The Christmas table

The Christmas table
12 September 2020 Valentina Muggia
In Inspirations
Apparecchiare la tavola di Natale

I’ve always dedicate a lot of energy to my Christmas table, it is a happy moment for me that I like to think about in time. I am happy to have a large and very close family that loves to get together according to tradition during Christmas.

Decorating my house for Christmas, decorating a large tree near the fireplace with a thousand lights and preparing a table full of details is for me a gift to my family that communicates all my love for them. At the same time, since it is something that amuses me, it costs me no effort, and indeed every year I try to find new details or a specific theme to follow.

I set up my large 3-meter table because we are about fifteen, and as I anticipated I almost always try to follow a theme that in my imagination recalls an authentic Christmas atmosphere. I don’t like colors that are too bright and in particular for me Christmas often has the color of ice, snow, wood and winter moss or a delicate ash color.

But sometimes I use a warm plum color, combined with copper, or rust. Even the decoration of my tree almost always follows these patterns and matches the colors chosen for the table. One year I decided, instead of decorating a single huge tree, that generally touches the ceiling with its tip, to set up a real wood around the dining table and I placed 7 trees of varying heights between 150 and 250 cm all around to us, I chose to buy potted trees with roots which I then planted in the garden once the holidays were over. The scent of fir and resin spread all around and you really had the feeling of having set the table in a clearing of an alpine forest.

I always create a green decoration that runs along the entire length of the table and I sacrifice a lot of space for the dishes in favor of an atmosphere of authentic Christmas charm.

If you do not live near the countryside, you can contact your trusted florist, but since I live  in the countryside, I love to collect the greenery for my table with my hands and let myself be inspired by taking long walks through fields and woods. I’m always looking for something a little unusual and I generally love messy compositions of wild herbs. Of course a classic Magnolia with its dark and shiny green leaves, and that wonderful rust color of the back, is always a good option for a Christmas table, but I recently discovered the beauty of Hops, which grow abundantly and spontaneously along the streets and creates an effect of lightness that I love. I collect it in quantity and arrange it in the center of the table, letting it lightly invade the individual table seats, touching the glasses, as if to suggest that it has always been there and that it grows undisturbed on my table.

Now that I have given you the idea of ​​the atmosphere I like to create, let’s see how I choose the other important elements of my Christmas table. Generally I choose a tablecloth on the color that I have decided will be the guiding line, so I have sometimes opted for raw linen with its warm Sand color and the Riviera finish that recalls the traditional gigliuccio; other times I have chosen a delicate sage or ice color for an ice kingdom effect. I also obtained beautiful results with different dark colors such as forest green or a deep plum color, finished with the elegant Gold Sfogliatella edge of our latest collections.

There is another color that I love very much and that I also often recommend to my customers for their Christmas table. It is Smoke, a dark gray and purplish, an elegant powder color that matches beautifully with silver or gold details, such as cutlery or place cards or even the thread of glasses

The tablecloth for the Christmas table should have a rather long fall for a more elegant effect, and in general, the larger the table the longer the fall on all four sides should be. I specify this because it is never nice when a tablecloth falls differently on the four sides of the table.If for some reason you do not have a tablecloth of the right size for your table, perhaps because you have extended the table with extensions for the occasion, you have two options: order a made-to-measure tablecloth at Borgo delle Tovaglie or… use an under tablecloth that perhaps reaches almost to the floor in order to mitigate the effect of the incorrectly sized tablecloth. I know that you often find yourself at the last moment with this kind of problem, my advice first of all is if you can not wait till the last minute, unless there are 4 or 6 of you at the table and there is always a recovery solution. If, on the other hand, like us, you are 12 or 15 at the table, remember that on the market it is very difficult to find very large and beautiful ready-made tablecloths. Our tailor’s shop begins to make custom-made tablecloths for Christmas as early as the beginning of October and we continue to receive orders up to a week from Christmas for the latecomers. Obviously, however, we also always keep some life-saving tablecloths of 3 or 4 or even 5 meters for emergencies, which invariably almost always arrive on the 23rd or 24th of December!

I was telling you about a second option, which is to use your tablecloth with an improvised under-tablecloth with fabric by the meter or better, with an old white linen sheets. Go on loan from mothers and grandmothers! They often have a good supply and will save you from trouble. I recommend, do not use cotton or worse than cotton sateen, which you see are sheets… Look for a linen or hemp that is as large as possible and possibly falls almost to the ground.

If you really don’t have a suitable tablecloth, rather don’t put it on, and opt for runners, or placemats placed directly on the table. The mats will still serve you even if you put the tablecloth, because in my opinion they are a detail that should not be missing on the Christmas table.

On the market there are all kinds of them, from the most classic to the most innovative, and try yourself to use as placemats some elements that in fact are not born with this purpose. last year for the Christmas tables we proposed large stars in twisted raffia coated in elegant cream-colored gold. They cost nothing and they are perfect to be used as a decoration for the fireplace or for the tree, or just as a placemat on the Christmas tables. We also had a smaller version that we used as a coaster or bread saucer for each diner. I create a large number of different types of fabric mats every year because I believe that they are a detail that will allow you to completely renew your equipment even on a neutral basis. I give you another idea: use antique white linen napkins perhaps with embroidered initials in a diamond shape. Another one? how about many small paintings or mirrors with old frames (you can find them in the markets). Mirrors have the great advantage of reflecting candle lights, creating a beautiful effect on the table.

A separate chapter should be devoted to mountain-themed Christmas tables. In fact, if you are lucky enough to spend Christmas in the mountains, you cannot miss the opportunity to set up your table with the specific theme that I am crazy about, in that case for my table I open the doors to Scots, wool, leathers and of course wood!

