From stuffed bellies to glad tidings, holidays in the South are filled with warm welcomes and good memories. We asked members of our Southbound family to share their favorite Southern holiday traditions and travels—festive decorations at Biltmore Estate, classic New Orleans cuisine, Atlanta’s annual Peach Drop, and much more—to celebrate the spirit of the season.
What holiday tradition represents the South to you and why?
“Hoppin’ Johns and collard greens on New Year’s Day. Before I moved to Georgia, I had never even heard of these traditions. Now I eat extra helpings to make up for years of lost luck.”
—Allison Entrekin, Executive Editor
“Growing up in New Orleans with a large family was such a treat every Thanksgiving since food and New Orleans go hand in hand. My mother would have several turkeys, spreads of food covering an entire table, and a large Doberge cake from the famous Gambino’s Bakery. We would all gather around the huge oak tree in front of the house for a family picture after our meal.”
—Laura Jacobson Turner, Senior Account Executive
“I grew up with a distinctly Southern holiday playlist. When December rolled around, Mama would stack her Elvis Christmas albums on the spindle of the record player, and we’d spend the season listening to “Merry Christmas, Baby” and the King’s covers of classics from “Blue Christmas” (Mama’s favorite) to “Winter Wonderland.” Daddy’s favorite album was Christmas with Jimmie Rodgers, and I can’t tell you how many times we played “Up on the Housetop.” Later, Alabama’s “Christmas in Dixie” would be added to the rotation, along with Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas.” So for me, a Southern Christmas begins with the soundtrack.”
—Kevin Benefield, Editor-in-Chief
“I love the Candlelight Christmas Tour of Biltmore and the gingerbread house competition at the Grove Park Inn. They’re fun for all ages.”
—Jon Brasher, Associate Publisher
Do you and your family have any special holiday traditions?
“Thanksgiving in South Georgia will always mean my grandmother Maxie’s dressing. The early shift in the kitchen belongs to the person willing to pitch in by chopping multiple loaves of white bread into tiny cubes to be mixed into her recipe, which is still not written down, but lives in her head. A few hours later, the golden, fragrant dressing emerges from the oven and steals the show, often upstaging even the roasted turkey. It’s the ultimate comfort food, just served at this time of year—making it that much more special.”
—Jennifer Green, Senior Editor
“My favorite holiday tradition is my family’s annual Hanukkah party. It’s a chance to bring our friends and family together to light the candles and celebrate the holiday season. Every year there is tons of food. Latkes and briskets are a given. My mom has perfected the brisket. (It is so good it tastes like bacon, which makes you an idol to any Jew—just ask them!) We hold a dreidel tournament. The winner walks away with all the Hershey’s gold nuggets and bragging rights until the following year. And let’s not forget the gingerbread house building contest—Hanukkah style. You won’t find anything but blue frosting here!”
—Lauren Kuzminsky, Sales and Client Services Coordinator
“Moving from South India to the South, my family brought with us the tradition of hanging a huge star made of paper outside our house from Thanksgiving to the New Year. My mom says it commemorates the North Star. Coming from the tropical part of India, Christmas pines were new to us! So we took special pride in decorating our Christmas tree. There is still a fresh and renewed excitement about decorating our tree every year, no matter how long we have been in the United States.”
—Aadithya Prem, Editorial Assistant
Do you and your family ever travel during the holidays?
“I haven’t lived in the same city as my family for a few years now, so I always travel to see them. They live in Charlotte. When I was living in Missouri, that was a 15-hour drive, but I would usually stop halfway, in Knoxville, to stay with my aunt and uncle. One year, when I was driving home for Christmas, they were traveling, but they told me to stop anyway. Just swing by the house, they said. When I got there, they had left me a box of date pinwheel cookies, my favorite family recipe. That was it. Their thoughtfulness meant a lot to me. It made the rest of the drive so much more bearable.”
—Beth Castle, Associate Editor
“We never, ever travel during the holidays. The very idea is beyond foreign to my family. In fact, I’d say that Mama, Daddy, and my sister, Susan, regard folks who leave home during Christmas with a mix of bewilderment and downright hostility. So far as my people are concerned, there’s no place like home for the holidays. (That said, Mama and Susan have visited Biltmore on day trips very early in December to check out the legendary decorations.)”
—Kevin Benefield, Editor-in-Chief
“With some of our cul-de-sac neighbors, we would make the long journey up to Lake Lanier for their Magical Nights of Lights, and its acres of dancing, glowing sculptures. After driving through, our carpool would stop at the gift shop area and roast s’mores around the bonfires while the sounds of Christmas carols piped in from the storefronts nearby. It was a good way to get in the holiday spirit and get out of town, even if that town was only two counties away.”
—Mark Ziemer, Senior Art Director