The winter holidays mark Iris Poppell’s favorite time of year. Poppell spends long months looking forward to family and friends gathering around the dinner table reminiscing about times past and making new memories. More than anything, she looks forward to one of her most cherished family traditions: pulling out the special china she only uses during the holidays.

“We actually bought our set, ‘Merry Christmas’ by Johnson Brothers, 28 years ago at the Base Exchange when we were stationed in Germany and we’ve used it every single year since then,” says Poppell. “My son was very young then and we had a very special time picking it out together. Through the years it’s become even more special to us because every time we use it, this pattern reminds us of all the good times and good meals we’ve shared and the people who are no longer with us; those are moments that you just can’t get back.”

Poppell’s son hopes to inherit her china so he can continue the family tradition for generations to come. But when Poppell broke some plates, she worried that the tradition might come to an end because the pattern is no longer being manufactured. To her relief, she tracked down pieces through Replacements, Ltd., which specializes in old and new china, crystal, silver and collectibles. Replacements’ staff is finding that Poppell is not alone in making sentimental dinnerware the heartfelt centerpiece of seasonal entertaining; holiday patterns are becoming more popular each year.

In fact, the company’s top selling pattern is “Christmas Tree” by Spode. As its name suggests, the pattern features a colorful Christmas tree as its focal point. Other popular holiday patterns include Fitz and Floyd’s “St. Nicholas,” Lenox’s “Holiday,” “Christmas Rose” by Spode and “Holly Ribbons” by Royal Worcester.

“Our customers clearly have a special attachment to holiday patterns because of the sentiment related to families coming home and gathering together,” says Robin Long, Replacements’ vice president of product marketing and business development. “Using these special patterns at Thanksgiving and Christmas really allows people to continue a family tradition or start a new one. In fact, we hear stories from people who actually make their holiday dinnerware their seasonal centerpiece, then decorate the rest of the house around that pattern.”

Long suggests if you don’t want to invest in an entire Thanksgiving or Christmas pattern set, get creative by mixing and matching holiday-themed salad plates or cups and saucers that coordinate with your main pattern. She adds that you can also top off your meal by using holiday dessert plates. In fact, many dinnerware manufacturers complement their most popular year-round patterns with coordinating holiday accent plates.

But, Poppell finds her dinnerware is far more than just plates and bowls. “This china feels like a part of our family and our holidays would not be the same without it,” she affirms. You can find more popular holiday patterns or learn seasonal decorating ideas at Replacements’ website, : :