We celebrate the season a little differently down here.

By Betsy Cribb

"These are AWESOME!"

It was Christmas Eve, and my youngest cousin, Chet, had finally gotten the go-ahead to open his first gift of the holidays.

Smiling sheepishly through his braces, he held them up for the rest of us to see: Three or four pouches of plastic fishing grubs, the long, colorful ones with curlicue tails and sparkly flecks, probably picked up at the local bait-and-tackle store.

"Those are the good ones," my dad says of the young fisherman's holiday loot.

Plastic worms for Christmas. Thoughtfully given and happily received. Only in the South.

As with most everything else, we Southerners celebrate the holidays in our own little way: The eggnog is stronger, the carols are louder, and the gift exchanges a little rowdier. So how to know you're experiencing a bona fide Southern Christmas gift swap? You may spot one of the below items under the tree.

Fishing Lures and Shotgun Shells

If there's a sportsman or two in the group, you can bet your bottom dollar that one (or both) of the above will make an appearance. Don't be surprised if uncle Jimmy unwraps a box of clay shooting targets, either.


Tabasco is to hot sauce as Duke's is to mayo: Friends don't let friends eat anything but. And there's no better way to usher friends and family through the cold winter months than with the tangy heat of Louisiana-grown peppers! May we suggest the mini bottle travel packs? They come in a case of 24, so your fire-breathing friends will never be without.


They're a Southern staple for a reason: They stick to your bones and soothe your soul. Stone-ground grits are the best: They're creamy, rich, and suit as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Grits presented in pretty packaging are especially gift-able, though we're more concerned with how they taste than what they look like. One kind of grits you won't find in your stocking? Those of the instant variety. Yuck. Show up with those, and you'll graciously be gifted a one-way flight back to Ohio next year.

Julep Cup

We take our cocktails seriously down here, and red Solo cups aren't going to cut it for warm afternoons on the veranda…much less the Derby. Julep cups are equally pretty left plain or personalized, plus you can never have too many, so it's an ideal gift for someone who already has everything and then some.

MoonPie Merch

There's no doubt about it. Southerners love their MoonPies. And when it comes to the merch the 100-year-old Chattanooga company offers, the options read like Buford "Bubba" Blue talking about shrimp in Forrest Gump: There are single-decker MoonPies and double-decker MoonPies. There are MoonPies in a tin and MoonPies in a box. There are MoonPie T-shirts, MoonPie hats, MoonPie mugs, and even MoonPie candles. The options are endless.

Oyster Shell Ornaments

Southerners are known for being crafty and embracing their natural resources. And if you live in the South within a stone's throw of the water, you've likely been gifted a Christmas ornament fashioned from a recycled oyster shell that's been painted to look like Santa Claus. My family has three.

Pecan Anything

Whether raw, roasted, cinnamon-glazed, tucked into pralines, or baked into melt-in-your-mouth sandies, pecans are always a welcome holiday treat.

But no matter what's being given or exchanged, you can count on one thing to be true: True Southerners always accept gifts graciously and with thanks ... even if they end up with that most unwelcome fruitcake.