Between work, commitments and time that flies, there are days when sitting down together for dinner seems like a mirage, and often it is difficult to find time to set the table with care. At Christmas, however, when we all get together, it’s nice to rediscover this little “luxury” and spend some time decorating the table for the holidays because taking time for the people we love is the best gift we can give them. For me, setting the table, arranging the cutlery and preparing the dishes is a veritable ritual caught up with my fondest memories of childhood. My mother began as early as October to crack open the old cupboards where she stored all her most beautiful tablecloths, often wedding gifts, and together we chose the one we would use at Christmas. In October, as I stroked the fine fabric, the magic of the holidays seemed right around the corner. I have had my share of parties and, for work, I have seen and chosen any number of tablecloths and dinner services but even today, when I find myself echoing my mother’s movements as I set the table with care on December 25, I rediscover the pleasure of preparing something special for my loved ones. And so I’d like to reveal for you 5 things to keep in mind to prepare a perfect Christmas table.
- The choice of the table. People cannot be packed in too tight at Christmas; every guest is entitled to a comfortable space in which to enjoy the meal without the continual risk of bumping into someone or dropping something. For a comfortable table, you should allow at least 70/75 cm per guest. We don’t always have a table long enough to fit everyone, so I suggest you think ahead of time if you have wooden inserts that can be used to extend it or, if possible, consider borrowing or renting a table. The Christmas table should not only be the right length, it also needs to be the right wide, usually at least a meter and twenty cm to maintain an appropriate ratio of width and length and, at the same time, leave room for serving plates and the bread basket and space to arrange the centerpiece.
One piece of advice if there are many guests and the table is too small: better to opt for a sideboard, the ideal solution especially for pre-Christmas dinners with friends. As a matter of fact, a sideboard is a good option because you do not have to wait for the last guests to arrive before starting to eat, and you can mingle and chat with everyone. One of the secrets for setting up an impressive sideboard is to use risers of different heights that give the sideboard a much more pleasing dynamic effect.
- The choice of the tablecloth. The tablecloth is one of the stars of the holiday table. The first big decision is the choice of color as it guides the creation of the centerpiece and the choice of candles, decorations and dinner service. The Christmas lunch table should convey a friendly and magical mood that will charm your guests, so this choice deserves some careful attention. There are many materials available today, but without doubt the one I love most is linen, a material that never ages and has such an elegant simplicity that it leaves plenty of room for creativity in setting the table. Linen usually doesn’t lose its shape in the wash, it only becomes softer; if it is good quality, it can be washed over and over again without breaking down or turning yellow. If you use a tablecloth made of this material, choose one that is thick and made with a wide weave, with napkins at least 40 x 40 cm large.
- Dishes and cutlery. Lots of guests and a set of dishes and cutlery with too few place settings? There is a solution: you just have to know how to mix different sets of dishes and cutlery. To do this, let yourself be guided by your taste, trying out different arrangements and mixes to find the best solution. Two solid-colored table services in colors that go well together will greatly simplify your life. The matter becomes much more complicated if you feel like being bold and using completely, or nearly completely, mismatched dishes. There are a few rules for getting the mix just right, one of which is to be sure to choose a dominant color, or dishes that have the same decoration or kind of pattern or image. If the dishes are all different, it is better to use identical glasses so that the mix and match effect is clearly purposeful and doesn’t seem forced, such as by a shortage of pieces.
- The choice of glasses. There are different schools of thought: should the wine determine the shape of the glass, or should the glasses match the dinner service? While usually the wine wins out, this cannot hold true at Christmas when the atmosphere is paramount. Only a really great wine or champagne can demand its own glass.
- The centerpiece. For a centerpiece to be refined, it must be well suited to the occasion and in tune with the colors and style of the table and menu. At Christmas, we cannot do without lit candles for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas lunch, a tradition that evokes family and warmth. It is essential you choose candles that are not too tall; I also recommend not using scented candles so as to avoid interfering with the scents and flavors of the food. Most of all, do not overload the arrangement, because the guests might get tired of it over the course of the evening. If you have a long table, the best would be two identical arrangements or ones made from the same elements, positioned the same distance from each another and from the ends of the table.
We hope you have found this first article helpful; all that remains is to wish you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays in the company of the people you love the most.