easy for the children to fill in with crayons. Individual small boxes of crayons complete each child’s place setting. Even easier, you can buy cake plate doilies in the size of a place mat. They are often sold in the baking section of craft stores and are usually white, gold or silver. The white ones are not coated and work best for this purpose.
I’d venture to guess many people don’t use place cards, but they can be fun to make for the holidays. These can range from very simple to simply elegant, but either way you go, you can make it a fun family project. Not only will they serve as place cards for the holiday table, they also become ornaments or keepsakes for each guest to take home later. If you have littles who want to help, you can draw simple holidays shapes onto card stock and have the children cut them out. Candy canes made from both red and white paper work well, and then the name of the person can be drawn onto the front. Similarly, bells from gold or silver paper work well, as do Christmas trees. If using dark paper, use a white gel pen to write names onto the place cards or use fine-line permanent markers in black, green or red.
A few more place card ideas:
- For you bakers out there, consider making and decorating holiday cookies and adding guests’ names to them with royal icing (be sure to keep them stored airtight until shortly before the meal).
- Glue together Scrabble™tiles (easily ordered online) to create personalized place cards.
- The same goes for wood slices; colour in a simple leaf and berry design and add the names of your guests (or even just their names).
- Add names in chalk to small chalkboard signs available at most craft stores.
Any of these ideas make lovely additions to your table and individualize each person’s spot when they sit down to eat. Use your imagination and go wild!
What about those of you who serve your holiday meal buffet-style along a counter bar or on a kitchen island? Use a holiday table runner to add that bit of holiday flair or even a mantle scarf if you’ll be using a long narrow counter.
Your decorations for a beautiful holiday tablescape don’t have to be costly, either. If you already have glass hurricanes candleholders and various sized candles to go in them, you can achieve a high-end look with a few sprigs of greenery and some red berries for a pop of colour – always in holiday style. And packed away carefully at season’s end, these pieces will decorate your table for many holidays to come.
Any large clear vase – even from your local dollar store – can be turned into the show piece of your holiday table. Always wash well first with warm soapy water and allow to dry and then use any of the following ideas to fill it to use as your table’s centerpiece:
- Greenery and berries from outdoors
- Red, green and white M&M™ or chocolate kiss candies either all mixed together or in festive layers
- High-shine ornaments or jingle bells, either in gold and silver or multi – they both look stunning
- Fairy lights either inside the vase or wrapped around the outside of it
- Snow and scenery items to create a winter scene (need inspiration? Check out Martha’s tutorial using an apothecary jar here https://www.marthastewart.com/1093267/scenic-holiday-vase-decor)
- Pinecones, twigs and natural elements found outside
- A candle surrounded by cranberries
Whichever way you go, you can add a bright bow around the vase or simply scatter candies or pinecones and evergreen stems, depending on whether your table décor is more elegant, whimsical or organic. Have fun and if it’s appealing to you, it’s done right.
Have you ever considered making a gingerbread house – and then using it as your Christmas centerpiece? Before you dismiss this idea out of hand as being too difficult, you can actually make easy ones with graham crackers. Use frosted shredded wheat breakfast cereal for rooftops, and then have many candies on hand to make it a decorating family affair. Simple recipes for royal icing – the glue – as well as step-by-step instructions are easily found with an internet search. Not only will you be creating a one-of-a-kind centerpiece, you’ll be creating special memories for your family and friends.
How about your chairs? As long as your seats have backs to them, you can use beautiful wired ribbon to wrap around each chair back. If you can tie a pretty bow, it will dress up your dining room instantly. To ensure a uniform look, be sure that all are tied at the same spot on chair backs. You can even add small paper place cards to the centers of each bow instead of placing them on the plates.
Don’t forget your napkins. If using cloth napkins, consider white or a light colour that matches your holiday table decor. Cut as many small sprigs of pine (approximately 10 cm) from your yard as you’ll have guests. Tie your napkins loosely with a thin, curling ribbon and tuck a pine sprig beneath each. Pull edge of scissors along the ribbon to create a curl and you have a simple and very inexpensive way to dress up each place setting. If your décor is more rustic or casual, replace the ribbon with thin jute or raffia. Prefer to make napkin pockets with square fabric napkins? Check out these easy instructions to make them – as well as the others – in no time: https://www.rachaelraymag.com/real-life/napkins-go-for-the-fold
Although this last idea is not quite table décor, it’s an activity that can be done around the holiday table. While you may know each family member or guest well, there still may be all sorts of things you can discover about one another, especially true when you have multiple generations present. Why not start a new tradition of asking one another questions such as, “How did you meet Aunt Rita?” or “What was a funny experience raising children?” Write out your question ahead of time and place beneath each plate or take turns asking a question of each person’s choice.
The holidays have a way of sneaking up on us and then we find ourselves running out of time to take care of special touches. Why not pick your ideas now and make them this week? They’ll be done when you need them and you’re sure to wow your guests with personalized and thoughtful touches dressing up your holiday table. Please send us pictures of what you do with your own holiday table this year. We would love to see them!
Wishing you a blessed and special Christmas and a prosperous, healthy 2020… from Mike, Joanne and all the good folks at D4 Construction in Kamloops!