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Friday, November 21, 2014

The Magic of Holiday Dishes

This post is sponsored by Q Squared NYC.

I was recently chatting with my dear friend Amy about the holidays and she mentioned the dishes her mom used when she was growing up. Amy talked about how those dishes are firmly entrenched in her memory and that the dishes themselves are as much a part of the experience of the holidays as anything else. As she got thinking about it, she found she felt the same way about the dishes her grandmother used, too.

the magic of holiday dishes by @janemaynard

I loved this conversation because it really got me thinking. Often when I look back on holiday meals with the family, the food is what I focus on. In fact, when I pass traditions on to my kids it’s almost always focused on the food and sharing family recipes. But I haven’t thought much about the significance of the dishes we used. After chatting with Amy I realized my experience was the same as hers, that the dishes actually played a large role.

the magic of holiday dishes by @janemaynard

When I was very young, most of our holidays were spent with the extended family, so a lot of the memories of dishes I have are from my grandmothers. My Grandma Wallin was the type of woman who would bring china to the beach for a picnic, so you can imagine what her table would look like for the holidays. Crystal glasses (perfect for serving 7-Up!), crystal bowls and china dishes abounded. As a young girl, I loved it. Her dishes made those family dinners feel extra special and fancy.

the magic of holiday dishes by @janemaynard

My Grandma Blomquist had 7 children, so when that family got together it was always a large group. I’ll never forget the tall stacks of plates on the buffet table or the basket she used for her giant rolls. What stands out most, however, is the silverware. She had several sets of silverware, complete with intricate patterns. I remember helping get the silverware out of the drawer in her china cabinet (and how that drawer was always a bear to open!). We would wipe the silverware down with a towel and, when dinner was done, carefully put it all back in the drawer.

the magic of holiday dishes by @janemaynard

Eventually we moved far from our extended family, at which point the dishes my mom used for the holidays take over my memories. My mom had a set of Christmas china that made an appearance very year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We loved those dishes and using them at Thanksgiving quite literally marked the start of the holiday season in our home. Once the holidays were over, we would scour the post-Christmas sales to find more pieces to add to the collection. Those dishes are firmly planted in my holiday memories and, to this day, whenever I see that set of dishes at a store, I am transported back in time.

the magic of holiday dishes by @janemaynard

As I mentioned before, while I’ve always had these memories, I’ve never stopped to think about how strong they are. And, on a related note, I haven’t really thought much about the dishes I use for the holidays and whether or not my kids have the same kinds of memories. Our family is young, relatively speaking, so I’m still in the phase of collecting those dishes that will play a special role at our holiday dinner table year after year. After doing all this thinking about these particular memories, it makes me that much more excited about adding new dishes to our holiday collection and setting the table with my kids each year.

I want my children to have similar memories to what I have, memories like polishing silver and pulling china down from the high cupboard. Of course I have fond memories of the food, but as I ponder those holiday meals from the past, I find that the act of preparing the table for those meals is where the strongest memories lie. Making the table special and beautiful with the women that meant the most to me in my life ended up being the times where we talked and bonded most and I will be forever grateful for those memories.

I hate ending posts with open-ended questions because it feels super cheesy, but I’m breaking my own rule today because I really want to hear from you! Please tell us about your own memories!

Pictured above: I’ve added some really lovely pieces to our holiday dish collections from Q Squared NYC. For Easter we use white dishes combined with serving dishes from the Heritage collection. For Thanksgiving we’ve added serving dishes from both the Ruffle and the Diamond collections, both of which are pictured above. Also pictured is the Maple Apple Bijou candle, which is the perfect scent for Thanksgiving and looks beautiful on the table, too!


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    I need to get myself some fancy china and silverware. We are more of a mish-mash dishes kind of family 🙂

    • we are too…but you can still make it special with the mish mash! 😉 nate and I only have 4 pieces of our china, so they have sat in the cupboard since the first year we were married! 😉

  3. Beautiful post. I absolutely have a connection to the Royal Dolton my mother used when I was little. Sometimes I’lll see the exact set in a style food shot somewhere online and get a pang of nostalgia!

    Also, nothing cheesy about open ended questions! 😉

  4. I love how pulling out those dishes marks the start of the holiday season. I so enjoyed reading this and can’t wait for the special days ahead!

  5. My mom always hosted Thanksgiving for her extended family and she always used china and her good silver. I remember she kept a huge box of glasses underneath her bed that she would pull out and use just for Thanksgiving. Thanks for the reminder of just how important traditions are.

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    I have similar feelings about dishes. My mom had beautiful white china, and the sight of it always made me know that it was going to be a special meal. My favorite part, though, was polishing all the silver; that was my contribution to big family events and it was so much fun to try to get all the black tarnish out of every nook and cranny.

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    My mom always had holiday sets — she recently gave me Christmas set which made my heart sing 🙂

  8. My mom had santa dish and each grandchild had their own reindeer dessert plate. The first year she just set them out, but the next year they wanted “THEIR reindeer plate”…..and it became a tradition!

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    Jen Schmidt

    im with you on dishes. I’m transported instantly with a few of mine.

  10. Oh… using china for beach picnics sounds lovely! My mom always pulls out her good china {my great-grandmother’s} and uses it for the holidays. I do have memories of hand washing all the dishes and polishing silver! As my grandmothers have both passed, I wish I had their old cookbooks to make some of their favorite traditional recipes for my own children… xo

  11. My mom used the same china that she got from my grandparents every year. It wasn’t Thanksgiving without it!

  12. I can absolutely relate to this. I have wonderful memories and connectedness to the dishes of my grandmas’ and mom’s, plus some of my MIL’s glasses. When there is talk about “what do you want of mine when I pass away”, my mind immediately goes to their dishes and all the wonderful memories behind them. Lovely post, Jane. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  13. Love this post! The memory that comes to mind instantly is the smell of my mom’s china cabinet –– a mix of Pledge polish, candles, silver, and old wood. Thanks for conjuring such a fond memory.

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