Noel at the Newbridge Christmas Table

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Noel Cunningham, hospitality guru, media personality, author and master of etiquette was horrified to hear various health experts suggest that people should use disposable plates and cutlery this Christmas.   “When I heard health experts recommending that people use paper cups and plastic knives and forks for Christmas, I really thought this was just a step too far. What’s wrong with washing cutlery and delph in the dishwasher or using boiling water and washing up liquid?  Yes of course, we all have to be careful and continue to look after each other but really and truly some of the suggestions now being made regarding the use of disposable tableware are beyond ridiculous.”


Noel made the comments recently when he popped into the Showroom at Newbridge Silverware for a live television broadcast with Ireland AM.  In the live show he chatted to presenter, Alan Hughes and gave some great tips on etiquette, how to decorate the Christmas table and how to enjoy the season in a healthy, fun and stylish way.


In the show viewers were treated to a visual feast of beautiful cutlery, vintage ceramics, decorations, and stunning accessories. Firstly, Noel spoke about the table setting itself and showed how the classic ‘King’s Pattern’ Newbridge Silverware cutlery looks timeless and stylish when paired with original ceramic vintage plates and a delicate tea set.  Newbridge Silverware has recently introduced a new range of Pre Loved, one of a kind, vintage luxe pieces such as ceramic figurines, tea sets, marble clocks, silver plated trinkets and lamps. These items are exclusive to the visitor centre and allow people to bring a little bit of individuality to their table and their home.


 “There is an enormous selection of one of a kind, original pieces from the Victorian era right through to the 1980’s, many of which have been reconditioned by the talented craftspeople at the Newbridge Silverware Factory,” said Noel. “They are also very unique and very special gift ideas and incorporate a myriad of memories from a bygone era”.


A ‘Sweet’ Corner on the table included a Pre loved, ceramic Wedgwood cheese board, complete with a cloche covering, an elegant silver cake server, a vintage cut crystal biscuit barrel and an elegant, Newbridge Silverware Victoria Silver plated, 3-tier afternoon tea tray.


Noel also showed how important it is to have a stunning centre piece on the table and explained how candles and candelabras can add height and interest to the Christmas ‘tablescape’.  Some fun and stylish accessories by Newbridge Silverware included a silver bell complete with a figure of a hare on the top, a duck wine decanter, various silver trays and an elegant condiment set, while stylish wine glasses completed the scene.


Vintage Wedgewood Cheeseboard




The Place setting

Silver plated round tray grape motif €75

Pre loved Wedgwood plate €40

Napkin rings Set of 4 €50

EPNS King’s pattern cutlery

Christmas decoration €25


Sweet Corner

Pre loved Wedgwood cake stand €195

EPNS cake server €46

Pre loved vintage cut crystal biscuit barrel €55

Victoria silver plated 3 tier tray €95


Let There be Light!

Silver plated candle snuffer €25

Pre loved Wedgwood candle holder €70





I always guide people toward making life easy for the host or hostess and planning and preparation is key. This year good planning is essential as the spectre of Covid remains.


  • Abide by the advice and have the maximum number of people allowed.   Stick to the recommended number of guests. It is not the year for inviting too many people and certainly the addition of elderly family members calls for extra caution!
  • Remember your guests and family want your company and your presence not a frazzled wreck in the kitchen all day! Be present for your guests, that is what will be remembered!
  • If there is a great product that can be bought in, and there are many that will make your life easier then go and buy these products! There are wonderful Christmas puddings pre-prepared fish, poultry, game, and red meat in all good butchers and in several supermarkets. In other words, shop local and help ease the workload on yourself! Domo’s Emporium at Newbridge Silverware is a stunning new artisan food store and restaurant which sells locally made food stuffs including handmade chocolates, chutneys, and sweet treats, buy what you need and don’t stress!
  • Prepare in advance in as many ways as is possible. I always advise setting the table the day before. Wash your hands thoroughly and sanitise them and ensure all surfaces are clean and sanitised as you prepare the cutlery and glassware.
  • The same applies to foods prepared in advance. Do the preparation and any cooking in a sanitised environment for safety.  I always recommend that a cold starter, a soup a delightful traditional trifle and a Christmas pudding are prepared the day before. A delicious Hors d’Oeuvre, prawn salad or a delicious pate make for great starters.  All the cold items for the starter can be put on a platter and covered in the fridge for speedy plating on the big day. There are amazing simple soups that can all be made in advance and who doesn’t like a great trifle?
  • Prepare all the vegetables the day before and remember you don’t need to serve several different types of vegetables and potatoes! We all eat too much on Christmas Day.
  • If the fridge is full, white wine and Prosecco or Champagne can be left in a cold outhouse or garage which will really chill the wine adequately.   Wine should never be too cold as it spoils the delicious bouquet and flavour. Red wine can be left in the kitchen or in the dining area from the day before, warm to room temperature to enhance its enjoyment!
  • Buy the main meal component, the turkey, beef, ham oven ready prepped by your butcher. Keep it simple.
  • Insist everyone sanitises their hands when they arrive.
  • You will have more people than usual for lunch so for safety there is nothing wrong with using a few tables and if required, two different rooms. Space is important!
  • Let people wear a mask except when eating.
  • Seat people on arrival and have the pre-meal prosecco / wine at the table followed by lunch. The less moving around the better. Go easy on the wine!
  • Ventilate your home well and ask your guests to wear an extra layer.  I don’t mean Baltic, but a very hot room is neither comfortable nor healthy!
  • Allocate a friend or a family member to help with the plating up. The less involved the better.
  • Pre-plate lunch and do not have a million serving dishes etc and everyone using cutlery to serve themselves.
  • Covid Tip! Use hot plates / soup bowls. Hot food should be served on hot plates and in Covid times hot plates are infection free.  Cold plates for starters and sweet courses can be sterilised and kept ready in a cool place.
  • Go for a brisk walk after lunch, fresh air is most advisable.
  • Unless your guests are staying over put a time limit on the meal. A wonderful lunch that extends into a late evening with perhaps a drink or two too many is risky.
  • The table is king! Make it a work of art. Use beautiful glassware, cutlery, family heirlooms, everything works on a Christmas table. I always use a canteen of Newbridge Cutlery that was a wedding gift years ago to a family member.  Holly or berried shrubs from the garden with the addition of a few bows or red roses can look spectacular on a white tablecloth and use loads of candles.
  • The cutlery placing is simple.  Start at the outside and work in for every course.
  • Start the meal with a nice glass of chilled Prosecco or Champagne. Offer red and white wine and let people choose the one they like. The most expensive wine is not always the best and wines are very well displayed and explained in most shops. Just read a little about them if you are not familiar with wine. I find a nice medium white Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio and a nice Spanish Rioja are a delight and well suited to Christmas dining. Don’t mix the grain and the grape!
  • If you bring a gift, make sure it is beautifully presented and practical. Our homes will be full of sweets biscuits chocolates and wine etc so be a little original and choose a nice gift with care for the hosts.
  • Always send a nice note of thanks a few days later … not a text or whatsapp.  A handwritten note means the world even if it is to your mum who lives in the same house.


Newbridge Silver Wine Decanter

Happy Covid free Christmas to all and above all else stay safe and take care!   


Noel Cunningham is the author of ‘Noel Cunningham’s Guide to Modern Irish Manners’ published by O’Brien Press.  He is the current Donegal Person of the Year and the former GM of Harvey’s Point Hotel in Donegal and now an ambassador for the property.  He is also a well-known contributor to Virgin Media, RTE and various national and local radio stations.

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