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12 Ways Only Southerners Decorate Their Christmas Trees

Nov 11, 2023

We're trimming the tree Southern style.

They say everything's bigger in Texas, but when it comes to Christmas decor, that can be said for just about every corner of the South. We're known for going all out when it comes to decking the halls. There's no nook or cranny forgotten, which of course includes the star of the show: a Christmas tree brimming with ornaments and garlands from top to bottom. We're also firm believers that you can never have too many holiday trees! From hand-blown glass ornaments and clip-on feathered birds to countless shiny silver glass balls, there are a plethora of ways to decorate your tree. However, there are a few things you'll mostly only see on a Southerner's Christmas tree.

No matter the time of year, it doesn't get much more Southern than magnolia leaves. You may more often find them lending a sophisticated flair to a wreath or garland, but their glossy green and velvety brown leaves can also be found nestled into the branches of your Fraiser Fir. (In Florida, you may find palm tree fans and fronds instead.)

As Southerners, we love to collect things—especially when they're passed down from Grandma. It's no different when it comes to Christmas decor, like being gifted silver Christmas ornaments every year. "We get an ornament from each place we visit for our tree! It's a fun way to revisit some of our favorite memories and it feels more special during the end of the year when we're reflecting and thinking of all we have to be thankful for," says Travel & Culture Editor Tara McCay. Similarly, her husband was given an ornament every year to represent an interest of his at the time, from movies and sports teams to hobbies; and they now hang on their tree.

One editor noted her family lives in Georgia, so they have a peach and peanut ornament as nods to the state's specialties. In Kentucky, you'll likely find a race horse or two adorning the tree, while in Texas there's bound to be shiny cactus hiding somewhere between the branches.

As a kid, you were probably breaking out the colorful construction paper, funky scissors, and glitter glue to create true "masterpieces" to be hung on the tree by a proud Mama. There may have been a handmade loop-in-loop paper garland as well. Whether those works of art still have a spot on the tree or you're now showcasing your own children's' creativity, a Southerner's family tree wouldn't be complete without a few not-so-perfect pieces.

Though the famous Christmas pickle doesn't hail from the South, we love it all the same. The tradition says to hang a pickle ornament last on the tree, then the first person to locate it gets to open the first present on Christmas morning—or receives a special treat (depending on your family's tradition). "The pickle is as competitive as my family gets. We aren't fighters until the pickle comes into play," says Photo Assistant Turner Spottswood.

You know it's Christmas in the South when an ode to your household-favorite SEC football team makes an appearance on the tree. "We have a University of Alabama football ornament in honor of my alma mater," says Assistant General Manager Anna Price Olson. "Roll Tide!"

From Texas to Tennessee, it's not uncommon to find some Southern icons hidden (or hanging front and center) on a tree. Typically where there is one Dolly Parton in the branches, there will be more to find; and don't be surprised to see an Elvis Presley or two. Chances are high you've also picked up some one-of-a-kind ornaments from your local Cracker Barrel or church bazaar over the years.

Grandma taught us that drying citrus is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to make home feel and smell festive, especially when hung from the tree. You can find dried orange slices as ornaments dancing in the branches or strung together to form an aromatic garland.

The art of monogramming is a strong part of Southern culture and it doesn't stop with tote bags and towels. If you're from the South, you likely have personalized Christmas stockings hanging on your mantle and an array of engraved or hand-painted ornaments dangling in your tree.

There's nothing we love more than a theme—whether it's a frosted tree dolled up with blue spheres and glass icicles or a tree with ornaments in every shade of pink complete with pink and white ribbons cascading down. Or perhaps a more neutral approach of whites and creams or traditional green and red tree embellishments.

From tree skirts to ornaments, plaid has a place on any Southern tree. Wrap your tree in plaid ribbons in lieu of a glistening, tinsel garland, or opt for a pile of presents nestled underneath in your favorite plaid gift wrap.

Remember the whole 'everything is bigger in Texas' ethos? Around here, there's no such thing as too many lights. Even if you think you have enough, you probably need to add more.

Magnolia Branches and Leaves Collected or Gifted Ornaments State Pride Ornaments Handmade Ornaments and Paper Garlands The Christmas Pickle SEC Football Ornaments Unique Ornaments Dried Citrus Monogrammed Decor Color Themes Plaid Accessories Lots (and Lots) of Lights