We celebrate all sorts of traditions during the holidays. We honor our different customs, cultures, religions and generations of family members being together. But the one thing these gatherings usually have in common is a great meal. Sharing stories—old and new—with family and friends around a dining table is almost always at the center of the celebration. And putting a personal touch on the table makes the event even more festive.
Start with a theme
It might be a group of colors or cherished mementos, but if you start with a focus or theme in mind it will make your task easier. The choices might launch from your existing dining room décor, or holiday decorations found in nearby rooms. The foundation should be a classic, elegant or even whimsical tablecloth or runner. You can add texture and color via napkins, placemats and dinnerware. If you are creating a Hanukkah table, you might choose to focus on blue, but blending in touches of white, silver and gold adds a welcome bit of elegance.
Use the good stuff
Now is the time to get the stepstool out to reach the top shelf or open up your cabinet and bring out the china. This is the perfect time to use the fancy pieces—crystal, silver, chargers, and anything heirloom.
If your family leans a bit more casual, simply select pieces that go with your theme. Maybe start with white dinnerware and add blue and silver accents. Or bring in touches of nature with pine branches, pinecones, and wooden pieces that add a touch of texture.
Play up your personality
Your table should reflect your style, but now is the time to push that idea to the max. Guests who might be accustomed to eating at your kitchen table, will appreciate and admire your efforts. Go crazy with candles, use all your flatware, add twinkle lights, incorporate a centerpiece that is a conversation starter—perhaps by including pieces that will jog memories and introduce slices of family history and launch story telling.
While flowers are always appropriate, you don’t have to spend big bucks on the centerpiece. This element should illustrate your theme but reflect the mood you are trying to create. If it’s whimsical, line up a row of treasured toys, or even pieces from favorite games—like a scrabble board with holiday messages spelled out. Hang vintage ornaments from the chandelier or gather them in a glass bowl. If you are a talented baker, or know where one works, sometimes dessert can serve as the centerpiece—a stunning cake on a tall cake plate.
While this will definitely add a bit of elegance to your holiday table, the goal is to not add stress, but rather have fun with the process. Plan your table days before guests arrive, so that you can spend your time preparing the feast. Then relax and enjoy the rewarding results of your efforts.
Article originally appeared in November 2023