It goes way beyond the cornbread dressing, y'all.

By Valerie Fraser Luesse
woman serving turkey
It goes way beyond the cornbread dressing, y'all.
| Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStoc/Getty Images

When it comes to holiday traditions—particularly holiday entertaining—the difference between Christmas and Thanksgiving is that Christmas begins sometime in late August (if you shop at Hobby Lobby) and extends until midnight on December 31, whereas Thanksgiving is one day, one meal. (Well . . . one meal plus enough leftovers to load a flatbed truck.) There are no twinkling lights to distract loved ones from a dry turkey, no Handel's Messiah to remind them that "it's not about the dressing."

No, Thanksgiving in the South is all about the meal and the family who come together to share it. This holiday is about gratitude for all that we have, lovingly expressed through pecan pie and sweet potato casserole. (It's also about keeping an eye on the clock because we don't want to miss kickoff.)

We polled our Facebook Brain Trust and asked: What are the signs that you're celebrating Thanksgiving in the South? Here's what they said. Let us know if you agree.

  1. You're wondering which cousin's house is on the rotation to host this year (and praying it's not your turn).
  2. The house is a flurry of cleaning, grocery shopping, more cleaning, back to the grocery store, and then cooking for what seems like days, only to wonder where in the world you're going to put all that food because the fridge and your auxiliary freezer in the carport are overflowing.
  3. Mama, who believes in helping with the dishes no matter who's hosting, brings home a new pair of Playtex Living Gloves from the Big Star and says, "Now put those in the box going to Mississippi."
  4. There are turkey-themed wreaths on Mama's front door. And her powder room door. And her garage door.
  5. The host sets up a "child's table" because there isn't room for everybody at the "big table." (FYI, some of us were seated at the child's table until we married.)
  6. Family members are thoughtful enough to arrive with their own Tupperware so they can divvy up and transport massive quantities of leftovers.
  7. Aunt Mertis drops the creamed corn on her way into the kitchen, leaving Mama'n'em to debate whether Busch's Original Recipe is a suitable substitute.
  8. You hear a familiar announcement: "Y'all get ready to eat—we've just got to warm the rolls."
  9. The ambrosia is served in a punch bowl—a big punch bowl—and there's a chance we'll run out.
  10. The cranberry sauce has little dents in it from the can it came out of (because Mama'n'em couldn't get fresh cranberries back in the day, and now they're partial to Ocean Spray).
  11. A cut-glass relish tray holds apple rings, pickled peaches, and crabapples, all from a jar, purchased at the grocery store. We will not see the relish tray again until Christmas. And then it disappears until the next Thanksgiving.
  12. Mamas urge the kids to take "at least a little spoonful" of every dish so none of the family cooks get their feelings hurt.
  13. You have to hold onto your tea glass if you don't want Granny to grab it and wash it so she can "finish up in the kitchen and sit down for a spell."
  14. A nap precedes dessert (because we want to let our dressing settle so we can enjoy that pecan pie—otherwise, we'll just be miserable).
  15. Overheard: "I hate to break it to Walmart, but they need to hire some holiday help!"
  16. Overheard: "For heaven's sake, don't let cousin Peggi bring the dressing. Hers is dry as all get-out (bless her heart)."
  17. The Kids Want to Know: "Which gravy has the giblets?" (so they can avoid the giblets)
  18. Aunt Sharon Says: "I've been praying for a cold snap so we could store some of the leftovers on the screened-in porch and make room in the fridge."
  19. Aunt Lissa Says: "You children get out of that swimming pool and come to the table right this minute!"
  20. Aunt Tex Says: "Don't you think it's amazing that a meal we planned for months and cooked for days is gone in minutes?"

WATCH: Stories of the South—The Way Folks Were Meant to Eat

Roy Blount has our number, y'all. This Southern Journal, which ran in Southern Living many years ago, captures who we are and how we are when we gather around the table.