The dining table is a focus of the holidays, whether it’s the setting for festive meals or the command center for writing Christmas cards and wrapping presents.
“Your table should celebrate the season,” says Sidra Forman, a chef and flower designer in the District’s Shaw neighborhood. “Flowers and natural ingredients enhance camaraderie and conversation.”
Forman creates tablescapes spiced with beautiful things that speak of winter: moss, chestnuts, acorns, persimmons and kumquats. Her advice is to start looking outdoors for midwinter greenery such as camellia and leatherleaf viburnum. Search for unusual bowls or cups to display flowers. Use layers of moss or a large tray as a base for your holiday tableaux, Forman says. Add candlelight for a nice glow. If you are having a seated dinner, manage the height of your arrangement so it won’t interfere with conversation. Buffets can display something taller.
Diana Wescott, the Whole Foods regional floral buyer, stocks store shelves with plants such as lemon cypress ($12.99), rosemary trees ($12.99) and white snowball hydrangea ($24.99) to use as elegant centerpieces.
The classic choice is the stately amaryllis. She says red, white or striped amaryllis ($8.99) with buds about to open are just being delivered. “You can’t go wrong with an amaryllis plant,” Wescott says. “Put several in a big compote or soup tureen and cover the top with moss or pine needles. Add some birch or berries and you’re good for a few weeks.”
Another strategy: Steal decorating ideas from Pinterest and Instagram, which are full of low-cost inspiration to fill your table with cheer.
2. Manage family expectations
The demand for time and the pull of nostalgia during the holidays can make for a stressful month. Focus some attention on managing priorities. “We should make sure our expectations are realistic and not strive for something that nobody can produce,” says Mary Alvord, a Maryland psychologist.
Figure out what seasonal activities or functions are essential to your family, not just what you might be doing because you always have. “Every family should think about what the holidays mean to them,” says Lynn Bufka, also a psychologist in Maryland. “Do we need to bake 15 kinds of cookies?”
For some, the religious aspects of the season have always been the most important. But there are so many others, including passing along cherished culinary traditions, gathering with neighbors, volunteering or writing holiday letters. “Sometimes we get wrapped up in doing everything we could do and lose sight of the reasons we’re doing it in the first place,” Bufka says.