We’re gracious by default.

Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Hosting for the holidays is a full-time job. Southerners have this down to an art, pulling off dinner parties and cocktail hours with a measure of grace. However, there are a few phrases we hear each year from our holiday hosts that don’t mean what they seem to mean. Let us decode these little holiday lies for you, which are told in such practiced tones that few would suspect what they really signify.

“Of course it’s homemade!”

In the kitchen, Southerners appreciate the beauty of a seamless upgrade to a store-bought item. Canned cranberry sauce with a sprig of basil garnishing the plate, a bowl of packaged mashed potatoes swirled with goat cheese—there is no shortage of ingenious ways to spin a store-bought dish. And, in that sense, the phrase may be a half-truth, but the dish is so delicious that no one really minds.  

“It’s my grandmother’s secret recipe.”

Fifty percent of the time, this is true. The other fifty percent of the time, you can find that secret family recipe in the latest issue of Southern Living, a space to which Southern hosts and hostesses turn for new takes on classic recipes each and every season. However, revealing this truth would prompt the host to share their SL—and no one wants to let go of the latest issue of SL

“I just threw it together.”

When you compliment them, your host or hostess may say “Thank you,” but they might also downplay your praise. Even if they spent hours in the kitchen perfecting your favorite dessert, they may never admit to how long it actually took them to make that beloved caramel cake. Why? They do it because they love you. 

“It’s fine that you brought a guest.”  

During the holidays, the philosophy is, of course, ‘the more the merrier.’ However, when a Southern host or hostess has spent all week preparing and all day cooking, the addition of an unexpected guest can be more than a little trying—especially if the table is set for twelve, and they don’t have a full, matching place setting for number thirteen. A Southerner’s warning: “Don’t mess with my tablescape.”

“I know just where to put this.”

When guests bring a gift—of food, a trinket, a holiday ornament, or flowers—the Southern host or hostess will be appropriately grateful and gracious. However, if guests don’t see their gift on next year’s table or tree, they’ll know to rethink their gifting strategy for the next holiday season. Check out some of our favorite gifts for hosts and hostesses to put together a no-fail holiday gifting strategy this year.

WATCH: Three Tips to Being a Great Hostess This Holiday Season

Have you been known to break out any of these phrases when the holiday season arrives? What are your go-to tips for hosting holiday dinners and parties with friends and family?