Our Favorite Southern Style Experts Share Their Time-Honored Holiday Traditions
The holidays are a joyful time, especially in the South. With falling temperatures comes the stringing of twinkle lights, baking of warm meals, and heart-warming traditions that bring us comfort and joy. What is it that makes the season so unique? We think it's connecting with loved ones, nature, and cozy nostalgia, all wrapped into one.
To celebrate the season, we've asked creative Southerners to share their own traditions, both new and old. Perhaps you, like Louisiana designer Lance Thomas, enjoy time in the kitchen and bringing greenery indoors. "The smell of a homemade roux and fresh-cut fir is unbeatable," he says. You may celebrate on a non-traditional day to make gathering easier for loved ones, like Barbara Adkins of Alabama's Black Sheep Antiques. "Christmas, with all its love and meaning, can happen any day of the year that we can be together," she says. Designer Dana Wolter looks forward to her Grandma's famous recipe and Santa Claus dropping by, while Marie Flanigan keeps gingerbread making kits at the ready for little ones.
No matter where or how you celebrate, holiday magic is undoubtably in the air. As we get our homes and hearts ready to celebrate this season, we hope you enjoy this collection of stylish traditions.
Source Decorations From Nature
Virginia is well known for its natural beauty, especially during the holidays. Pippin Hill Farm's Nicole Adland says their creative team sources seasonal accents found in nature each year. "One of our most memorable traditions is adorning the main winery entrance with grapevine wreaths to create a warm, festive, and welcoming atmosphere," she says. Pippin Hill's horticulturalists forage for evergreens and pinecones to create wreaths from the site's natural surroundings. "The grapevine base pairs perfectly with the vineyard, and the finished product is a simple and natural wreath design," she says.
Display A Silver Bell Collection
Each year, Christian Ladd of Christian Ladd Interiors incorporates a collection of silver bell ornaments into her decorations. "I have a love for silver and have collected Reed & Barton's Silverplate Holly Bell Ornaments over the years. I like to include them in my table settings and set them out around my home as decor," she says. Since each bell ornament is marked with the year it was made, Ladd uses ornaments with her children's birth years as place cards. "I am a proponent of collecting classic pieces and getting as much use out of them as possible, especially when they are rooted in tradition," she says. "It's little details like that that make the holidays so special."
Add Sparkle To Store Windows
Charleston's Rhett Ramsay Outten of Croghan's Jewel Box enjoys the process of decorating the window of their historic shop at 308 King Street. "We order in supper for our staff, pop open the wine, and everyone comes together to turn the store into a magical menagerie of holiday grandeur," she says. "We unpack hundreds of ornaments and put together a window that always has a little movement, too many Christmas lights and a whole lot of sparkle!"
Serve Up A Warm Breakfast
"We believe true Southern hospitality always involves a meal," says Gen Sohr of Pencil & Paper Co., who enjoys celebrating the season with a comforting breakfast spread. "We love the tradition of gathering at a festive holiday table for a big, yummy country breakfast to celebrate the season," she says. "There is nothing more homey and delightful than fresh from the farm eggs and homemade biscuits with those that you love the most."
Send Holiday Cards With Love
Courtland Stevens, Owner of Courtland & Co. in Savannah, Georgia, loves the process of designing her yearly Christmas card. "Never has there been a year forgotten," she says. "I spend too much time fiddling with colors, composition, setting, verbiage, and of course, the clothing!" According to Stevens, there is beauty in the details when it comes to the card design itself. "There is not a card stock thick enough or a hand-painted beveled edge colorful enough," she says. "I think it is such a thoughtful way to wish those near and far a happy holiday."
Pass Down Heirloom Ornaments
For Atlanta's Amy Morris of Amy Morris Interiors, a cherished silver ornament tradition brings meaning to the season. "Every year since I was a little girl, my mom has given me a sterling silver Cross ornament for our Christmas tree," she says. "We have passed this special tradition down to my girls. Every year, my older daughter is given an angel ornament, and my younger daughter is given a snowflake. I also have all of my mom's silver ornaments from when she was a child, representing the Twelve Days of Christmas. Our Christmas tree has three generations of beautiful silver ornaments on it that means so much to our family. We look forward to continuing this tradition for generations to come as our family grows."
