‘Tis the season when traditions abound—from family Christmas tree excursions to our heirloom ornament collections, Southerners rejoice in holiday merrymaking through rituals we hone over time. It can be as simple as the tinsel-lined tree that reminds you of Grandma’s Christmas decor or as coordinated as the extended family matching pajamas you have to plan far in advance. Perhaps it’s the decades-old record you dust off each year to bring your ears back to Christmases past. No matter the effort involved, there’s a touch of enchantment in it all.
But perhaps the most magical of all our Christmas traditions start in the kitchen. It’s here that the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and light detangling give way to treasured time together and tastes that can transport us through time. Those lucky enough to work alongside family to fill casserole dishes and roll dough know all too well that the recipes we make together each year are true holiday treasures. So we invite you to step into the Christmas kitchens of Southern Living editors as we share the holiday recipes passed down through generations we look forward to each year.
Cheesy Potato Casserole Recipe
“We call them party potatoes because my mom only makes them for special occasions, but there’s nothing that tastes quite so deliciously celebratory to me as an extra creamy, cheesy scoop of her mashed potato casserole,” says Betsy Watson, senior editor. “She always sprinkles the top with paprika for a little festive color.”
Grandma’s Chocolate Drop Cookies
“I’ve never met anyone who loved chocolate quite as deeply as my grandma did. She was a wonderful baker, and though I could come to expect homemade cookies in her kitchen any time of year, her chocolate drop cookies and blondies were holiday staples” says Katie Rousso, senior special projects editor. “She used to make hundreds of them for my grandfather’s work holiday party each year, making a batch or two over time and freezing them months in advance. These days, her recipe cards have made their way to my mom’s kitchen, and these sweets were some of the first I copied down.”
“During the holiday season, my mom always serves Crab Imperial on slices of Virginia country ham,” shares Brennan Long, associate director of social media. “This dish is a little difficult to eat, and might not be the prettiest in the world, but I love that it combines the mid-Atlantic South’s best-known exports. The country ham almost always comes as a gift from a family member or friend, which makes it taste even better.”
Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes
“We always make au gratin potatoes for Christmas Eve dinner,” says assistant homes editor, Cameron Beall. “It’s the dish everyone helps make—from thinly slicing the potatoes and grating the cheese to picking fresh thyme from the garden and methodically layering everything together. It’s a family favorite dish.”
Peel And Eat Shrimp
“My grandmother and my mother (when hosting was inevitably passed down to her) always make Swiss Steak for Christmas dinner, and Christmas Day wasn’t complete without a shrimp cocktail either,” shares senior staff writer, Meghan Overdeep. “My grandfather was always very particular about his shrimp preparation and he taught my mom and all her siblings the correct (and only way) to make shrimp cocktail. Eating enough shrimp to ‘ruin your dinner’ is a Christmas requirement.”
“In my family, peanut butter fudge is a family tradition. The recipe card is an heirloom,” says senior digital food editor, Kimberly Holland. “The recipe was first written by my great-grandmother. My grandfather made edits and added to it. Then he taught me how to make it, and now it’s mine. The Christmas after he died, dozens of people asked my grandmother for his fudge, because he made it for people all over town. When I go home now, I make fudge for so many people.”
Mom’s Potato Latkes
“We spend the eight days of Hanukkah celebrating with different groups of people each night, says Rebecca Angel Baer. “While these get-togethers take place in the homes of various cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends, the one constant is my mom’s potato latkes. She brings them to every gathering because no one makes them better.”
Cheesy Broccoli-And-Rice Casserole
“For as long as I can remember, my grandma always served broccoli-cheese-and-rice casserole for the holidays. It’s a recipe from her late mother from back in the 50s, and my grandma still has the original recipe that her mother wrote down on a notepad decades ago,” says Southern Living fellow, Abby Fribush. “It was truly my favorite dish among the holiday spread growing up, and now that I’m older she puts me in charge of making it so I can carry on the tradition.”