We didn’t have special plates for the holidays when I was a kid, and not as an adult until we moved up to New Hampshire. Then Ælfwine and I saw an advertisement for a set of holiday tableware for a price I can’t remember, but if we could afford it, it must have been a real deal, certainly no more than $20 a set. We drove up to Manchester and found it, and invested in three sets so we’d have twelve place settings! It was white china with holly around the edges, and a gold rim. Four settings, each with a dinner plate, salad plate, soup dish, cup and saucer. How elegant! Admittedly, we didn’t have that many settings in our silverware, but during the eighties it was not unusual for us to have Lisa, Steve, and Allyn, as well as Honour, Roy, and Alex, along with the six of us, so twelve settings was not excessive. We were always looking for a table that would comfortably seat twelve, but never found one.
The tradition is to bring them out on December first, and put them away after 12th night. This is a setting on the kitchen table on one of our wipeable mats.
I used to make tablecloths from the wonderful fabrics in the quilting section. Luckily the table my mother made us was exactly wide enough to be covered by one width. I also made matching curtains. Different sets for each holiday. The kids said it was like living in a gift shop- but I think they liked it.
Within a few years we found, if not matching, at least complimentary serving platters and dishes. We found some lovely glasses, goblets and bowls at the drug store of all places! With holly and a red band. We still have one of the decanters (great for orange juice), although the lid is gone. I even found a cake tray and cookie dish. My, I was proud of those! We did lose most of that set in the house-fire in `95. We found a cheaper version (with no gold rims, but that meant we could put them in the microwave) within a few years.
I continue to be a sucker for holiday dishes. Glasses do tend to break more often than other things, so we’ve gone through several sets, including one Coca-cola themed set. Mugs are impulse buys. This year I found a large one for Willow that says on the side: “All I want for Christmas is peace & quiet”
How could I not get her that one? We have five tall ones- I like the Santa, Willow likes the cardinal, we even have one hannuka mug for when Steve visits! The nice things about all the different mugs is that everyone can tell his or her own drink at the solstice feast. And we all have our favorites! We even found a matching bowl for the cats, and have a shaker for our Garlic pepper salt, and a sugar bowl and creamer- although we keep the bowl full of mini-marshmallows for cocoa!
At the moment, I’m not thrilled with the goblets we have. Yes, they are holly,with a “red ribbon”, but the bow on the stem bugs me. Well, they will eventually break- everything does, and we may get lucky and find more that match better at some point. Meanwhile, I enjoy setting the table, and even washing the dishes. Food should look good, not just taste good, and I like showing that I care about what I’m serving, whether it’s dinner, supper, or tea time.