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You'll be slaving over a hot stove for hours, preparing a feast fit for kings this Christmas. From the turkey to the desserts, you put love into every recipe, and your family digs in with gusto. Why not add some festive touches to the table as well, and make the presentation as breathtaking as the dishes you'll be serving? It doesn't take much time or money to transform your table from humbug to very merry.
Choosing a Theme. The easiest way to coordinate your decor is to choose a theme. Your theme can be as specific as a single Christmas carol, or as broad as a certain style or colors. For example, you could choose "Jingle Bells" as your theme, making the centerpiece a miniature one-horse open sleigh, and attaching bells to everything that doesn't voluntarily move. Or, choose a "Country Christmas" theme and add lots of country touches to your table, like felt cutouts and cross-stitched napkins.
If you're planning on selecting colors for your table, stick with one main color and a maximum of two accent colors. Holiday colors of green, red, and white look very festive, or accent with silver or gold for a more elegant touch. Blue and white work nicely together for a winter theme.
Table Coverings. You may have your great-great-grandmother's handmade lace tablecloth stowed away, ready to use for your Christmas dinner. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but if spillage and possible staining are a major worry for you, save the lace for accenting your decorative holiday displays instead and pick up some inexpensive cotton or other fabric to cover your table with, or use clean sheets in various colors. You can even use two contrasting colors of fabric, and use the second, smaller piece to hang at an angle over the larger one. Christmas prints are cute and charming, but try to steer clear of anything too busy or bright, as the fabric will overshadow any other accents you add.
For a children's table, cover the surface with butcher paper or inverted wrapping paper and provide crayons at each setting. Christmas crackers are also great fun for kids, and look cute sitting on each dinner plate.
Centerpieces. Centerpieces can be as simple as a small grouping of different sized candles. You needn't go overboard and spend hundreds of dollars on fresh flowers and a beautiful decorator's vase to hold them in. Potted Poinsettias make a pretty centerpiece, as do small baskets filled with pine sprigs and pinecones, or clear glass bowls full of bright Christmas tree balls.
Keeping your chosen theme in mind, choose a centerpiece that will stand out among your dishes of food, and become a conversation piece for guests. If you plan to use lit candles, never leave them unattended, and choose unscented candles wherever possible.
Napkins. You don't have to limit yourself to simple linen napkins, although these work perfectly well. Use facecloths, small hand towels, or handkerchiefs instead if you prefer. Roll your napkins and fold the roll in half, securing with a pretty bow, or fold them origami style into an interesting shape.
Napkin rings can be made from pipe cleaners, mini wreaths, licorice strings, ribbons, artificial flower stems, or anything else you can think of that will look festive and do the job. Tie bells, small ornaments, pinecones, silk flowers, or even small toys onto each napkin ring for added decoration.
Serving Dishes and Platters. Your serving dishes don't need to match each other to look pretty. A mixture of different styles and colors add whimsy and a country feel to your presentation. If you don't have enough trivets for all of your dishes, cover pre-cut pieces of thick cardboard with aluminum foil and use these as shiny mats that will protect your table and still look nice.
Place Cards. If you want to use place cards to prearrange the seating at your table, use your theme to come up with imaginative ways to create or display them. Gift tags are an easy idea, and they can be attached to each napkin or wine glass with ribbon or pipe cleaners. Miniature artificial poinsettia pots are available at many dollar stores, and they make gorgeous place card holders. Simply fashion your cards and attach them to straws or toothpicks, then secure them into the pots.
Pinecones can hold name cards as well, if you maneuver the cards so that the 'teeth' of the cones hold them in place. Create shapes out of clay or dough, thread the cards through candy cane sticks, or simply place your cards on the top of each dinner plate. The possibilities here are endless.
Extras and Finishing Touches. Adding candles of varying heights and colors will add warmth to your table setting. Scatter tea lights, votives, pillars, and tapers around the center of the table, making sure that they are secure and not interfering with anything that could be flammable.
You can also decorate the stems on wine glasses with purchased wine charms or pipe cleaners, or tie small bells to each one with ribbon. Tie cutlery together in a similar fashion if you wish, or tuck utensils securely inside rolled napkins.
For an added touch, decorate each chair with bows, bits of garland, or pretty fabric. Anything goes as long as it doesn't scratch or otherwise interfere with your guests' enjoyment of your wonderful meal.
With a bit of extra effort, you can take a plain and boring table and create a stunning masterpiece that will impress your guests even before the first course is served.