“Brew me a cup for a winter’s night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I’ll toast our bright eyes, my sweetheart fair.”
~Minna Thomas Antrim
Winter Holidays are such warm and merry affairs! Seasonally, most celebrations fall on or near the winter solstice, the day with the least sunlight. The lack of warmth and lack of light outside invite us to gather together and create our own. Time to snuggle with loved ones by the hearth, tell stories, sing songs, light candles, and look forward to the dawn…
This joyous celebrating actually ushers us through the seasonal turning point, for though winter solstice may indicate the start of winter on the calendar, it also marks the start of the six-month cycle of increasing sunlight, day by day, more and more, until at last culminating on summer solstice. We get through the longest night together and then celebrate crossing the threshold.
Though the holiday table is by no means the only part of a joyous celebration, it may help set the festive mood for guests immediately upon entering. This year I felt inspired by the warmth of tradition, and found just what I was looking for in plaids and nutcrackers. Below are the whys and hows. Enjoy!
“The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts & he will crack open a tale…” ~Vera Nazarian
German tales of carved nutcrackers symbolizing good luck and protection have delighted many for hundreds of years. However, it is the fantasy tale, The Nutcracker and The Mouse King by E.T.A Hoffmann, that really touches my fancy. When this story was put to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, it quickly developed into a famous and beloved classical piece in its own right, and then set to dance became one of the most famous ballets of all time as well as one of the few holiday traditions that can truly boast crossing age, ethnic, and religious boundaries the world over to be loved and shared by all.
And it is the multicultural aspect of this tradition that suits it so wonderfully to a loving gathering of people of differing faiths and beliefs, which very nicely represents the mission of Holiday & Hearth. It does not step on anyone’s toes (no pun intended :) and yet allows all to dig deep into a heart spring of rich and warming tradition.
- Table Cloth: Rose Tree Royal Linen 60-By-104-Inch Oblong Tablecloth, Hunter: A very reasonable priced cloth purchased online from Amazon.com
- Placemats & Napkins: Waterford, Stewart Plaid Pattern purchased gently used on ebay
- Napkin Holders: Green Bell Napkin Rings, purchased from Williams-Sonoma in sets of 4
- Dinnerware: Vintage, gilded, Mintons Porcelain purchased used on ebay… and oh such a deal!
- Flatware: Silver-plate – pattern uncertain, family heirloom
- Knife Rests: Lovely vintage prancing pony design, imported from France, purchased gently used on ebay
- Party Crackers: Though I usually make my own, in this case, I found a pre-made set of twelve featuring a lovely pattern in a petite size from Williams-Sonoma, and so I went with them :)
Gingerbread Tree Embellishments:
- Confections: I used the same gluten-free gingerbread recipe featured in my gingerbread men and gingerbread house posts. For cookie cutters, I imported a lovely mini nesting set from Great Britain: Birkmann 162044 Mini Cookie Cutter Set Stars 5 Piece. I purchased them on ebay.
- Pedestals: Cupcake stands from Victorian Trading
- Water Glasses: Gorgeous bobbin lace tumblers available at Victorian Trading Co.
- Wine Goblets: Vintage, silver-plated, imported from Portugal, and purchased as a set from ebay
- Flutes: Petite European crystal, purchased on ebay.
- Candelabra: Hampton 5-Light Candelabra, 16″, purchased online at Amazon.com
- Tapers: Nestled within the candelabra rest five hand-painted, holly & plaid designed “Triple Spiral Fresh Traditions” beeswax tapers (2/pack). They, along with the best color assortment of beeswax tapers I have ever seen, are available at Knorr Beeswax. (Note: beeswax, soy, or palm wax candles are preferable to paraffin as they do not release toxic compounds into your environment.)
- Nutcracker Ballet Ornaments: Two ornaments are draped from the candelabra as though dancing on the table, Clara and Godfather Droselmeyer. Both were purchased from ebay. Clara was personalized by a loved one to represent the costuming and features most familiar to our family.
- Floral Arrangements: A Lovely floral arrangement mixed with seasonal greens sits on each side of the candelabra. These are situated within Teleflora plaid vases purchased gently used from ebay.
- Nutcracker Music Boxes: Three musical eggs featuring differing characters from the ballet are sprinkled amidst the centerpiece: one under the candelabra and one on each side of the table. These were purchased online from Hammacher Schlemmer.
- Nutcracker Village Statues: In the remaining two corners of the centerpiece sit petite village statues: in one corner, Dept 56 Snow Village nutcracker ballerinas #808953, and the other, Dept. 56 Alpine Village Nutcracker Market Booth. Both were purchased from ebay.
- Covers: Chair covers: Chocolate spandex, available at: eFavorMart.com.
- Seasonal Jingle Bows: A fun Do-It-Yourself project detailed in my Yule Plaid Jingle Bell Chair Treatments post.
- Place Cards: Printed on ivory cardstock, cut using paper-cutter, and embellished with May Arts crochet-edge light blue velvet ribbon purchased from Amazon.
- Place Card Holders: Williams-Sonoma nutcracker place card holders purchased gently used from ebay.
- Wine Charms: A fun Do-It-Yourself project using wire, mini jingle bells, beads, and nutcracker charms. I purchased all but the charms at my local Joann Fabric and Craft Store. The charms were purchased from ebay. By simply varying the colors of the beads, they become distinguishable allowing guests to easily identify their glasses.
Put it all together and enjoy!
May your winter be full of warmth, light, & love!