Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why Red and Green at Christmas? And the Holiday Table


 Have you ever wondered why red and green were the predominant colors of this holiday season, which occurs at the outset of winter when in many places the world is mostly gray and white?

There are several possible explanations, according to folklore. One is that in the ancient Celtic culture evergreens represented continuing life in a time of dark and cold. Much importance was attached to these plants by the Druids, who believed that holly, ivy and other evergreens had spiritual powers and could bring good luck if used correctly.

Early Christian missionaries sought to win over pagan culture by incorporating Christian teachings into existing traditions, so they taught that red berries were symbolic of the blood of Christ, and that the thorns of the holly represented the crown of thorns. Since the pagans already had established celebrations around the Winter Solstice, the Christians selected that time of year to celebrate the birth of Christ, eventually replacing the solstice celebrations with Christmas. While Chrisitianity became in time the dominant religion, certain vestiges of earlier traditions clung to the winter holidays as holly, evergreens and mistletoe all became standard parts of our decorations and continue to be important even today.

So  am right in keeping with ancient traditions with my love of red and green at the holidays. This year's holiday table uses my vintage red and green glass, along with crystal pieces and touches of white. 


I picked branches off my bridal wreath spirea bush and spray-painted them gold and silver for the center arrangement, and added a few pyracantha berries and some fake glittery berries for color. Simple and fast.

I bought the green berry bowls below to go with this Anchor Hocking boopie burple bowl one at a time (that really is what this pattern is called--don't you love it?). I have a crystal set that I assembled the same way, finding the bowls at thrift shops and yard sales. My sister Theresa gave me the diamond point goblets, and the footed ruby tumblers (also Anchor Hocking) came from that estate we bought in May.


I like having individual salts and peppers on the table; it simplifies things. My sister Liz gave me several sets and I found a dish to hold them until needed.


The tall red vase is also Anchor Hocking. That company made a lot of affordable, beautiful and functional glassware, and what I liked best is what they made in the 40's-60's. The red decanter may be Blenko, or perhaps Viking, it's difficult to tell. It had no stopper when I bought. I buy stoppers whenever I find them reasonably priced, so I have a container of various sizes now. When I buy a decanter or cruet that needs one, I just go through my collection! Of course, often it turns out that I don't have the right size, and the hunt begins again.

The little bowl with the red knob on top on the left in the above photo is a recent find. The knob is red bakelite, and the bowl is perfect for cinnamon sugar--and this is perfect cinnamon toast weather.

The Santa candle holder below is 60's vintage, by Howard Holt. These are surprisingly collectible these days. Who would have thought it? I found this pair last week at Goodwill. The mirrored board under the Santa is another Godwill find and makes a good "center" for my table.


I think I have a thing for candle holders because I certainly seem to have plenty of them. The deep ruby ones are by Fenton glass; I found them at the end of an auction at a bargain price. The red twist vase is one of a pair; I do not know the maker. The ruby is cased in clear glass and the base is quite heavy. I bought these on eBay recently and was pleased with how beautiful they are--much prettier than their photo. I would guess them to be Kanawha Glass or perhaps Italian Murano, but do not know for sure. The clear candle holder in the foreground is another mystery. I feel fairly sure this pair is by Heisey, but have not been able to verify that. They are heavy, beautiful crystal that sparkles in the light.


I am looking forward to seeing my table surrounded by smiling faces, loaded with good food, and filled with the cheer of the coming season.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

6 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Granny Sue -- I had some visitors in from out of state. I showed them my blog and a few other blogs. They like to set a nice table and they collect antiques so I showed them your post. They were fascinated by it and studied your post for what seemed like an hour or so. You do have the touch. -- barbara

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Such interesting things on your table and - I'm pleased to see - still plenty of room left for food! I suppose that evergreens were thought to hold the secret to eternal life.

Granny Sue said...

Thank you for telling me, Barbara! I am glad they enjoyed the look-through. I bet they loved looking at your posts too; your photos are stunning.

Granny Sue said...

John, I make sure there is room for food--and the vase of "sticks" comes off when the table is full; I replace it with tiny vases at each place :) That way no one's view is impeded.

Nance said...

I love glass. I love vintage glass. Your table and photos are great. (PS: I think I'll go get some Bridal Wreath to paint & arrange. Thanks for the ideas.)

Granny Sue said...

Nancy, just about any twigs will do, but I like the thinness of the spirea. And even unpainted, it's right pretty in an arrangement :)

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