I Will Never Buy Paper Plates Again


Does it ever seem like the new goal of the holidays is to avoid the holidays? The morning news shows urge us to eat at a restaurant or get take out.  No need to cook.  The magazines invite us to use paper plates instead of china. Just sweep all that into a big plastic garbage bag at the end of the meal. No need to work so hard during the holidays!

If I agree that all that is fine for other people, am I allowed to say that I will never buy paper plates again?

Nothing wrong with paper plates.  But I figured out a long time ago that using my own china ($1 per plate from the Noritake factory when we were stationed in Japan!) is a lot cheaper than buying new paper plates every time.

Which makes cents to me. But I just found out that my china habit may be making other people uncomfortable.  Last year, I heard from readers who thought that the whole china thing was too fussy.  One reader noted that their lives were less formal now:

“When friends come over we cook out, play board games. I sometimes hesitate to use china because I don’t want anyone to think I am being too formal.  Formal spaces are uppity spaces.  Went to a charity ball and saw people who must use that stuff, but in my neighborhood we value comfort and friendliness more than ostentation.”

I never thought of the whole china thing as ostentation.  I never thought of it as uppity.  I’m not serving at the White House here.  This isn’t exactly Buckingham Palace.  No one ever comes to my Thanksgiving table but blood relations, dearest friends, and the occasional too-far-from-home sailor or Marine.  In fact, the last time I used my china, one of my guests was sporting a Link costume. How uppity could that be?

Cooking a meal and cleaning the house and preparing a beautiful table are things I like to do. (Well, OK.  I really hate the housecleaning part and I really, really need some help with the vacuuming and floor waxing and general dog hair pick-up-age that needs to go on around here, Family.)

The rest of it I love.  I don’t resent the work of it, thanks. I’m not trying to impress anyone.  I’m not checking what forks people use or criticizing their manners.  I don’t need anyone’s permission not to do the details of the holidays this year as if they were empty rituals.

These rituals are not empty to me. I do these holiday preps because I want to and I need to.  I do it for my own soul.  Like generations of women before me, I need the marker of holidays to force me to put down my regular work and look up.  I need to be physically reminded that time is passing with the season.

Paper plates don’t cut it for me.   I need those Noritake plates on the table to remind me of the Thanksgivings I spent as a girl setting my own mother’s table with her china.  I need those plates to keep me focused on the fact my husband is here for the holidays this year instead of celebrating with 300 other sailors on the ship.  I need that china to reflect into the ever-changing faces of my growing children.  I need it to remind me to call my mother and check how her turkey is roasting in Ohio—because she won’t always be on the other end of the phone.

So I agree that we should drop all the rituals we have that have lost their meaning.  We should experiment with different ways to celebrate holidays over time.  And we should cling to those little works and deeds that make us whole and remind us who we want to be.

About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.

5 Comments on "I Will Never Buy Paper Plates Again"

  1. I grew up having a formal table for holidays and I usually do set a formal table at my own celebrations, using the china my dad bought for my mom as an engagement present 50 + years ago, but this year I don't have enough place settings for all the people coming over. So sadly this year I'm using the prettiest paper plates that I could find. Happy Thanksgiving, Jacey. I'm grateful for all that you do for spouses.

  2. Susan Freemyer | November 21, 2012 at 12:12 pm |

    I love being able to be flexible. I'd rather have a nice set of everyday dishes that I can love and adore than two sets of dishes that I have no room for. Paper plates are great and I have used them before. I love that we can decide what's best for us. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

  3. My china is my "every day" dishes. It is meant to be used not looked at. I go that tidbit from a lady that my mom knew that made beautiful handpainted, custom china items. It is also one of the most durable of materials out there (porcelain china) and will resist chips, cracks, and breakage better than stoneware. I actually know this to be fact as my set of stoneware was constantly getting chipped and I found myself substituting my china in where necessary. Now all my stoneware has been destroyed and my china is still going strong, no chips, no cracks. And it is pretty. I don't set a formal table, I just set the table and I only purchase china pieces now. I don't bother matching patterns, but I do like them to get along with each other if you know what I mean. Enjoy your china, Jacey! You deserve it.

  4. I love my china. Since we married its still at my parents home in the attic, but once we finally buy our house after flight school I'm getting a hutch and that stuff is coming with us. I hate using our normal every day wear for special dinners.

  5. I love getting out the good stuff. I use my china and both my Grandmother's silver plus serving pieces that one belonged to my Grandmothers. I love using the good silver cake cutter that made it's first cut in my wedding cake and has cut every birthday cake since and at least one pie or cake at every holiday ever celebrated in one of our homes. I hope my children use all this china and silver after we are gone and it brings back memories for them like my Grandmother's pieces bring back memories for us.

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