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Southern parties have good friends, better drinks and the best food.

All Photos: Maura Friedman

Southern BBQ party


You know you're at a Southern party when ...

In the series The New Southern Hospitality, Editor-in-Chief Ashley Twist Cole explores the old and new traditions of Southern hospitality, what qualities and behaviors make us unique and, of course, tips and ideas on how to be the ultimate hospitable Southern host or hostess.

Southerners are known for their hospitality — we are warm and welcoming to guests in our home, and to strangers and friends alike. As we approach holiday party season (although I might argue that party season official kicked off with the first college football game), why don’t we take a moment to appreciate what makes a Southern party special?

Aside from the good food and pleasant company, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about a soiree thrown south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Here’s how you know you’re at a Southern party:

Someone holds the door open
Ladies and gents down South may be shocked, but it’s true that chivalry is dying in other parts of the country. A polite Southern gentleman holds the door open to anyone approaching the door — ladies, children, seniors and other gentlemen. It’s so second nature in the South that it’s hard to believe this isn’t standard practice everywhere.

People bring gifts
Even if the invitation says no gifts, people still bring them because every Southerner knows that you never show up to a party empty-handed. Regardless of why folks are getting together — birthday, oyster roast, dinner party, potluck, holiday, bonfire, game day — you can bet that nearly everyone will arrive with a small thoughtful gift or a bottle (bourbon or wine, your choice) for the hosts.

Everyone keeps their shoes on
In the Midwest, Northeast and Northwest (basically anywhere that has weather), it’s common courtesy to remove your shoes upon entering someone’s house, so as not to track in snow, dirt or water. In the South, our shoes are essential to our outfit, and because our climate allows for indoor-outdoor flow at most parties, our feet stay planted firmly in our heels … until the late night buck dancing starts.

It’s not hard to find the bar
If you aren’t greeted with a drink upon arrival, you needn’t look far to find a bar. And you needn’t look hard in the bar for whatever it is you want to whet your whistle. Southern parties are typically stocked with everything from beer to wine to spirits, and sometimes offer a signature cocktail. Not imbibing? Don’t worry, you’ll find pitchers or a dispenser of water, sweet tea and/or lemonade to keep you hydrated.

You always know what season it is
It may be 80 degrees out, but if the calendar says it's fall, we will wear boots and sweaters, eat chili, and drink apple cider. As soon as an official season starts, us Southerners decorate our house in the spirit and hold steadfast to everything seasonal, from the food to the tablescapes, and from the drinks to decor. And if it’s a game day party? Literally everything (platters, tabletops, even flags) will be red and black, blue and orange, crimson and houndstooth, burnt orange, or purple and gold.

Food is plentiful and delicious — and people eat it
Southern parties are no place for diets or calorie-counting. I’ve never been to a party in the South that was short on food in quality or quantity. Southern hosts love to feed everyone with their favorite crowd-pleasing treats, and because they’d be mortified if they ran out, they make a ton of it. Food is also available at every touchpoint throughout the party: you’ll find cheese straws on the end table, deviled eggs on the buffet and spiced pecans by the bar. Dessert has its own table, of course, that you must walk by on your way out the door. (Don’t worry, there’s a to-go box next to your party favor.) You will never go home hungry from a Southern party, that’s for sure.

Fashion is not an afterthought
We have it on good authority that folks throughout the country are getting more casual in their party attire. You can rest assured that here in the South, our dress code is still more formal for parties and get-togethers. We’ve always made a point to go that extra mile to look nice (even for football games), and that tradition is not going anywhere. Southerners dress to impress, because it would be rude not to do so. So ladies, don your dresses and do your hair. Gentleman, gather your button downs and blazers, please.

Do you agree that these 7 characteristics are unique to the South? Did I miss something or get it wrong? Tell us on Facebook or send me an email at editor@southernkitchen.com.

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Ashley Twist Cole is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also an on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. Ashley rarely makes the same recipe twice and loves to experiment in the kitchen. After graduating from UGA, she spent several years working in digital strategy for brands including Chick-fil-A, Nike and Coca-Cola. Prior to joining Southern Kitchen, she was the manager of AccessAtlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s things to do and entertainment brand, where she fell in love with Atlanta’s dining scene. Ashley will travel almost anywhere for a good meal and great cocktail, but her favorite place to be is in her own kitchen with her husband Josh and son Whit, trying new recipes and mixing up cocktails.