By Jean Pace Hovey (aka Alicia Hunter Pace), co-author of Simple Gone South, Take Me Out, Scrimmage Gone South, and Sweet Gone South
I had never spent Christmas outside the south until a few years ago. That was when I learned that not everyone watches football the entire holiday and puts glitter on their faces. I think every culture should be forced to provide a Christmas Survival Guide for those visiting or relocating. So if you are coming our way, we’d be pleased as anything to have you. Here a few tips.
Yule Rules, Y’all
1. Own a Christmas sweater. You will need it when invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party. If you have to borrow said sweater from someone, don’t let her know why.
2. Do not go empty-handed to a party. Take a hostess gift appropriate to the season but useless—like Santa Claus cheese spreaders, star shaped soap, or fireplace matches in a nutcracker box.
3. Make baskets for your hairdresser, pedicurist, and the clerks in the smart little shops where you buy your useless hostess gifts. These baskets should include homemade cheese straws, divinity, and pepper jelly. Christmas can’t happen in Dixie without those things. If at all possible, make the jelly during the summer when the peppers you grew in your garden were at their best. Try to get those precious little four ounce canning jars. That’s the perfect amount to pour over an eight ounce block of cream cheese.
4. If at all possible, attend a Historic Tour of Homes, like my neighborhood has. You will never get a better opportunity to nose around in other people’s stuff. Also, you can take bets on just how drunk the homeowners are going to get when the whole thing—which they have been getting ready for since May—is over.
5. Yes, some people do have colored Christmas lights. And they might blink. But not people like us. White lights, please. No blinking.
6. For all your Christmas baking, only accept pecans from Georgia. Here in Alabama we have the best college football, but they’ve got us on the pecans. Your divinity deserves the best. Where should you get your walnuts? You shouldn’t.
7. While it is perfectly acceptable in all other parts of the country, do not send out a mass produced Christmas letter in your Christmas cards. It is not done.
8. Make sure you’ve got enough face glitter to see you through the holidays. If you got carried away and used too much for the Junior League Christmas Sherry and your book club dirty Santa party, you might find yourself without any for the candlelight service on Christmas Eve. People will talk if you don’t sparkle.
9. Make milk punch for Christmas morning. You’ve earned it and you’re going to need it. In fact, let me give you the recipe. It looks innocent—but it’s not.
1 gallon of whole milk
1 pound of confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons of vanilla extract
1 fifth of bourbon (Wild Turkey is best.)
Ground nutmeg to taste
Mix milk, sugar, and vanilla in a large container until sugar dissolves. Stir in bourbon. Freeze overnight. Serve partially frozen. Sprinkle each serving with nutmeg.