Country Kitchen: Decorating Tables for the Holidays

Country Kitchen: Decorating Tables for the Holidays

By Mary Emma Allen

Special foods accompanied by festive decorations add joy to the holiday season. Some of these foods are traditional ones used by families for several generations. Others may be newly discovered, which you enjoy and add to your family festivities.

No matter what you serve, accompanying your meals with special table decorations can add cheer and exude hospitality. You may have ideas you've used for years. You also may want some new decorating suggestions for your holiday tables.

Holiday Colors

Pine and holly sprigs entwined, colorful balls of red and silver, lighted candles in antique holders, and candy canes as name card favors add festive notes to our Christmas tables. You might place this on a white table cloth - damask, linen, or lace.

Red napkins give a bright accent. Or you could use white ones, tied with red bows and a spring of holly.

Red, green, or white candles flicker a cheery welcome. Or a birch log twined with pine containing holes for two or three candles combines centerpiece and candles.

Centerpieces Kept Low

A centerpiece kept small and low doesn't overburden a food laden table. This also allows conversation across the table while setting a holiday mood.

Tradition in some families calls for simply a bowl of red roses in the center of the dinner table. Other flowers hostesses favor are red and white striped and pure red carnations laced with green fern and some baby's breath.

I've used a small ivy plant decked with a multitude of tiny Christmas tree balls. Or a bowl of greens and berries with pine cones and tiny Santas tucked here and there provides interest for the youngsters.

Informal Buffets

Christmas Eve supper, trim-the-tree supper, an "after caroling" get-together, or informal "at home" meals throughout the holiday season often are buffet style. Here's the chance for the hostess to give imagination free reign as she decorates with color and abandonment.

However, keep in mind not to overdecorate so you detract from the food. Plan your menu so the food itself plays an important decorative role and combines with table accessories to produce a colorful, yet not overwhelming effect.

A red or green table cloth gives a colorful base. Paper napkins with holiday designs, a punch bowl with candy canes looped over the brim and colorful candles set in favored holders make your buffet table bright and inviting.

For a centerpiece, which in this case often is set at one end of a long table or arranged along the back if the table is pushed against the wall, you can succumb to your whimsy for something bright and larger than the one used at your Christmas Day dinner.

APPLESAUCE FRUIT CAKE adds a festive note. I learned that old time cooks frequently used an applesauce cake base for their fruit cakes, substituting candied fruit for raisins or combining these ingredients.

Cream together 1/2 cup shortening with 1 cup sugar; add 2 beaten eggs and stir well. Add 1 cup thick, unsweetened applesauce.

Sift together: 2 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Add to creamed mixture and beat until smooth.

Add 1 cup floured raisins or candied fruit. You might want to include 1/4 cup chopped walnuts.

Bake in greased and floured 8-inch square pan at 350 degrees F. for about 45 minutes, or until tests done. Serve plain, frosted, or with whipped topping.

Article (C) 2003 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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