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“Use your manners.” Who hasn’t heard these words at some point? For some of us, Grandma’s voice still resonates each time we sit down to dine with extended family, friends and acquaintances: “Say please and thank you… use your napkin… chew with your mouth closed… elbows off the table!”
And etiquette experts might remind us that our holiday table should be set with a “proper” place setting. Maybe that means the napkin in the center of the plate, plate two inches from the table’s edge, placing the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork on the left side of the plate, and placing the teaspoon to the right of the knife with the knife edge facing the dinner plate, water glasses above the knife… It goes on and on, doesn’t it?
So, how about this instead? We suggest that a “proper” place setting for your table could be a little different, and maybe a few elbows aren’t the worst things that could appear on your family’s table. In fact, here is our list with a few ideas for you - Three Things Not to Bring to Your Holiday Table:
1. Too much formality. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the gravy drips on the tablecloth just this one time… So why not set a table with a relaxed, homey feel? Try a buffet-style meal with the silverware in a beautiful caddy. Bring inspiration and easy clean-up by piling all your favorite family recipes onto beautiful serving trays.
2. Awkwardness, discomfort, or a sense of not belonging. Make everyone feel welcome! Even family meals at the holidays can bring together people who don’t see each other frequently or maybe don’t even know everyone’s name. Try beautiful chalkboard placecards, and use them as an icebreaker. Have everyone write their first name, followed by the best nickname they’ve ever had (like “Corey - ‘Mr. 3-Pointer!”). Or try other icebreakers as everyone is seated for the meal.
3. A lack of personal traditions. Make each holiday celebration special; better yet, make every single meal together special by creating your own traditions to bring meaning to every gathering. Have each guest use a permanent marker to sign a special message on their cloth napkin (and see how many special messages each napkin has as you do this over many months or years) or even on a beautiful tea towel that appears at every family get-together. Or find a way for each guest to record something (or someone) for which they’re thankful along with a beloved Scripture.
Whatever we bring to each celebration at the table, above all else bring the love of God! Make the comfort we have in Christ’s love a part of each meal - perhaps featuring tableware, serving pieces or home decor filled with Scripture and inspiration, or by praying a special prayer together. End each meal with a grateful heart for each guest at the table, remembering (or even sharing) Ephesians 1:15-16 NIV: For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
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Therefore encourage one another
and build each other up as you are already doing.
1 Thess 5:11 CSB