You’ll Never Convince Me That Holiday Dishes Are Impractical

published Nov 22, 2023
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decorative thanksgiving turkey platter
Credit: Jessie Quinn

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Every holiday season, my dad does the honor of unwrapping my grandmother’s two large vintage plates and a few serving bowls with cottagecore designs featuring — of course — turkeys. Seeing the treasured heirlooms on our Thanksgiving table brings me just as much joy as that first bite of pumpkin pie.  

We began using my grandmother’s dishes in 2018 when she handed them off to my dad (her son) once she stopped hosting the holiday. They instantly added a special touch to the meal. It may seem like a small addition, but the large platters require extra storage — a hurdle that would make it easy to keep them stowed away. Here’s why I think dedicated holiday plates are worth the storage space and the effort to take them out and put them away again. 

Are Holiday Plates Worth It? 

Whether handed-down or brand-new, holiday plates serve a dual purpose: They add a finishing touch to your tablescape and inspire a feeling of family tradition. My family’s Thanksgiving platters are the same ones my dad passed the turkey with when he was a child. They tell a story of past gatherings and are a tangible reminder of almost 70 years of to enjoy each other’s company.

The plates have also ignited a newfound love for Thanksgiving within my dad, mom, sister, and me, and have made us all excited to create a feast together. We spend days prepping in a designated group chat to stay organized. My husband and dad cook the Thanksgiving turkey together, my sister and I share appetizer duties, and my mom tackles the sides. 

After dinner, we play games together in the family room — this year, my mom has challenged my husband to a game of giant Jenga! I love knowing these new memories will one day be associated with carefully pulling out the passed-down Thanksgiving platters.

Sure, we could use everyday dishes, but you know what? I don’t want to pass turkey on a random plate from the cupboard. I want the storied platter that reminds me of excitedly texting with my mom as we try to nail down what size turkey we should order or watching the parade as I cook one of my designated dishes, the cranberry sauce.

What If You Don’t Have Extra Storage Space?

My parents store their holiday dishes in the awkward cabinet above their fridge, which, luckily, is deep enough to hold them. Even though my dad has to climb onto a chair every year to reach the plates, he believes it’s totally worth it — those dishes give him an instant hit of nostalgia. 

Of course, not everyone has a cabinet above the fridge, even an awkward one. Some kitchens barely have room for one set of plates, let alone an extra holiday assortment. I would argue that it’s still worth making room somewhere (at the top of a clothes closet or under a bed skirt, for example) for holiday dishes; it’s almost magical how they can conjure up decades-old memories and meaningful moments from more recent holidays.

And if you really, really don’t have space, let me suggest starting smaller: Even the tiniest touches can spark holiday joy. Over the years, my mom and dad have added to our shared Thanksgiving collection with smaller pieces like a turkey-shaped gravy boat, fall-themed salt and pepper shakers, and an autumnal butter dish. 

I love that these new items stir up the same feeling of cherished tradition as the massive platters, but don’t take up as much space. You can stow them in the way back of your cabinets or wherever you have spare room. Something as small as a holiday mug can get you into the spirit and hold special memories.

What If You Don’t Have Any Family Holiday Serveware?

If you don’t have passed-down heirlooms, I highly recommend building your own holiday dish collection. You can start small — the dishes don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Even a single holiday platter or decorative serving bowl will immediately imbue a new sense of family tradition into the holiday.

invite classic cheer to your tablescape. But if you want to start your collection with new items, whether you’re looking for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or winter-inspired kitchenware, I have you covered.  

1 / 10

This stunning design looks like a vintage platter with a modern touch. The detailing is inspired by the harvest season, but the design is versatile enough to be used year-round.

2 / 10

I’m obsessed with this “Twelve Days of Christmas” set, with 12 dessert-sized plates bringing to mind the classic carol. You can buy your favorite designs individually if you don’t have space to store a dozen.

3 / 10
Sur La Table
was $12.95

Ring in the Festival of Lights with this gorgeous Hanukkah design. It has an illustrative menorah front and center and is outlined with a botanical-inspired print featuring dreidels and the Star of David.

4 / 10
Pottery Barn

Snap up this adorable gingerbread piece, which is part of a serveware collection that features appetizer plates and two serving platters, plus mugs to match.

5 / 10

You’ll barely notice these small plates hanging out in your cupboard or holiday storage bin, but they’ll deliver maximum cheer on your table.

6 / 10
Crate & Barrel

With a subtle snowflake design, you can introduce this plate at the beginning of the holiday season and continue to use it throughout winter, making it well worth the additional storage space.

7 / 10
Pottery Barn
was $59.00

This ultra-sweet set comes with four plates shaped like snowmen wearing festive red scarves with wintery snowflake details on top. They’re great for desserts, cheese and charcuterie, and small appetizers.

8 / 10

Subtle pops of red and green will give you that holiday feeling as you sip cocoa, coffee, or tea. Maybe even some mulled wine?

9 / 10

You’ll never forget what you’re celebrating when you season your food with these shakers adorned with red-and-green geometric designs and pops of gold.

10 / 10

Pass the butter in this dish designed with a classic winter scene depicted in a festive yet subtle color scheme.