It’s Not Christmas Without Smilax—The Southerner’s Holiday Greenery Of Choice

In my family’s home, no surface is complete without it.

Fireplace Decorated with Garland, Ribbon, and Lemons
Photo: Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Lilt Floral Design

In my family, decorating for the holidays has always been a team effort: Aunt Barbara dresses up the mailbox with greenery and a big red bow; Dad puts out the sentimental items like his grandparent’s nativity scene and our childhood craft projects; and mom and I, usually with Aunt B’s help, set the table for Christmas dinner. As kids, we always decorated the Christmas tree as a family but that has fallen on my parents’ plate over the years. However, there’s one task my parents save for the last-minute for us to do together. 

A few days before Christmas, and sometimes even on Christmas Eve, we hop in the car and drive about 10 minutes out of town to an overgrown piece of land my family owns. There, we’ll break out our garden gloves and clippers and pull smilax from the trees and bushes, packing the back of my dad’s truck full with yards and yards of the skinny, unruly vine.

Smilax, while technically a weed, is a treasure in our household. It often gets a bad rap but come Christmastime, my family thinks of the waxy green leaves as free decor from the South Georgia woods. (And what’s not to love about that?!) We bring bushels of it inside, framing mirrors in the living room, dining room, and above the nativity with it. We sprinkle some in the garland that lines the dining room table, fill a big wooden bowl with it on the kitchen countertop, and if we have leftovers, we’ll throw pieces around picture frames and knick knacks on the antique piano by the Christmas tree. The salvaged greenery won’t live through New Years but it’s the final layering piece that completes our holiday decor. And, for my family and me, it’s not Christmas in South Georgia without it. 

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