From the kitchen: a simple centerpiece of tea lights in jam jars

Last weekend I hosted my annual holiday cookie swap where ten of my friends descended into my kitchen laden with over a thousand cookies. There’s a reason they call it the most wonderful time of the year – cookie parties, right?

Anyway, I’m not planning to share the details of the event as I have in the past,  however, I wanted to quickly show you my simple centerpiece for the table. I’m all about natural decorating for the holidays, using items already around the house or found in nature, and this centerpiece fit the bill perfectly.

I raided my jar cupboard and set out nearly every empty jar I had on a (homemade) burlap runner. I set tea light into the jars, tossed a few pine cones around them, and in a few minutes, my centerpiece was finished.

Hit the jump for more images and a short list of items needed to make your own warm, festive centerpiece.

I wasn’t that excited about how it turned out until I saw the photo snapped by Melissa (@lostbumblebee on Instagram and Twitter). Sometimes seeing your handiwork through another persons eyes makes you appreciate it more. I loved Melissa’s perspective of the table of cookies – and my candles in jars.

They really gave off a warm glow that set a cozy feel for the evening. We first dined around the flickering lights before heaping the table with cookies and swapping.

I think I’ll leave my candles in jars as is for a few more weeks. I’m thinking the centerpiece would even work beautifully for New Year’s Eve.

From the kitchen: a simple centerpiece of tea lights in jam jars

You will need:

  • At least 12 tea lights, your color choice
  • At least 12 jars, assorted sizes
  • Table runner, or cloth napkins, unfolded
  • Candle lighter, a wand is best
  • (optional) decoration for around the candles such as pine cones, crab apples, clementines or ornaments
  1. Wipe your table and spread the runner down the center, draping it evenly on either end.
  2. Check the jars for cracks or food particles, then arrange them on the runner, tallest in the center and tapering down to the smallest jars.
  3. Place a tea light in the center of each jar. Arrange decoration such as ornaments or pine cones around the jars on the table runner.
  4. Light candles a few minutes prior to guests arrive. Enjoy your warm and festive holiday centerpiece!

Do you make or buy a holiday centerpiece for your table? Any favorites?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says

    I really love the simplicity of this, Aimee. And I think I have everything but the burlap on hand!

  2. So pretty, easy yet so effective! Also love the idea of a cookie swap…not sure if the UK has anything like this. I will definitely need to investigate : )


  3. That centre piece is perfection! My all time favourite! The best part is, I have all of those ingredients here to make my own- I’m on it!)

  4. My friends and I usually fill the jars partway with water and float the tealights (or floating tealights if available) in the jars. This way you can arrange different heights of lighting as well, especially if you fill a quart jar almost to the top and mix it up with short little tealight holders. Using a barbecue (wand) lighter is essential, however—in a pinch, we used a cigarette lighter and tongs to gently lower a lit candle into jars.

  5. So pretty! I love a simple centerpiece, and one that makes sense in a kitchen like your jars do. Great idea!

  6. So, not only do we both stick our tree in a galvanized tub, but we also line our dining table with assorted glass jars stuffed with tea lights? We ARE twins! Your table looks gorgeous…

  7. Gorgeous! We can’t keep any flowers or plants in our house because they’ll just become cat salad, so I’m forced to find alternative centerpieces/arrangements. This is ingenious.

  8. A friend of mine did this for her January wedding. Except, as a previous commenter mentioned, we filled the jars with water at different levels. It was stunning. Thanks for the reminder of how simple and beautiful decorating can be.

  9. I’m going to a cookie swap at a friend’s house, I may just have to volunteer to make the centerpiece so we can do this too! Love it.

  10. I adore simple decorations like this. These turned out so beautiful!

  11. Of course I love this. Jars. Hello. I have a lot of them just waiting to be used.

  12. Love it! So pretty and simple.

    And those masses of cookies! Whoa! Pure awesomeness.

  13. So magical! The cookies look really good too! Reminds me of our Martinmas table, only with the oranges and reds removed, moving into the cold and dark with the illumination of the simple jar and the warmth of the flame within, the leaves having blown away, no more scarlett and golden and this is what we have.

  14. I too have tons of jars waiting for use (in fact, I was forced to send some to the recycle bin last weekend, for lack of storage space.)
    My favorite easy-peasy centerpiece was also for our wedding. I used fish-bowls, with about two inches of blue marbles in the bottom, and nestled a plain white candle in them. Since we got married in an aquarium, it was perfect, and looked quite elegant. (Also, crazy cheap!)
    I can’t wait to go home and do this. Why didn’t I think of this! Thanks!

  15. Aw thanks for sharing this idea. It’s beautiful and I love the simplicity, elegance, and coziness it provides. So many times I see beautiful centerpieces that come with a long list of supplies to purchase and room to store it and living on a budget in a small apartment doesn’t make those centerpieces a reality but THIS Im totally going to do.

  16. Aimee, do your boys ever try to pull down your centerpieces? I love this idea, but do you leave it up during normal days? I know my kids are younger than yours so maybe that makes a difference.

    • Good question, Kayla. My boys are 7 and 4.5, so we didn’t have any issues (so far!). The jars are not that exciting when the candles are not lit, so they are ignored. When they ARE lit? Well, supervision is required. =)

  17. Aimee,
    I LOVE this idea. I am posting a link to this post on my next post, which will go up tomorrow morning.

  18. Chico Food Lover says

    Great centerpiece idea. I should be doing this, thanks for the tip. Is there any height limit on the glass/jars I should use?

  19. So lovely! And, since I always have a million jars around, totally easy! Love it!

  20. My gosh! you really do take wonderful pictures! they took my breathe away! I’m already looking for new stuff for Christmas (and when I say Christmas, I mean the entire month that preceeds it!) so I came here to see some of your works… amazing! I started follow your blog about a year ago, but apparently I missed you Christmas’ posts (I was too busy working in London). Anyway, I can’t wait to see what you’re gonna prepare this year! kisses from Italy!

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