Holiday Table Decorating

By Paula Felps

Decorating the holiday table is a favorite tradition when it comes to decking the halls. A well thought-out holiday table can provide a dramatic focal point and serve as an extension of your holiday decorations.

A great holiday table is as individual as the person who sets it — and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. You can use holiday decorations, such as multiple candles of varying heights, garland, ornaments, and floral arrangements to help set the mood, or you can select a specific theme and create a memorable display. Keep in mind that color is one of the most important components. You want to set a table that is visually appealing to match that fantastic feast you’re about to serve!

By combining traditional table settings with contemporary accent pieces, you can bring together the past and present (a common theme at Christmas, Hanukkah, or other seasonal celebration).

Setting the Stage

If you’re not sure of how to make your holiday table stand out, borrow some ideas from Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, author of the book, Tablescapes: Setting the Table With Style. “I think tabletops are especially important at the holidays,” she says.

She suggests keeping your eye open to what’s around you and drawing inspiration from colors or themes that you find particularly attractive. Instead of doing the same holiday place settings you’ve always done, look for colors in your holiday pattern that you can play coordinate, and then draw those colors out through linens, centerpieces, or other table decorations.

Whitman’s unique ideas for holiday tables include:

Peppermint Theme

Using white linen, red dishes and (rented) red chairs, she created a peppermint theme that was completed with peppermints in a hurricane glass as a centerpiece. You can use your imagination to adapt these colors to your own peppermint-themed table.

Holiday Dessert Theme

This is perfect for an after-hours holiday gathering that doesn’t involve a meal, but still makes a lasting impression. Whitman recommends a Christmas candy-themed dessert buffet that includes vintage favorites (ribbon stripe candy, Red Hots, candy canes, and red and green M&Ms) on a table decorated with Santa Claus figurines and Christmas trees. Or if you’re hosting a feast during Hanukkah, consider blue-and-silver candies that serve as table decorations and party favors: Chocolate “coins” sprinkled along the length of the table, personalized candy bars and M&Ms, etc. Desserts can range from rich chocolate cakes to citrus-flavored dessert bars; the important thing here is to make it festive and enjoyable for your guests. Of course, you will want to include a well-decorated Gingerbread House!

Candlelight Dining

No matter what holidays you celebrate, from Kwanzaa to Hanukkah, candles are a universal way to make any dinner look more elegant. With so many choices, you can customize the candle color, size, and shape, but if you are dining, opt for fragrance-free tapers, pillars, and votives that don’t interfere with the meal. Also, the container or holder instantly sets the ambiance. This year, glass candelabras in any color are trendy and versatile enough for any celebration.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can change the mood of your table by changing the location. Whitman recommends trying different rooms instead of just congregating in the traditional dining room. Move your holiday feast to a sitting room, family room, or another room in the house, and you will immediately change the look and feel of the holiday experience. (Want to switch up the format of your holiday party?)

“It keeps it interesting,” she says. “When you’re doing the same thing over and over, you lose the excitement of it. This is a great way to keep it fresh.”

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