Have yourself a merry little Christmas south of the Mason-Dixon.

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By the time December rolls around, displaced Southerners and Southerners-at-heart are dreaming of coming home for Christmas and ready make a journey South for the holidays. Bags packed and plane ticket in hand, they're thinking of long afternoons spent in the kitchen nibbling mom’s home-cooked dishes and leisurely evenings curled up on the sofa, catching up with family under the twinkling holiday lights. There’s nothing nicer than escaping the daily grind for a week or two to come home for Christmas with the family, especially when your compass is pointed South. Once you cross the Mason-Dixon—by plane, train, or automobile—you have officially left the hustle and bustle behind. What awaits you, from food to family to mild winter weather, ensures that nothing (and we mean nothing) beats coming home for Christmas in the South.

Here are a few things we love about coming home for Christmas in the South:

Seconds, please.

No one cooks quite like our Southern mamas, which means that home cooking is usually enough of a draw to get anyone home for Christmas. Of course she knows all of your favorite dishes, but it’s nice to put in an early December request so that you can fill up on your favorites while you’re at home. You may want to fast for a while before your departure flight, though, because coming home for Christmas in the South involves a delicious marathon of Southern cuisine. A starry showing of delectable entrees, show-stopping sides, and sweet holiday treats beckon us from the kitchen. On Christmas day, Southern tables are filled with the best of the best from our holiday recipe boxes and favorite cookbooks. (Pro tip: You should definitely pack stretchy pants for this trip home.)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

It might be sunny and unseasonably warm outside, but Southerners can create a winter wonderland anywhere, especially inside the home. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, closets across the South are emptied, boxes of holiday decorations are unpacked, and Southern homes are decorated to the nines. Garlands galore, wreaths adorned with ribbons and berries, Christmas trees laden with family ornaments, and Santa statues collected over decades—it’s tradition, and it wouldn’t feel like Christmas if our homes weren’t filled with our family’s Christmas heirlooms. Add some of the best music—favorite Southern holiday albums like Dolly Parton’s Home for Christmas and Johnny Cash’s Classic Christmas—and you are guaranteed to have yourself a merry little Christmas.

We’re walking in a warmer winter wonderland.

Forget Snowpocalypse. Depending on where you are in the South, you may only need a light jacket. With wide-ranging weather from the Gulf coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains and all the way to the Texas Hill Country, your holiday activities will vary. You might be lounging on the beach, shopping through downtown, or throwing a few well-packed snowballs. This is a season in which we savor our Southern weather—for most areas, though, the spectrum of holiday weather falls between a dusting of snow and a balmy 50 degrees.  

It’s the most wonderful family dinner of the year.

Family gathered around the table is one of the hallmarks of a happy Christmas. As long as you steer clear of talking politics with your aunts and uncles, Christmas dinner can be the loveliest meal of the year. Throughout the holiday, family arrives at the house, bringing casseroles, visiting, and meeting new members—in-laws and new babies alike. There’s excitement in the air and hugs all around. But once you sit down to Christmas dinner in the South, there’s also a tangible sense of community and tradition that you can treasure all year long.