Forgotten Southern Traditions We Wish Would Make A Comeback

Forgotten Southern Traditions We Wish Would Make A Comeback

The South is often associated with sweet tea, front porch sittin’, and “yes ma’am” manners.

Those things exist, of course, but there’s a whole world of fading Southern traditions that deserve a comeback. They’re not about clinging to the past but about keeping alive those practices that foster a sense of community, warmth, respect for the land, and simple pleasures often lost in our fast-paced modern world. Here are some of the forgotten treasures that we’d love to see woven back into the fabric of Southern life.

1. Canning and preserving food

Before grocery stores on every corner, Southerners put up the summer harvest for winter sustenance. Canning peaches, making jams from hand-picked berries, pickling vegetables – these were community events. Knowledge was passed down, the pantry overflowed, and a connection to the land and seasons was cultivated. With renewed interest in homegrown food and food security, reviving this tradition brings flavor and practicality back to the table. Plus, as Serious Eats notes, it’s actually pretty easy to get started.

2. Big Sunday dinners

Sunday dinner after church wasn’t just about the meal, but about the ritual. Generations gathered around tables laden with fried chicken, biscuits, every imaginable side dish, and more desserts than anyone strictly needed. It was hours of laughter, storytelling, catching up, and kids playing underfoot. In a world where families scatter and schedules overflow, bringing back the shared Sunday meal carves out space for connection and reminds us what truly nourishes the soul.

3. Front porch culture

Before AC, porches were the heart of the home, especially in the evenings. Neighbors waved, kids played, sweet tea was sipped, and conversation flowed. Now, we retreat behind closed doors more often than not. Reviving front porch culture encourages casual connection, creates community pride, and combats isolation. Sometimes, the best way to be a good neighbor is simply to be present and visible.

4. Writing letters and sending cards

While this isn’t necessarily a Southern tradition, is one that’s fallen out of fashion. handwritten note in the mailbox felt like a treasure. Birthdays, holidays, thank-yous, or just-because letters were a way to express care beyond the ease of text or email. The act of putting pen to paper is more thoughtful and personal. In an age of digital oversaturation, reviving this tradition adds a touch of heartfelt warmth that a well-chosen emoji never could.

5. Mending and clothes care

Consumerism encourages the quick toss-and-replace mentality. But generations past knew how to darn socks, sew on buttons, and patch worn elbows. It was about resourcefulness, but also about valuing items enough to care for them. As concerns grow about textile waste, reviving mending skills saves money, extends the life of beloved clothes, and creates a less disposable mindset.

6. Firefly-catching evenings

Before screens ruled, summer nights for Southern kids meant mason jars and chasing those magical blinking lights. The competition was fierce, the awe was genuine. It was an excuse to stay up a little past bedtime and experience the simple magic of nature’s light show. We need more excuses to put the phones down, head outside, and rediscover childlike wonder.

7. Quilt bees

Quilts weren’t just for beds; they were community art projects — and the practice has been around since the late 18th Century! Women gathered, gossiped, shared skills, and turned scraps of fabric into functional heirlooms. It was practical, but also about the power of women working collectively to create something both useful and beautiful. Reviving the quilting bee taps into this sense of collaborative creativity and results in quilts that tell stories far beyond the stitches.

8. Passing down family recipes

A tattered recipe card with grandma’s handwriting holds more than instructions – it holds connection. But often, those recipes die with the generation that knew them by heart. A renewed focus on documenting and passing down family culinary traditions preserves flavors, honors ancestors, and keeps their love alive at the table. No takeout order can compete with the history baked into a family recipe.

9. Sharing ghost stories

The South is a land steeped in history, some of it spooky. Before TV and the internet, storytelling was prime entertainment, especially chilling tales whispered by firelight. Sharing local legends, family ghost stories, and those unexplainable encounters cultivates imagination, connects us to the past, and provides an excuse for that extra delicious thrill of being just a little bit scared, especially when huddled with loved ones.

10. Outdoor community dances

Whether a fancy cotillion or a barn dance with a local fiddler, Southerners of the past loved a good gathering centered around music and movement. It was how romances blossomed, how communities bonded, and a way to shake off the work week with joyful abandon. Reviving community dances, with lessons offered beforehand to encourage beginners, builds bridges across generations and injects some much-needed lightheartedness into modern life.

11. Visiting with elders

Elders were revered for their wisdom and stories. Front porch visits or Sunday calls were the norm. But now, many age out of their homes and into isolating facilities, their life experiences fading unheard. Reviving the culture of intergenerational connection enriches the lives of both the young and the old. Elders feel valued, children gain unique perspectives, and a stronger sense of shared history takes root.

12. Emphasis on storytelling

Southerners have a gift for gab and spinning a good yarn. A tall tale, a hilarious family anecdote, or a poignant memory shared in vivid detail – these were (and still should be) a staple of Southern social life. Reviving a focus on storytelling cultivates captivating communication skills, keeps histories alive, and brings people together through laughter, awe, or shared tearjerker moments.

13. Homemade remedies

Before WebMD, there was Granny and her array of folk cures. Honey and lemon for a sore throat, peculiar teas for tummy aches, and a whole cabinet of curious tinctures. While modern medicine is essential, some of that old-time knowledge holds value. Rekindling interest in natural home remedies, passed down with appropriate cautionary notes, connects us to a more resourceful past and might even hold a few pleasant-tasting surprises.

14. Singing on the porch or in church

Whether gospel hymns in full-throated fervor or harmonizing old folk songs on a summer evening, the South has a musical heart. But increasingly, we consume rather than create music. Reviving porch sing-alongs, joining choirs, or prioritizing raising kids with basic musicality keeps this tradition alive. There’s something powerful about shared voices raised in song that technology can’t quite replicate.

15. “Making do” and creative repurposing

Necessity breeds resourcefulness, a skill Southerners honed during lean times. Feed sacks became dresses, broken furniture was ingeniously salvaged – nothing was fully discarded without considering another use. With modern concerns over waste, reviving this “make do” mentality fosters creativity, lessens consumption, and teaches that the most valuable things aren’t bought, they’re cleverly built or repurposed.

16. Small-town festivals

couple having a romantic kiss on date night

Mayberry Day, the Watermelon Shindig, county fairs with pie-baking contests… these quirky events were staples. They were about homemade pride, celebrating the unique flavor of their corner of the world, and building community spirit through friendly competition. A revival of these festivals, even updated with modern twists, injects needed lightheartedness and a sense of place in an increasingly homogenized world.

17. Unscheduled “come on over” visits

I know, this is an introvert’s worst nightmare, but it can actually be great! True Southern hospitality meant the door was figuratively always open. Popping in on a neighbor unannounced wasn’t rude, it was welcomed. But now, we overschedule and cling to privacy. Reviving the impromptu visit, even with a quick text beforehand, fosters casual connection, lowers the barriers to friendship, and allows for the kind of spontaneous joy that a meticulously planned calendar rarely holds.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.