How to Set a Simple Holiday Table

How to set a simple holiday table should be on our Christmas decorating checklist. It usually isn’t, but why not? It’s simple, festive and easy to do!

One of the first things we do to usher in the Christmas season is to decorate. We set up the tree. The tangled web of lights is straightened out. Out comes the boxes of ornaments. Finally, we step back and admire our work. Everything is done, but we forget about the table.

Setting the Table is Simple

We often entertain guests throughout the season. Our house is decorated and ready for any who stop by. A few friend are invited over for dinner. Relatives stop in, and are invited to stay and eat. Maybe it’s time to take your decorating one step further, and set a simple holiday table.

Simple Holiday Table - Placesetting

Set a Simple Holiday Table – Without Buying New Dishes!


My first rule of thumb is to buy white dinnerware. White is the perfect color for any season. It is interchangeable. It just fits.

I confess to owning a set of Fiestaware. I am a color person, and Fiestaware can really set a simple table. The red and green place settings truly set a beautiful Christmas table, as does the orange and green for Thanksgiving.

But when I really entertain, it is all white dinnerware for me. You don’t have to have all white dishes to set the table. If you have Christmas china, by all means, use it.

I have a set of Debbie Mumm Snowman dishes that I use. However, I do mix and match them with the white when I don’t have enough place settings.
The dishes themselves don’t make the simple table settings. It is what you add to it that does.

Simple Holiday Table - Glassware


We don’t drink, but I do love a beautiful piece of stemware. It isn’t unheard of for me to use anything from a Mason Jar to a crystal wine glass for my simple table setting. You can drink iced tea out of a piece of stemware just as easily as you can a Mason Jar.

To set a simple table, don’t be afraid to add a few ‘fancy’ pieces. Just make sure they blend with everything else you are using, and it will look completely natural!

have a merry, simple Christmas ebook banner


As another confession, I own three sets of stainless utensils, and two sets of silver. Wait! Before you call me a ‘Simple Fraud’, I inherited the silver, mainly because no one else in my family wanted it. But since I have it, I do use it.

I do prefer my stainless, though. It is simple, easily washed, and doesn’t have to be polished before I use it. So for my simple holiday table, I stick to the plain stuff.

Simple Holiday Table - Placemats

The Fun of Setting a Holiday Table

The trick to a simple holiday table comes into play when you uses napkins, napkin rings and placemats. I often laugh, because my Aunt Dot used the linen napkins for years. Then she got tired of all the laundry, and started buying holiday-designed paper ones. The fun part was, she still put them in napkin rings.


The first thing you choose is your color. For a simple Christmas table, opt for green, red, white, or all three. To make it easy, choose solid colors, rather than napkins that have a Christmas design on them. This way, you can also use your colors for other holidays.

Placemats or Tablecloths?

Either – or. Never both. Although some people choose to use both, I find it makes your table look ‘heavy’. Both tablecloths and placemats are designed to protect the table from spills.

If you use a tablecloth, choose one that will accent your table setting. If I use them at all, I choose my other items to complement it.

However, I prefer to use placemats. The reason for this is, I rarely have more than four to six of the same color. If I have eight people at the table, I want to be able to mix and match. For Christmas, I use solid red ones with a green set that has a small red pattern to it. This way, it all blends together.

My napkins are the same way. If I have a green placemat, I use a red napkin. This is a great way to stretch your budget, and not have to purchase twelve sets of twelve different napkins.

Simple Holiday Table - Napkin Rings

Napkin Rings

Napkin rings are what ties everything together. I usually have them in sets of eight. If for some reason we have more people than that, we always set a separate table. The extra table gets its own version of a simple holiday table setting.

One of my most fun napkin rings is actually a cookie cutter. This is a perfect way to tie everything in together, regardless of placemats and napkin rings that are of different colors. Using cookie cutters is not only frugal, but you can use them for their intended purpose earlier in the day, wash them, then use them on the table.

Simple Holiday Table - Cookie Cutter

When I do use cookie cutters, I often tie a quote on them with a piece of ribbon. The quote can be anything you like – a special Christmas wish, a quote or anything else. I enjoy writing a different verse to a Christmas song on each one. By the time everyone has read their quote, and entire song will be enjoyed!

Simple Holiday Table - Garland as a napkin ring

Make It Fun & Simple

Don’t have enough napkin rings, or cookie cutters?  That’s easy.  Just create your own!  Some of the most festive and simple holiday table settings use leftover garland and a few small ornaments.

Holiday Table - Gift as a napkin holder

Or you can take it one step further.  For each plate, wrap up a small gift. It can be as simple as a box or bag filled with candy, or a trinket you know a person would enjoy.  The whole purpose of setting a simple holiday table is to make it fun, easy, and as frugal as possible!

It isn’t difficult to learn how to set a simple holiday table. Just use your imagination. Look around and see what you already have. Figure out how it can all mix and match. Then get creative. I promise – you will get all kinds of oohs, aahs, and compliments on having the most fun table this season.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead! Set a simple holiday table. Then take photos and share them with me. I can’t wait to see what you came up with!

Last Minute Gifts?  No problem.  Kathi has your back!

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Want to ‘flip’ the spending? Take a few tips from Annie!

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Shawna has a great, easy to make Christmas Idea!

DIY Horseshoe Sign

Want to take organizing for your holiday a step further? Get a copy of my e-book Have a Merry, Simple Christmas! It is filled with tips, DIY, recipes, printables and more!

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Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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