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Preface to the Red Plate Stories

Twenty-two years ago my wife and I were given a red plate as a wedding gift. Over the years it has made numerous appearances at our table in times of celebration and struggle. It has always been the sign that the person who has it set at his or her place in held in special regard. I look at the times when it has been used, anniversaries, birthdays, recognition of good grades or a job well done, in addition to my mother's first dinner with us following her recovery from cancer surgery and recently at my youngest son's birthday (his birthday, 9/11/2001) We encourage those who purchase a plate or celebrate this tradition to send us your story, so that we can share it with others. Email to Red Plate Story. In the mean time, here are a few of the best stories we have found as we searched the web for articles on the Red Plate tradition.



The "Magic of the RedPlate"
from Waechtersbach, the manufacturer of the You are Special Plates.

It was a time honored tradition among early American families that when someone deserved special praise or attention they were served dinner on the red plate. Today this custom, so dear to early American families, returns to remind us that a simple reward can mean so much. The Red Plate is the perfect way to acknowledge a family member's special triumphs...celebrate a birthday...praise a job well done...reward a goal achieved...or simply say "You Are Special Today." When the Red Plate is used, any meal becomes a celebration honoring that special person, event or deed. It is a visible reminder of love and esteem. A way of showing someone dear to you that they are appreciated and remembered. The Red Plate is designed and crafted to become a family heirloom as it is cherished and passed from one generation to the next marking life's important milestones. The Red Plate...Make it a tradition in your family, symbolizing the good and happy times. It will speak volumes of love, when words just aren't enough.


Every Family Needs a "Red Plate"
Adapted from CREATING FAMILY TRADITIONS—A Gift of Roots and Belonging, By Barbara A.Glanz

The Idea:
For many years the "Red Plate" has been our favorite family tradition. It is just that--a bright red plate with white hand painted lettering along the edge that reads, "YOU ARE SPECIAL TODAY." It came with the following explanation:

The Red Plate is the perfect way to acknowledge a family member's special triumphs, to celebrate a birthday or praise a job well done, reward a goal achieved, or simply to say, "YOU ARE SPECIAL TODAY." When the Red Plate is used, any meal becomes a celebration honoring a special person, event, or deed. It is a visible reminder of love and esteem. The Red Plate -- make it a tradition in your family, symbolizing the good and happy times. It will speak volumes of love when words just aren't enough."

The Idea in Action:
The "Red Plate" is one of the best ways we have found to bring joy, affirmation, and encouragement to different members of our family and friends. Whenever we have a guest for dinner, he or she gets the "Red Plate." Whenever there is a special occasion--from birthdays, the first night home after being at camp or college, finishing a hard project or getting a good grade on a test, that person gets the "Red Plate." (I have even heard of families who bring it with them to a restaurant when they are having a surprise party for someone!)

However, the most important use for our Red Plate, I think, has been for the hard times, those times when someone has worked and worked to get a part in a play or make a team or win an election, and they have been disappointed. Someone in the family always makes sure they get the "Red Plate" that day as a symbol that they are still special, no matter what has happened.

One of my favorite stories about the Red Plate was at a time when our daughter Erin had just gotten home from the hospital and could not return to school for a few more days. She called me at work one of those mornings to tell me she had folded some clothes for me. I said, "Oh, Honey, thank you. That was really nice. Why don't you have the Red Plate for lunch?" She responded, "Oh, Mom, can I?" The Red Plate is always there in the cupboard, but you can see the special significance it has for our family. I now always give it as a shower or wedding gift to special young couples who are starting their own family traditions.

Several years ago I gave the Red Plate to the Robert Freeman family of Lansing, Michigan, and they have found a very special use for it. Since their children are all grown and live all around the country, they sometimes are only all together at Christmas. They started a tradition that each year at Christmas the family votes on who has accomplished or grown the most during the past year, and that person is rewarded by getting to take the Red Plate to their home to use for the next year. Robert related the decision process to me for 1998. He said each of his children had a wonderful year--Jamille is going to teach in Japan for the coming year, Cynthia moved from Iowa to Texas, and Chevelle also moved and got a huge promotion. (Robert says he doesn't say much but just runs the meeting.) The final decision was that all those things were wonderful but sort of "run of the mill" for the girls. The person who really deserved the Red Plate was Dion because he finished his Bachelor's Degree, the greatest accomplishment of all!

The "Red Plate" is a fun and visible way to create a new family tradition and to show support, encouragement, and love. Legends grow up around who got the "Red Plate" and why, and you can even write on the back of the plate with a permanent marker the different times you have used it. Over the years the "Red Plate" has been the bearer of many deposits in family members' emotional bank accounts!

The Red Plate Makes It Special!

By Ken Tudhope as found on

Celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of our Kids is very important and we use the RED PLATE to do it. The RED PLATE is a red dinner plate with large white letters that say "You are special today."

It is given to kids on birthdays, promotions, commencements, awards, championships, acts of kindness, and other accomplishments. Moms and Dads mostly get to eat off the RED PLATE on birthdays, anniversaries, mother's day, and father's day.

At our house the person receiving the RED PLATE gets to choose the meal. They get their choice of drink (the kids always choose a soda). When "you are special today" you get to help yourself to the food first and you get to lead the prayer.

The RED PLATE makes the dinner table a celebration. We learned about the RED PLATE from an elderly woman who had used it in her home for three generations.