Southern Traditions We Want to Bring Back—And You Will Too

Two Girls Practicing Writing

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While we realize that the days of white gloves and calling cards may be gone, good manners and solid traditions should never go out of style. After all, Southern gentility, hospitality, and good manners are as central to a Southerner's identity as sipping a glass of sweet tea on a hot day.

While the world is changing, things like humility, courtesy, and basic politeness are the mainstays of any civilized society, which should never change.

01 of 23

Saying Please and Thank You

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Saying please and thank you are the bedrock of human civility. Children who have just learned to talk can master the art of expressing gratitude, yet many adults have seemingly forgotten the skill.

02 of 23

Saying Sir and Ma'am

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When children call adults sir or ma'am, it is a sign of respect, and teaching children to respect each other and their elders is an important quality. As the Manners Mentor website says, "Respect is so important to emphasize to our children because it's the cornerstone of other invaluable character traits such as tolerance, selflessness, giving, and compassion."

03 of 23

Proper Table Manners

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You don't have to know the proper placement of an oyster fork in a formal table setting to have good table manners. The rules are the same for children or adults: Put your napkin in your lap, talk to people on your left and your right, wait until everyone has their food before eating, and, of course, no phones at the dinner table. (As for that oyster fork, it goes to the right of the spoons, according to Emily Post.)

04 of 23


Two Girls Practicing Writing Cursive on Blackboard
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Cursive writing has existed since at least the 19th century, and there's no reason it should end now just because youngsters prefer texting. Plus, the flowing nature of cursive makes writing thank-you cards and Christmas letters that much easier.

05 of 23

Handwritten Thank You Notes

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Gracious guests always send thank you cards to their hosts as soon as possible after the event. It's the least you can do to thank them for their hospitality, and text messages don't carry the same gratitude as a handwritten note.

06 of 23

Recipe Cards

Old Recipe Cards and Box
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When picnic companions beg for the recipe for your lemon bundt cake, you could send them a link, but it's far nicer to write the recipe on a card for sharing.

07 of 23

Sunday Suppers

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Between PTA meetings, after-school baseball practice, and youth group gatherings, it can be challenging for busy families to sit together for every meal. On Sunday, sitting down to dinner should be prioritized. It's the perfect time for families to share a meal, catch up and be a family.

08 of 23

Holding the Door for Others

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When opening a door, holding it for the person behind you is an easy way to demonstrate your manners. Be sure to thank anyone who does the same for you.

09 of 23

Welcoming New Neighbors

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When someone moves to the neighborhood or the apartment complex, make them feel like they've come home. Bake them banana bread or an apple pie, or if you're not a baker, buy an assortment of treats that will make them feel welcome.

10 of 23

Good Handshake

Young Boys Shaking Hands
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Make a good first impression with a solid handshake that won't leave your new friend wishing they had never stuck out their hand. Ask your most honest friend for an assessment if you're unsure how your handshake rates.

11 of 23

Phone Calls

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Yes, it's easier to text, but phone calls are a much better way to catch up with a friend or family member.

12 of 23


Man in Front of Wall of Clocks
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We're all busy, so don't be rude by showing up late. When you make a plan, stick to it, and don't waste someone else's time by failing to live up to your word.

13 of 23

Church Hats

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Dressing up for church is a Southern tradition, and for women, that frequently included topping your outfit with a church hat. Whether you opt for an elegant, bold, understated, or over-the-top chapeau is between you and your fashion gods. (Perhaps be mindful of whoever has to sit behind you in church.)

14 of 23

Smiling at Strangers

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While strangers get a bad rap, as William Butler Yeats said, strangers are "only friends you haven't yet met," which is particularly true in the South. The art of turning strangers into friends starts with a smile.

15 of 23

Eye Contact

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Making eye contact is the easiest way to let someone know you see them and recognize their shared humanity. When you shake someone's hand, make eye contact. When you pass someone on the street or at the grocery store, make eye contact—and perhaps even smile.

16 of 23

Hospitality (Open Door Policy)

Woman Greeting Man at Front Door
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Genuine Southern hospitality means an open-door policy to family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, friends of friends, and even friendly strangers. While times have changed enough that you need to trust your instincts, generally, when someone shows up on your porch, greet them with a smile and maybe a glass of sweet tea.

17 of 23

Helping Your Neighbors

Woman Holding Casserole
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The rules are simple: Is there a new baby in the neighborhood? Bring them a casserole. Is your neighbor mourning a loss? Bring them a casserole. While the type of casserole is negotiable, the act of showing your neighbors that you support them through food (or flowers or some other creative idea) is not.

18 of 23


Woman Talking on Phone Taking Notes
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While Southerners are known for their hospitality and will undoubtedly always greet a friend with a smile, it's still polite to let your hostess know whether or not you plan to take them up on their offer. Be sure to email, text, or (gasp!) call to give regrets or ask what you can bring to the event.

19 of 23


Schoolgirls Walking and Hugging
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Picking a side and sticking to it is another example of living up to your word. Be loyal to your family, your friends, your sorority, your football team, your state, and your country.

20 of 23

Hostess Gifts

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When someone has invited you into their home, grab a bottle of wine or champagne or bring your hosts your favorite pralines or divinity for them to enjoy later.

21 of 23

No Gossiping

Women Gossiping at the Hair Salon
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If there is anything that we learned from multiple viewings of Steel Magnolias is that it's almost impossible to avoid gossiping at the beauty parlor—and the same goes for brunch or book club. It's hard to avoid gossip, but it's important to try.

22 of 23

Avoid Swearing in Public

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On a similar note, try to avoid swearing in public. It's not always possible, but any Southern woman should be able to make her point loud and clear without swearing. For proof, look no further than Designing Women's Julia Sugarbaker.

23 of 23

Sunday Best

Two Sisters in Their Church Clothes
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Getting everyone out the door to the church, brunch, or both on a Sunday morning can be a challenge—and trying to put a tie on a little boy or wrestling a baby into tights can drive many to prayer, but donning your Sunday best is still a tradition worth keeping. Just remember, it is only once a week.

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