Those of you gentle readers who have enjoyed my previous posts may recall that I will be hosting my first Christmas Day celebration at home this year. The number of people in attendance is a little more manageable than my original estimates. We will be a total of 17 adults and 5 children for what I hope will be lovely sit down, multi-course dinner.
In previous years, the feast was hosted by my aunt, and then by my parents. Each year the tables were set with great care and beauty. Due to size of the party, seating was assigned, equipped with little place cards for each attendant. In my mother’s time, she would spend several agonizing hours determining how best to place the tables, and where each family member would sit. She would build little scale models on 8 X 11 sheets of paper, which depicted each table with the assigned names all around the perimeter. I would then spend another agonizing hour setting the table, attempting to recreate this scale model to real life. Frankly, I thought it was all kinds of crazy. We (other family members besides me whose names will be protected) made fun of not only the diagram, but also the practice of the seating chart as well. Why couldn’t we all just pick a chair and sit down and eat like a normal, civilized family? Who else does this?
Now that the reigns of hosting Christmas has finally been passed to my generation, I have received an earful suggesting the abandonment of assigned seating. My first thoughts- hell yeah! But there was something irking me. Something I always knew, despite my snickering; a needful purpose behind the madness. Some families require assigned seating.
Case and point 1: Family gatherings at restaurants, party of 8+
We never just sit down. We stand around staring at the tables, unsure of where to sit, looking at each other for direction. Seating hosts/hostesses peer at us with great trepidation as minutes tick by whilst family members point at chairs naming off who should sit where, change places, move seats for better access, and even request alternate tables (too cold, too hot, too crowded, too drafty, too noisy, too…). In my earlier years I would stare at the floor in great embarrassment, or glance at the seating host with deep apologetic eyes full of teenage angst. Later years, I confess I may have joined in the decision making a bit. Fast forward to my dining room on Christmas Day, and only the scenery would alter. The behavior would remain unchanged.
Case and point 2: The Kids Table
When we were younger, my cousins and I were assigned to a separate kids table. This banishment from the adults served a dual purpose: we had each other for entertainment, and also allowed the use of less expensive dinnerware. I was too young to recall, but it may have been that place cards were unnecessary in this environment. Now that my cousins and I are all grown, and too few great grandchildren are around (or too young) to make up a kids table, the kids have been dispersed among the adults. This does not bode well for random assignment of fine china. My china has been discontinued, damn it! Twelve and under; no palatial platinum allowed.
Case and point 3: You NOT talkin’ to me?
This one applies less to the side of the family that will be in attendance this Christmas, but there’s always an internal feud somewhere amongst the clan. One sister isn’t talking to the other, or another couple isn’t getting along. Being told where to sit absolves people from the duty to sit next to each other when they would privately prefer to actually be in separate rooms. The rub is to figure out who is or is not talking to whom each year. Enough said.
And so I find myself saying the words that I seem to say more and more often as I age in years: “My mother was right.” Place cards are SO necessary. My husband, a member of Place Cards Are for Sissies, is fully against the practice and has vehemently vowed not to participate in the seating chart madness. I am already fretting because we haven’t put the leaves in the table yet or set up the second table so that I can build my scale model. How else am I going to know where everyone will fit??? I’m way too Type A about this sort of thing to chance the visualization.
But I can at least get started on the place cards. I went to AC Moore and found just the right size folding cards, and holly decoration, and letter stickers for the names (because my handwriting sucks). Oh yes, I have fully and with a willing heart succumbed to the madness. I am prepared for the jeers on Christmas Day when my cousins see the beautifully adorned table with my way too Martha for my own good place cards. And to those cousins (you know who you are) who are thinking about switching place cards on me when I’m not looking…you will SO be put on pots and pans.
Happy Holidays everyone!