I have no patience for centerpieces I cannot eat. Flowers are pretty—I’ve always thought that—but putting a vase of inedible greenery in the middle of the table just creates a future problem for oneself; that problem being “where do I put this thing to make room for the food?”
Small citrus fruits offer no problems, only solutions. You can find both Navel and Valencia oranges as well as mandarins and grapefruits this time of year with their leaves still attached, and they make a beautiful, functional centrepiece.
The functions are many, but the first is one is a function of health. There are often vegetables during holiday feasts, but rarely any fruit. Yes, you might have cranberry sauce or fruit cakes, but how much of that are you really eating? A couple spoonfuls? Maybe a quarter cup if you’re a big fan? Eating a piece of fruit makes you feel just a bit healthier, a little sunnier, and eating a piece of citrus fruit makes you feel like you’re actively warding off scurvy or some other pirate disease. Even if you follow the fruit with nothing but stuffing and potatoes drowned in gravy and multiple pieces of multiple pies, you can still look back on your day and think “At least I ate four oranges,” and then Google the benefits of vitamin C to further assuage any unnecessary feelings of guilt.
Citrus fruits are also an ideal pre-holiday feast snack. They require no prep work on your part, give your guests something to do—peeling fruit—and it’s an activity that makes the surrounding air smell delightful. Unlike dips and charcuterie boards, there is no chance anyone will eat enough smol citrus bois to ruin the big meal. They are also great for tossing at hungry children, who—unless they are truly tiny—are perfectly capable of peeling the fruit and feeding themselves while you continue to cook dinner.
If centerpieces aren’t your thing, you can use the little fruits as (adorable, cost-effective, edible) seating place holders. Just write each guest’s name on a fruit in Sharpie. (Don’t worry, the ink will not leak through the skin.) I did this once at my grandmother’s house, and let me tell you she was charmed.
So yeah, buy a bunch of oranges, mandarins or grapefruits (with leaves), put them in a bowl, and place the bowl on the table. Your centerpiecing is now sorted.