Christmas is a time for warm family get-togethers, good times and good cheer. The aroma of holiday cooking permeates the house, sometimes even the neighborhood, and homes are festooned with bright lights, garlands and candy canes. Your holiday table is set with special holiday dishes and linens as family and guests sit to eat a scrumptious labor of love.
Table settings, decorative dishes and glasses, centerpieces, folded napkins, ornaments, chair covers and more can all help to set the mood. Arrange a group of candlesticks of different heights, and top each with a glittery Christmas ornament ball for an unusual tabletop centerpiece. Use small, gaily wrapped gift boxes as place cards at each setting; make the fun even more special by enclosing a small tree ornament in each box. Use a holiday color theme to complement your tablecloth, and tie bows to stemware and chairs.
Ed Lent -- director of visual merchandising at Lifetime Brands Inc., headquartered in Garden City, N.Y. -- recommends using glitz, color or ice themes to dress up your holiday table. Lifetime Brands specializes in kitchenware, tabletop items, cutlery and cutting boards, bakeware and pantryware, and spices. Lifetime Brands offers items from Cuisinart, Farberware, KitchenAid, Mikasa, Pfaltzgraff and Stiffel and sells its products throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe through several retailers, as well as online and by catalog.
"With 'glitz,' you want to shine up the metallics," Lent says. "Create regal glamour by layering gold-banded dinnerware with gold-rimmed stemware and gold-accented flatware. Use a dark velvet color, such as navy or plum, or a tapestry-patterned tablecloth to add a luxe or old-world flair. An easy centerpiece of assorted-height bowls (use cake plates as risers) filled with glistening shiny and matte gold ornaments with jewel-colored accents and the Midas touch is yours.
"Color is another way to go. Start with a deep holiday red bengaline tablecloth or runner. Next, add a red lacquer charger to anchor each place setting. Pure white, glass or even bold patterned plates can look custom if paired with accent salad plates. Reflect the season in floral displays -- such as white branches, deep red roses and green pine or other evergreen foliage. Make arrangements in teacups, and either place at each place setting or cluster together centrally before giving to guests upon departure.
"To get an 'ice' look for the holiday, create a frosted effect with a pewter, silvery boucl? or gray satin cloth. Next, use silver chargers to platinum-accented dinnerware or basic whiteware. Add mirror-polished or brushed-accented flatware and cut-crystal stems (no, they don't all have to match) to add sparkling glimmer to the table. Group crystal candlesticks and cut glass or crystal votives to make a gleaming frozen fountain effect. Place clear, silver and frosted ornaments in assorted sizes in between the lighting to add dramatic shimmer."
Another source for holiday stemware comes from the artist Lolita. Lolita offers a line of whimsically painted stemware, which even features drink recipes on the base. Teamed with solid dinner plates, your table will shout, "Merry Christmas to all!" Lolita can be found at many fine gift, specialty and department stores across the country, as well as online.
Making a holiday table festive needn't be expensive. While there are several exquisite and decorative table settings, silverware and glassware made for the holidays, even the use of brightly colored holiday disposable napkins can make a bland table into a yuletide treat. If you don't have enough service for all of your company, don't be afraid to intersperse bright plasticware among your guests. Use a small wreath on a dinner plate or platter with a thick pillar candle for an attractive centerpiece. (Just be careful not to let the flame burn too close to the bough.)
Even if you are using your everyday dishes for the meal, adding a special holiday platter or whimsically decorated stemware will dress the table up for the occasion. If you are using different sets for service, have some fun and mix up the combinations. Use color for drama, and alternate the settings for a livelier look. Children's holiday craft items also can dress up your table, as will scattered gift bows. If you have a chandelier or hanging light fixture over your table, don't forget to dress that up with ornaments, as well.