Holiday Entertaining: Antiques Style

Collector Chats

November 8, 2019

The holidays are soon upon us, and this becomes a great opportunity to bring out the antiques and enjoy them. Holidays are that moment when we can reflect upon our own traditions as well as starting some new ones for our children and grandchildren and extended family.
I do decry the move toward paper plates and plastic ware for holiday dinners. Of course, I understand the need to expedite work to spend time with our guests, but our parents and grandparents figured out time management, so why can’t we? Pardon my high horse preachiness here, but thoughtful preparation for the holidays can ensure that you have plenty of time with your guests. There was the year that we had 20 for Thanksgiving at the farm in York. I was practically hanging guests off the ceiling, but the silver and china were out. Maybe I thought doing such a full court press with the table setting might hide that the turkey was a bit dry or the gravy a bit lumpy. If so, then guilty as charged.
Holiday entertaining is truly the way to enjoy your collections. Whether it is putting the quilts and coverlets out on the bed (which, by the way, is what our ancestors did at holidays as well) or by pulling china, glass, and silver out, there are a myriad ways to showcase your treasures. Here are a few more thoughts:
• Head to your favorite antiques mall and purchase antique or vintage plates to give away cookies for the holidays. Many oddball plates (glass and china or even tin) are available reasonably, and they make a really great and unique presentation piece.
• Holiday flowers and plants can be housed in vintage containers for a really wonderful effect. Make sure the container housing the flowers/plants is tight and waterproof. We put holiday plants in liners in some of our favorite pottery to decorate the house.
• Start a kid collection! Every mall right now has scads of holiday decorations. In our family, every child gets to pick a holiday decoration every year for the tree. So instead of the big box store, head to the antique mall and buy something that is older. Start that collecting bug early.
• And while it seems like a lot of work, consider a holiday tea party. Old school? Yes, it is! Some work? Absolutely! And lots of fun. I am amazed at how inexpensive (particularly if you get a silver-plate set) tea sets are. So, get a plated set, some teacups and saucers (mixed rather than matched is perfectly okay), and have a tea party. “The Downton Abbey” movie just came out, so build it around that theme. Not sure how to do it? Buy a book from your local used book seller or go online for one of dozens of manners books that tell you how to do it.
So, this is the holiday season. Start or re-invent or re-invigorate some new traditions with your family. I can promise that it will not only be fun, but it will perhaps keep our collecting hobby alive for future generations.

Peter Seibert, a native Pennsylvanian, grew up in the antiques business and remains closely tied to auction houses, collectors, and dealers. Professionally, he has served as a museum director and public historian in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wyoming. He holds a Master of Arts in American Studies from Penn State and has authored two books and numerous articles on decorative arts, interior design, and history.
Peter Seibert

Peter Seibert

Peter Seibert, a native Pennsylvanian, grew up in the antiques business and remains closely tied to auction houses, collectors, and dealers. Professionally, he has served as museum director and public historian in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Virginia. He holds an M.A. in American Studies from Penn State and has authored two books and numerous articles on decorative arts, interior design, and history.

 

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