How Southerners Decorate for the Holidays

Laurey W. Glenn
These four Christmas decorating tricks are the hallmark of Southern holiday homes.

Across the South, the Christmas season is known for good food (and lots of it), festive gatherings, and plenty of elegant home decorations. Give your holiday home an extra dose of charm by incorporating one of these four South decorating traditions.

Festoon with Fresh Greenery
Southerners typically go with fresh decorations, utilizing evergreens clipped from the garden, such as magnolia, boxwood, pine, juniper sprigs, or even a Lowcountry favorite like palmetto fronds. This practice emphasizes the sprit of the season—honoring home and family by elevating simple finds and decorating with what’s close at hand. Lush magnolia garlands and wreaths—placed on and around front doors, as well as across mantels and stair banisters—are especially popular across the South during the holidays due to their glossy green leaves, their impressive longevity when cut, and their abundant availability throughout the year.

Incorporate Edible Decor
Mantels, trees, and wreaths are the perfect spot to feature late-season apples, early-season citrus, and plump pears. These favorites are not only beautiful and inexpensive, but they also serve as reminders of the days when juicy, sweet fruit was a prized holiday treat for rural Southern families during the holiday season. Other classics include unshelled pecans, whole hazelnuts, and fragrant cinnamon sticks, which can liven up centerpieces and fill floral arrangement vases; in addition, whole pineapple—whether in fruit or motif form—can be used to spread an evergreen message of warmth and Southern welcome throughout the household.

Display Heirloom China
Whether it’s North Carolina-made “Holiday” by Lenox, cheerful classic “Christmas Tree” by Spode, or British country-chic “Woodland Pheasant” by Spode, Southerners are pros at mixing their grandmother’s traditional Christmas china with smart, modern table settings, like brightly patterned table clothes, gilded napkin rings, and modern service ware. The beauty of this practice is that it’s nostalgic yet beautiful, reminding guests of Christmases past while also setting a festive tone for a perfectly up-to-date holiday party. Good Southern hostesses also never fail to pull out the good service pieces and silver during the holidays, polished to their original glory.

Preserve Homemade Decorations
Walk into any Southern home, and year after year you’ll always see many of the same Christmas decorations—like Grandma’s holiday needlepoint pillow sitting in same the living room chair, or the grandkids’ handmade place cards (circa 1978) carefully pulled out for the family’s big holiday dinners. This decorating tradition is the epitome of the Christmas season—preserving favorite homemade decorations in order to honor beloved family members and remember good times past.

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