Piling plates high, eating excessive amounts of food, telling bad jokes and watching Granddad fall asleep in his chair is what makes Christmas dinner special, and in fact, gathering around the dinner table may just be the best thing about Christmas. Setting the table is often a hurried task in the midst of peeling carrots, chopping onions and making sure everyone has a drink. Don’t stress – we’ve compiled some top tips on how to lay a table and how to behave at one.
How to set a table
Make sure everyone has enough elbow room – you don’t want guests to be knocking about the table.
The layout should be consistent: work from the outside inwards, course by course, finishing with the pudding cutlery. Knives and spoons go on the right and forks on the left. A side plate should be laid out with a folded napkin on them – maybe leave the origami for later. Name cards are optional but may help tipsy guests find their seat.
Traditionally the host and hostess sit at either end of the table, with the most important woman guest on the host’s right and the most important man on the hostess’s right.
How to hold your knife and fork
A knife should be held in the right hand and a fork in the left with the prongs facing down. A spoon is held in the right hand, and when eating, never bring your head to the food. It goes without saying – don’t point or prod with your cutlery, and certainly don’t scrape or scratch plates with it goes without saying.
Napkins should be placed on your lap once you’ve started eating and to the left of the plate when you’re done. Don’t talk with food in your mouth – nobody wants to see chewed up Brussels sprouts, and it’s considered rude to place elbows on the table. To let everyone know you’ve finished your seconds or even thirds, place the knife and fork together on the plate.
The clinking of glasses was originally used to drive away evil spirits. The host usually proposes the toast and it should make people smile and be long enough to convey the message but short enough to be funny – usually around one minute. Be careful when chinking glasses – smashed glass wouldn’t be ideal.
Traditionally crackers are pulled at the end of the meal and everyone has to endure wearing paper hats. The cracker was first made (almost by accident) by Tom Smith, a Londoner who sold his bon-bons in a tube wrapped in twists of paper. It was the crackle of a log on the fire that gave him the eureka moment which eventually led to crackers as we know them today – he even made them for royalty back in the day.
So, two people pull the cracker, and whoever has the cardboard tube with the toys and bad joke inside wins.
Host with the most
Come with goodies for the host. Whether that’s Nigella’s hokey-pokey, or a little note of thanks, we think all hosts deserve a gift for running around, topping up your drinks and pulling the turkey out in time.
Most of all – don’t be a scrooge and enjoy the madness and mayhem Christmas brings!