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Posts Tagged ‘table toppers’

Celebrating Christmas around the World

People from all over the world have their own customs and traditions, and as we increasingly live in a socially mobile world we begin to share festivities between ourselves and pick up new customs from others. In fact, people around the world from a variety of religions – not just Christians – come together to celebrate Christmas with friends and family.

Unlike in the USA and the UK,  Christmas celebrations in Poland tend not to start until on Christmas Eve (after the first star has been spotted) but they then go on to celebrate longer, generally until February 2nd. As Poland is primarily a Catholic country they tend to abstain from frivolity such as singing and dancing during Advent in the lead up to Christmas. Instead they like to party in the weeks afterwards. They make an exception for St Nicholas Day on December 6th when the children receive presents.

Holly Glow Tablecloth

The decoration of house and table is taken very seriously in Poland. Traditionally the table is spread with straw to represent the manger. This is then followed by a snow white tablecloth that represents Mary’s veil and Jesus’ swaddling cloth. You can recreate Poland’s traditions yourself by laying fresh spruce on a plate of your finest china, and placing the plate on a white tablecloth or white cloth napkin. The Snowman  Family a white tablecloth and is particularly cute and ideal for a family get together. Holly Glow Tablecloth is a sophisticated way to dress up the table. The table should then be decorated using lights, candles, flowers, apples, nuts, candies or home blown glass or crystal so that everything sparkles and shines.

Similar traditions exist throughout Eastern Europe. Color and warmth and good food and drink are what are required for a spectacular feast. The combination of food varies quite dramatically however. The Czech people eat fried carp and potato salad, and bake a splendid array of Christmas biscuits. Their houses must smell heavenly!

Christmas Cookies

There is nothing to prevent you from offering your own feast on a richly seasonal tablecloth to match the flavor of the foods you’re serving. For example, if you were partaking in a Caribbean feast where they serve Sorrel punch, you might not want a white tablecloth at all. Sorrel punch is made from hibiscus flowers mixed with cloves and cinnamon and is steeped overnight in water, resulting in a bright red liquid that is delicious served with rum. But not something you want to spill on your best tablecloth!

Solid Color Elegant table cloths may prove useful as an under cloth for your Christmas table display. Choose something in Holiday colors such as red or burgundy. Christmas tablecloths don’t have to be white after all. Alternatively place a Christmas table topper on top of the table cloth fro a dazzling effect. Try Christmas Glisten table runners to dress up the table.

Glisten Christmas Table Runners

A glamorous under tablecloth and Christmas topper combination is perfect for anyone celebrating with a huge feast, the likes of which you can experience in France, Italy and Finland. In France Christmas is celebrated with a long dinner known as a réveillon (from réveil meaning waking because you have to stay awake a long time!). The French serve umpteen dishes including goose, turkey, foie gras, oysters, smoked salmon, duck and lobster. In some parts of France, 13 desserts are also served to represent Jesus and his disciples.

In Finland, celebrants are offered a Christmas food board that will include Christmas ham served with fresh bread and mustard, fish (usually gravlax), casseroles, potatoes and vegetables. In Italy, traditional Christmas fare will include the offer of seven fish dishes. The dishes vary according to what is available and personal preference but can include eels, clams, salt cod and of course calamari.

Whether you will be incorporating some new Holiday recipes this Christmas, or keeping with your traditional ones, a Christmas tablecloth will delight you and fulfill your needs. Remember that Christmas traditions are always evolving and so a Christmas feast should relate only to you and your loved ones. Serve up your favorite foods and the finest drink you can afford and enjoy your holiday.

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You’ve probably never really thought very much about it, but the tablecloth has an extremely long history and has been a popular and highly valued household item for nearly 2000 years, without ever falling from favor.

The earliest proof we have of the existence of tablecloths, is drawn from the work of a poet named Martial who died c.103 AD who mentioned them in his writing, so tablecloths are believed to have come into use in Europe in the first century AD. Prior to this high-ranking Roman households are thought to have possessed tables that were exquisitely carved and therefore too ornate and beautiful to be covered by cloth!  By looking at early artwork that still survives, it appears that the very first cloths appear to have been very plain and used simply for catching mess and wiping up spills.antique white tablecloth

The Roman Emperor Charlemagne (742 – 28 814), who, it is reported, used a tablecloth made of asbestos. His guests would sit with him to have dinner and then he would have the table cleared before throwing the cloth into the fire where it would amaze all observers by refusing to burn! He used this trick in order to convince his barbarian guests of his total supremacy and infallible powers.

old fashioned tableAfter this, tablecloths gradually became more popular, particularly among European nobility and aristocrats. However by the fifteenth century, every household apart from the very poorest would have used a tablecloth of some description, even if it was hessian sack. The middling folks (there was no middle class at the time) would have had plain, cheaper cloths while the poor would have used hemp cloth and the destitute would have had no table coverings at all.

During the Medieval period, it was de rigueur to use the finest linen tablecloths. The linen had to be as white as possible. The higher ranking you were, the whiter your tablecloths were expected to be. This is because conspicuous consumption was the order of the day. If you think about it, this was a time long before chemicals, washing machines, dryers and irons, so you had to employ lots of people to keep your household linens clean. By having the freshest, whitest tablecloth you possibly could laid out on your dining table, you were effectively saying, “Look at me. I have lots of money! I have lots of workers!”

Victorian Table Setting

At the time linen was a hugely valuable commodity that cost a great deal of money. It had to be harvested, handspun, bleached and then hand-woven into cloth by a Master Craftsman. It was then bleached and calendared. During its existence it had to be carefully looked after in terms of washing and pressing. Linen was so valuable in fact, that it is present in wills and probate inventories right up to the twentieth century, and was seen as a family heirloom.  Households often kept their linen on display, either in a linen press, or stacked somewhere where it could be seen by visitors. As ironing was not widespread until after the late Middle Ages, a smoothed tablecloth was also a sign of a well-run household.

These early tablecloths were sometimes decorated with borders, fringes and stripes. The richest households had tablecloths made to fit specific tables, however, tablecloths had to be of a fixed width based on the width of the loom that wove the cloth, so larger tables would have to be covered with several tablecloths at once.

Victorian Rose Table Runners

On the highest ranking table ‘surnapes’ were used to cover the main tablecloth, just like the table toppers we use today. ‘Sanaps’ were also used as an additional covering. These ran the length of the table and were the precursor of our table runners today. As grand houses competed against each other for the richest looking table settings for their amazing feasts, these sanaps became increasingly ornate, decorated with lace and embroidery. These extremely wealthy households would often have a servant whose job it was to ceremoniously cover and uncover the table.

Unfortunately we have much smaller households these days, and all the chores may well fall to you. But as you cover and uncover your table, setting it to look as attractive as possible, remember that you are part of an illustrious history of nobles and aristocrats, and show off your table with pride!

 

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