Home » The Park Wife Blog » Southern Traditions and Memories: Black Patent Mary Janes to Rockin’ the Cowboy Boots


Southern Traditions and Memories: Black Patent Mary Janes to Rockin’ the Cowboy Boots

Christmas in Dixie is pure magic! It is oranges, walnuts (really, why? Not sure, but they made great bombs to throw at my brothers, they could chip a tooth) and pecans in our stockings, sitting as a family reading the Christmas Story, dressing up for holiday meals, riding around and looking at Christmas lights that any other time would be gaudy, but in December becomes a spectacular spectacle of festive beauty.

One thing we do well in the South during the holidays is get seriously decked out, be it our front porches, mantles, oh sweet mercy, people even put wreaths and reindeer ears on their cars, bless them.  Let’s not even talk about Christmas sweaters, oh no, really, crazy Aunt Bobbie does have a stellar collection! She is on my husband’s side. But seriously, as if we needed an excuse to fluff our world, we Southerners go all out at Christmas time.

Growing up, we lived next door to my great-grandparents and my grandparents, a thing so rare in this day and age where we leave the confines of our tribe after high school driving to our fancy colleges in search of that American Dream we were trained to seek. What I did not realize was that the true American Dream was right there on 45th Street (where I grew up, not to be confused with the Miracle that happened a few streets over) surrounded by family and friends. A place where everyone was welcome at our table and hospitality, charm, and style flowed from every strand of garland and boughs of holly that dressed our homes.

Divinity, Southern food
Oh the food! I loved sitting in the warm kitchen watching my grandmother and Ira (who worked for my family for 48 years and was another grandma to me) making delicious pans of “dressing” which is not something you put on salads, Divinity which has nothing to do with the Divine, and Ambrosia that does not reference the food of the Gods, but are all hallmarks of my Southern Christmas’. And, Karo syrup, I remember big bottles of Karo syrup.

We always had very formal holiday meals. As I look back, I do not remember my great-grandfather, a successful businessman, without a coat and tie on, ever. My Great- Grandmother and Grandmother were always dressed in the finest dresses, pearls, and had their hair set on the day before Christmas Eve (Little Buckaroo calls that “Christmas Adam”). Everything was planned to the “T”, because mercy no, we would not want to have flat hair people, nor serve store-bought anything. Sweetie, it was Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, I would receive my Christmas dress usually made of velvet and taffeta (oh, I still dream in Gunni Sax) to be worn with my black patent shoes and of course, white stockings to top it off.  It did not matter that it was 94 degrees in Mississippi and I would roast like the holiday turkey, fa, la, la, la, la, I wore the dress for Christmas lunch at my grandparents.

Southern Christmas dresses for girls at The Park Wife

The table was dressed in our finest linens, many hand embroidered by my great- grandmother, starched until it did not need a fancy napkin fold, they would stand up on their own.  And, as crazy and hectic as it was, my family all showed up to sit together, even crazy Uncle Sonny who wore that powerful cologne, yea, I now know it is called Bourbon, and rejoice in the season…together.  There really was not any question about “what are you doing for Christmas?” It was Christmas Eve, we would be at the grandparents to open presents from them and then show up in our finery the next day for the all-out food spectacular. Every. Single. Year.

There was the tragedy of 1984, also known as the handlebar bike wreck extravaganza. One of my brothers, I have 5 of them so yes, prayers accepted, made the amateur Christmas deck the kids mistake of wearing his new Christmas shirt while riding on the handlebars of my other brothers new bike. Down a huge hill. Very fast. Let’s just say that rip was not fixable before dinner. He wished he would have made it to 34th street and found that miracle before my grandmother, Bay, saw him.

I am blessed with amazing Christmas memories that are as deep as my seventh generation Mississippi roots. Where traditions were sacred in my world and my mother always went over and beyond to make it the most special Christmas ever for us. I will do my best to pass that on to our children.

Times have changed, we live on a state park far away from any family. And, even though I will be wearing my Lucchese boots (with a dress of course) and not patent Mary Jane’s,  I will wear my strand of pearls and think back on my wonderful memories of new velvet dresses, formal dinners, and being surrounded by the warmth of family. I might even do a little twirl in the kitchen and ask Big Buckaroo how I look.

Angels we have heard on high (wearing Gunnie Sax, of course),
The Park Wife


  1. Amanda says:

    I too have memories of dressing nice on Christmas Eve to go to the grandparents. I hope to pass that on to my kiddos! :) Comfort is good- but dressing up and dressing the table is fun too!