Personally I love good quality fabrics, and for this reason I love searching the most beautiful traditional fabrics such as the Scots of pure wool produced in England, the Irish Tweeds, the Tyrolean Loden! Ah what a magic… And then I use cow or sheep skins, for the place cards, deer antlers for the centerpiece (the ones that deer change seasonally !!) And my pantry is well stocked with hollowed and wooden plates and bowls, to combine with heavy terracotta ones. In the mountains pewter is also beautiful, in Italy it is still handcrafted and has a color and a satin sheen that I sometimes find more elegant than silver.

On such a characterful table, set with Scottish wool and loden, I would very well see the combination of linen napkins in various shades of green, plum or rust and wood, and why not even napkins in impalpable linen gauze with ruffles. If you think of traditional costumes, do you know that women had dresses of heavy fabric combined with blouses of impalpable muslin decorated with ruffles or lace? Here! I am inspired by this! How wonderful are the traditions! They are a continuous source of inspiration to then reinterpret our daily life.

But to return to our Christmas table in the city, what kind of cutlery will we choose? Here, too, you can range between different options, but I would absolutely avoid colored cutlery and would undoubtedly opt for brushed steel cutlery (personally I don’t like polished steel) or perhaps antique silver metal. Today on the market there are also many cutlery sets in gilded, polished or brushed metal, in copper-colored metal, which is actually a particular coloring that takes on steel with a specific cooking. The effect is quite beautiful and certainly a copper-colored cutlery set is decidedly original. All these cutlery I’m talking about have the great advantage of being easily washed in the dishwasher, so they are very practical.

To touch for a second the theme of practicality, certainly the Christmas table will be able to grant a little more space to aesthetics at the expense of practicality, but in reality if, like me, you use my anti-stain linens, I assure you that even the after party will not be heavy, just clean your wonderful tablecloth well with a wet sponge and maybe get ready for set the table again for the next day or to visit other friends or relatives! Do you know how many times over the years I have talked to customers who told me that they use 4 or 5 different tablecloths during the few days of Christmas and that then, they are forced to dry clean them with a consequent exorbitant expense because they were too delicate to be washed at home or too stained to be sure to be able to remove stains properly….

I understand that many, over time, passed the desire to organize Christmas at home … and so we end up celebrating it at the restaurant. But what a pity! Give up the magic and warmth of homemade parties.

I make a small digression, because I know that someone here will also object that cooking for so many people is heavy. Of course, I agree if you have to do everything yourself! Us in the family are lucky enough to be two sisters, with a mother and an aunt and 5 daughters! Thus, we have found the solution to divide the tasks, so that each one brings only one dish, which obviously will be his workhorse, with the result that the effort will be very limited, and the menu will be composed of the specialties of each, which we can’t wait to eat every year. In reality, sometimes we vary the menu a little, but the family has traditionalists and therefore certain things like tortellini in broth or boiled meats are never lacking.

Well, returning to our table, we have come to the glasses chapter. I love for this occasion to use an antique glass set as thin as a soap bubble and finely chiseled. I keep it as a relic and I take it out only for occasions, and I assure you that it is wonderful to have an object that is reserved for special occasions, it gives me a particular pleasure to see it again every year; but I created tables for many customers with many different types of glasses. Basically, being a party table, I will look for rather elegant glasses, but not necessarily classic. Today, there are tons of reinterpretations of 1920s or 1930s crystal glasses that are simply gorgeous and really cheap. But I also used ultra minimalist models in very thin glass (borosilicate) that look great even when combined with the most classic dishes.

By the way!! and the dishes? Ivory porcelain, better than white, golden profile for me better than silver, and if you can, mix ancient services with delicate, not too bright decorations. Let me make a small parenthesis that I think we will resume in the future with a specific theme on the tables for buffet dinners. It happened to me that some years, due to an excessive number of diners (the boyfriends of the daughters come and go) I could no longer set the whole family at the table.

As long as there was a certain number of small children in the family, we opted to set a separate table for them, in front of the fireplace and seated on large cushions around a low table. This is a solution that children have always liked, because it gave them the opportunity to get up and play without being forced to eat for a long time. Once the children grew up, however, sometimes we opted for a Christmas buffet lunch, with a richly laid table but with the freedom for everyone to sit in various areas of the house on set tables or comfortably seated on the sofas in front of the fireplace. I assure you that even this Christmas solution can be really nice, because lunch happens in the afternoon in a continuity of tea and infusions, and then ends late in the evening with the inevitable “foray” to leftover sweets accompanied perhaps by a cup of hot chocolate. Well, all this talk to tell you, that on those occasions, I opted for my wonderful, mythical service of dishes in melanin! Do not imagine a hideous multicolor plastic, but a very elegant butter-colored melanin that is very similar in shape and to an antique porcelain service, with the incredible advantage of being very light and unbreakable. Between me, my mom and my sister we have about 100 seats! And I assure you that on some occasions apart from Christmas, but for communions, confirmations, various parties we have combined all our dishes, to compete with a catering and with a result far more elegant and practical than a common porcelain plate . After the party, everything in the dishwasher at maximum temperature, and off you go !! ready beautiful and shiny for the next occasion.

Well, to return to our Christmas table, we have dealt with the chapter tablecloth, plates, cutlery, place cards, glasses and decoration for the centerpiece, I just have to tell you that on my Christmas table there are never less than a dozen candles. depending on the years, they can be large honey-colored candles or in more unusual colors such as moss or terracotta, scattered among the branches of the centerpiece (but always keep your eyes open) or long and tapered candles placed in many silver metal candlesticks , or many (and then well more than 10) small candles in glass cups that dot the table in a disorderly way. The atmosphere is guaranteed. And I just have to wish you a Merry Christmas!

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