Create A Vintage Look With Nature
Savannah's Paula Danyluk of The Paris Market and Brocante turns to the outdoors for her holiday decorations. "We love bringing nature into our house during the holidays," she says. "My daughter and I forage for branches, acorns, and pecans. The random feather or piece of lichen will usually make it into a display. My vintage monogrammed linens from France are a must!"
Bring Garlands And Wreaths Indoors
Memphis designer Sean Anderson of Sean Anderson Design enjoys filling his home with lush greenery year after year. "Rather than having a traditional tree, I prefer to use evergreen throughout the house," he says. "I have garlands and wreaths in almost every room. Nothing compares to the scent of freshly cut fir and pine when getting into the spirit of the holidays."
Transform A Chandelier For The Season
As the holidays approach, Tennessee Artist David Arms transforms a chandelier in his gallery to add warmth and drama. "It has become a tradition to turn our chandelier into an over-scaled breathtaking moment for such a small space," he says. "It represents our favorite combination of earthy and elegant. Here we used a combination of vintage ornaments, vintage Christmas photos, and handmade cotton ribbon. Even though it has a grand effect, it connects to the sentimental, warm side of Christmas."
Design Your Own Holiday Wreath
Lily Peterson of Charleston's Flowershop enjoys designing seasonal wreaths when the weather starts to turn. "For me, wreath making marks the beginning of the holiday season," she says. "It ushers in a flurry of fragrant evergreens, berries, and richly textured and deeply colored greens. My annual wreath-making workshop is my favorite event of the year. Less intimidating and more festive than teaching floral design, it is so rewarding to see a little twinkle of pride as everyone puts that final touch on their very own holiday wreath."
Share Handmade Gifts With Loved Ones
Atlanta Artist Sally King Benedict loves being at home during the holiday season. "It's the ideal time to cozy up, relax, and cook with family and friends," she says. "In the South, with all four seasons, it also feels special and traditional to get to decorate with fresh magnolia cuttings and other Southern flora from right outside our doors. A new favorite holiday tradition we have is that I make hot sauce and hand deliver to neighbors near and far. I paint the bottle before delivery. It brings joy to be able to give our friends something that's creative and homemade."
Deck The Halls Al Fresco
According to Hotel Manager Alexandra Dunlop, Charleston's boutique hotel Zero George enjoys merrymaking year round but becomes "particularly sparkly and full of festive cheer" during the holiday season. "We bring on the holiday spirit by decking out our courtyard and circa 1804 restored historic brick carriage houses with seasonal decor and accents," she says. "One of our favorite holiday traditions is enjoying dinner alfresco at the onsite restaurant and bar (with a view of the Christmas tree in the courtyard) before heading inside for a night-cap."
Share Ornaments At The Kids Table
For designer Shelly Rosenberg of Acorn & Oak, a highlight of the holiday is designing a magical kids table for little ones. "The ethos of Acorn & Oak is to meet our children where they are; to see traditions through new eyes," she says. "Creating a special kids' table adds another element of ah to the holiday. I love to incorporate an ornament into the kids' tablescape, so there is a little something for them to remember the occasion."
Elevate Holiday Meals With Dishware
"I love bringing out our 'good china' for the holidays," says Houston designer Katie Davis of Katie Davis Design. "Fancy place settings set the tone for a chic, Southern holiday dinner, and they are a conversation starter. One Christmas, we had just moved to our quaint bungalow in Houston (before we even had furniture). I put two 10-foot folding tables together, layered on white tablecloths, garland, candles, and, of course, my festive Bernardaud china. In our new home, in our makeshift dining space, while sitting in folding chairs, the meal was made special and felt significant because of those settings."
Build Houses And Memories
Marie Flanigan of Marie Flanigan Interiors hosts a day of festive gingerbread house building for the children in her family. "It's both incredibly messy and incredibly fun," she says. "It's important to me that everyone feel the warmth of the holidays within our walls, so I set up two Christmas trees, one in my living room and one in the garage apartment where family stays. I also gather gingerbread house making kits and stock the fridge with lots of pre-prepped treats, so a yummy snack is only minutes away."