  2. Angie says:

    How did I not know you had 5 brothers? Oh my goodness! No wonder you are such a good mama to your two boys. You know all about them already.

    I was lucky enough to grow up a few blocks from all of my grandparents, all four of them, and was able to know two of my great grandparents. It felt so normal to grow up that way, and what a shock to find out the rest of the world didn’t have that. On top of all that, I had wonderful grandparents who were role models and such loving people. I miss them all every day.

  3. Jess says:

    Gotta love Country Outfitters! My blog was not ready in time to participate in this! I would have loved the publicity since I’m just starting out!!

  4. Julianne says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas traditions as I’m about to experience my first as a parent. I love how the little buckaroo calls it “Christmas Adam,” too cute!

    • The Park Wife says:

      I am sure you will make some wonderful, long-lasting traditions, you are so creative. Blessings for a wonderful holiday season.

  5. Kim says:

    Hi Stephanie, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Ozarks Thanksgiving and Christmas! I know I will in the middle of the Sylamore Wildlife Management Area! Growing up my favorite thing about Christmas was the neighbors leaving cookies and candies in our mailbox or dropping things by the house, especially my great aunt Vivian’s divinity and amazing old fashioned fudge. She didn’t use a recipe for either so the tradition disappeared with her. I loved getting Christmas cards from family far away. We didn’t have much money so the small things really meant a lot. I hope I can teach my daughter to appreciate the finer details that make special memories because toys and trinkets will be used up, broken and forgotten.

  6. Lori Walker says:

    But I have to ask….are you having all the staff that works thanksgiving over for dinner? I always enjoyed the park “family” Thanksgivings.

    • The Park Wife says:

      Next Thanksgiving, we have only been in the house 3 days, boxes everywhere and our countertops are not in. Maybe for Christmas, but it is a different world from when you and I were here together.

    • The Park Wife says:

      I am going to try Divinity this year, Ira always said the temperature has to be just right in the house to make it. Not sure what that temp is, but I am going for it!

  7. Jeanenne says:

    I too have roots that run as deep as an old oak tree. I was raised by the proverbial “village” that it takes to raise a child. Knew and lived very near both sets of Grandparents and one set of Great Grandparents, countless aunts, uncles and cousins. We never dressed up and got fancy at home, but buddy you got the new dress and shoes to wear to church for the Christmas service because “God always deserves your best” they’d say. Wonderful, wonderful memories and I’ve tried to raise my kids and grandkids with the same road map. I can’t imagine having to live away from family…Merry Christmas to all!

    • The Park Wife says:

      Living far away is hard, but we are doing our best to create a strong family unit here with our boys, so thye will bring their kids to our house one day. Plus, we have all of you who make it a little bit easier.

  8. Amy B. says:

    Christmas Eve church service in my town was like a fashion show! I loved getting new formal dresses for the occasion. And yes, white tights and patent leather Mary Janes were always involved.

    • The Park Wife says:

      Did your white tights always fall down? I am not sure why my grandmother got upset when I pulled up my dress to pull up my tights, they were driving me crazy!

  9. Thanks for the opportunity to win! When I was really small, I had to wear those Martha Miniature dresses with the bell in the petticoats……..I hated those stupid dresses with the white tights that ALWAYS got twisted and black Mary Janes. Then when I got older it became same as you – Taffeta and velvet. I didn’t mind those as much as long as they didn’t have those stiff petticoat things – maybe krindolines…. under them. We found out the hard way that I am allergic to that material…when I ripped the dress off right before dinner and was covered in red splotches! I thought my mother was going to faint from embarrassment…………oh no, she wasn’t worried about my allergy! Well, I’ve harped on that enough. Maybe I’ll call mom and remind her of that trauma now! :)

  10. Alicia says:

    Glitter Bug dresses in dresses like you posted. She looks forward to wearing it to my parents house and her Great-Grandparents house.

  11. Karen W says:

    Christmas Eve always was, and still is, reserved for dinner at my grandparents house. We used to be pretty formal and fancy as well, but then I started showing up with my kids. Haha!

  12. Joyce Grippi says:

    Growing up in the north, our biggest tradition was always sled riding on Christmas Day. All of us cousins would get together and have a blast. And boy was grandmas hot cocoa the best when we came in.

  13. Rhonda Bramell says:

    You Mississippi folks were way fancier than my redneck family, who had to come out of the woods to eat dinner. But at least you had “dressing” and not stuffing. True South. :)

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