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Citrus Holiday: Setting a Citrus-Themed Table

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A beautifully set holiday table needn't be expensive. Our simple Citrus Holiday table is proof. We used fresh citrus fruits: lemons, limes, key limes, oranges, grapefruit, and clementines. And, since everyone has their own accumulation of holiday decor, S4H editor, Liz Johnson and I decided to take the Citrus Holiday challenge and use ONLY our own personal collections to decorate the dining room.

Most families have some vintage decorations passed down over the years, and quite a few of the newer pieces we all accumulate. This eclectic mix is always unique, and with a little thought, can add a lively spirit to your table -- not to mention stirring memories and inspiring conversation. Everything you see on the buffet and table came either from my personal stash or that of S4H Chief Editor, Liz Johnson's. We used our citrus theme to help narrow down a surprising amount of good possibilities. It's a forgiving palette because you can use orange, yellow, lime, green, pink, red, black, ivory or white with accents in gold and/or silver. Here's what we found. We hope it inspires you to try this for yourself.

Plan Your Table

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Figure out how much space you'll have on the dining table and buffet for decor:

  • Count the number of people you'll be hosting and think about what you will serve. Then you'll know how many place settings and serving pieces are needed and how much space you have to decorate. We planned a Christmas morning breakfast for six, but you may choose to plan an evening or afternoon meal.
  • Decide whether to use a table runner and placemats, a tablecloth; or as in our case, a table cloth with placemats on the dining table and a table runner on the buffet. For me, a special day calls for a tablecloth. Get cookin' on your sewing projects so they're finished before the holidays are actually upon you.
  • Pick your dinnerware. If you have a choice, go with a white or an off-white place setting. We used a 40-year-old set of Noritake that was in remarkably good condition.


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  • We chose a set of newer silver chargers that looked great with the dinnerware.
  • Most any silver/stainless flatware will look great.
  • Glassware is easy as well -- clear glass or crystal adds a lovely sparkle on the table. We served champagne for our breakfast in beautiful, sparkly Waterford Crystal Millennium toasting flutes. We added some vintage reindeer juice glasses circa 1950-60. Quite a mix, but we loved the result.


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Serving Pieces

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This is easy because so many things work. Clear glass, any citrus colored glass or red glass. Ditto for pottery bowls and baskets. We selected a number of pieces of limey-green vaseline glass to hold our citrus fruit. The vaseline glass is from my personal collection and it harks back to the turn of the last century. Vaseline glass has a lovely glow in the ultraviolet of sunlight (and really fluoresces under black light). In keeping with our minimal red accent, we chose a single ruby red 1960ish Fostoria coin glass compote.

Add Accent Pieces

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Look for a balance in size when choosing accent pieces. For example, you might have one focal piece, several medium-size pieces and a larger group of smaller pieces. Groups tend to look better in odd numbers. Keep the placement organic as opposed to rigid. Remember the importance of mood lighting. Add candles in white or citrus colors. Look for sales on candles -- often the citrus colors go on sale at the end of the summer season.

The Buffet

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We chose a circa 1880 Meriden Britannia silver coffee urn as the focal point for the buffet. Not everyday-useful, but striking. Also on the buffet, a modern fabric and straw santa and a dried floral arrangement to cap the ends. We added two vintage cookie jars; Frosty the Snowman by Robinson-Ransbottom Pottery Co., and Santa by the American Bisque Company. With all of the little hands lifting the lid, how ceramic cookie jars survive for 60 years is beyond me, but these two did. For smaller accents; a collection of little 1950's Christmas figurines. These were very common decorations of the time and were sold for about a quarter in dime stores. Most were made in Japan. Those that survive are considered quite collectible now and sell for about 100 times (or more) what they originally cost. We put the red ones on the buffet and saved the white ones for the table.

The Dining Table

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We used the cheery bowls of citrus fruit as our main table decor. Buy an abundance of citrus fruits a couple days ahead and refrigerate. Side benefit: healthy snacks. We accented the fruit and the table with some greenery -- you can use garland and fresh or artifical greens. We use laurel leaves which look somewhat like citrus leaves. You can also use fir or pine branches for the wonderful scent. Rinse and let dry overnight before putting on your tablecloth. Serpentine the leaves down the center of the table and stick some leaves between the fruit in the bowls as well. We added in the remaining white caroler figurines.

Other Options

Our table decor was fast to assemble and cost next to nothing. What you have to work with will be different, but there are so many terrific ways to mix the old and new.

The Old

  • Mica villages -- little houses with cellophane windows, and their companion bottle-brush trees
  • Vintage ornaments were often tucked away in attics and left unused in favor of more modern pieces. But now, they're considered very collectible. They look lovely set in little groups on the table or carefully placed in a clear glass bowl.
  • Glass bead garlands.
  • Small old-time tin toys.
  • A collection of little Santas or snowmen
  • Snow globes
  • Pine cone elves (getting hard to find, so ask Grandma)
  • Old Gurley candles. These were popular in the 1950s and surprisingly, they were infrequently burned and instead used as decor year after year.
  • Liven up the room with vintage fruit labels. These are still readily available in vintage shops and on Etsy and Ebay.

The New

  • Candles and pretty candle holders can be mixed in a variety of sizes to create a warm, inviting atmosphere.
  • Dinnerware, glassware, flatware, serving pieces -- glance through what you have. We were surprised at what we found once we started looking.
  • Twinkle lights look pretty on the buffet and add a festive sparkle.
  • Snip a few greens from your yard to accent the table.
  • Newer holiday decor is wonderful by itself, even if you don't have any older pieces.

As we collected our options, we put good candidates on the dining table and buffet and then moved and regrouped pieces until it had a nice feel. You kind of know when it feels right. Will you set a Citrus Holiday table? If so, tell us about it.

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