Thanksgiving, 5 ways to use Cranberries in Centerpiece

When cranberries start making an appearance in the grocery store it can only mean one thing: the holidays are upon us! These bright red berries have become a staple of the traditional Thanksgiving meal, but they can do far more than just serve as a delicious side dish.

Try utilizing the berries vibrant color to your decorating advantage this Thanksgiving by making one of these five different centerpiece ideas.

Tall Vase with Cranberries – Start with a relatively large, clear vase – any shape will do – and fill it with fresh cranberries. Fill the vase with water and stick cut flowers into the vase. The cranberries will act as a structuring agent that will allow you to arrange the flowers without a lot of fuss. A variation of this idea is to float a flower on the surface of a short vase and let the cranberries float around it.

Cranberry Topiary – You will need a heavy candle stick, two Styrofoam balls, two bags of fresh cranberries, ½ inch wooden dowel cut to desired height, toothpicks, candle putty, red and green acrylic paint and a paint brush. Stick the dowel all the way through the first ball, leaving an inch or two sticking out, and push it halfway into the second ball. Paint the dowel green and the balls red. Break the toothpicks in half. Using half a tooth pick, go halfway into the cranberry and poke the rest of the toothpick into the Styrofoam ball. Continue putting the cranberries onto the ball, keeping them as close together as possible, until the ball is completely covered. It’s easier to work in bunches instead of lines when covering the balls. Keep going until both balls are totally covered in cranberries. Using the candle putty, stick the end of the dowel into the candlestick, then fill in with the putty until its stable.

Floating candles – Fill a clear punch bowl (or another large, clear vessel) ¾ full of water. Float cranberries and candles on top of the water. Light the candles just before dinner, as floating candles don’t typically have a long burn time.
Row of candles – Take several clear square glass vases or vessels of various heights. Fill the bottom couple of inches with cranberries, then nestle votive candles into the cranberries. If you have a larger vessel, a pillar candle might be more appropriate. Place a table runner down the middle of the table and set the candles 1 to 2 feet apart down the center of the table. Make sure there is no fragrance to the candles that you use since you’ll be burning them during dinner – you wouldn’t want the fragrance of the candles to compete with the smells of the food! Light the candles right before dinner.

Tray of candles – Select a large rectangular plate, much like one you might serve appetizers on, and place candles in glass votive cups down the center of the plate. Fill in around the candles with cranberries. The larger the plate, the bigger the impact, but keep in mind the size of the dining table and make sure the centerpiece is not too big or too small.


Fresh cranberries will stay fresh in an arrangement for about a week, so feel free to make up your centerpiece ahead of time to help save time on Thanksgiving Day.

To extend the life of the cranberries on the topiary, spray them with an even coating of shellac.

An alternative idea to the cranberry topiary is to follow the same directions, but eliminate the dowel and completely cover a Styrofoam ball. Place the ball on a candle holder, plate or other surface.

If you don’t want to use fresh cranberries you can buy fake cranberries at your local craft store. This will also allow you to save your centerpiece for use again next year.

Many of the centerpieces use candles, but if you have small children around you may want to opt for battery operated candles instead of the real ones.

There are many different, creative ways that you can incorporate cranberries into your holiday centerpiece. Often, the big turkey acts as a centerpiece all on its own, and if you’re planning on using the bird as the centerpiece you can sprinkle cranberries on the serving tray all the way around the turkey. This will give the turkey platter a pop of extra color. As you’re making your centerpiece, be sure to set some extra cranberries aside for a side dish – no Thanksgiving meal is complete without a serving of cranberries to complement the turkey!

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