Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, was created in 1868 to honor fallen soldiers during the Civil War. It is now celebrated on the last Monday of May and is generally considered the unofficial beginning of summer.

So after the parades and speeches, to honor its roots in Dixie, gather the gang together for a memorable Memorial Day backyard blowout in true Southern Hospitality style.


Y'All Come Over for a Picnic

The summer sun shines brightly, so to make sure you and your friends don't burn, attach the invitation information to a sample pack of sun block – preferably SPF 30 or higher.

Or, since the temperature is likely to leave you parched, affix your invitation to a packet of lemonade instead. These powdered drink containers will fit nicely into a standard sized envelope.


Chips and Tips

If you want your guests to come dressed in a truly genteel Southern manner befitting such an occasion, ladies should wear sun dresses and picture hats, while the gents would wear white suits and straw hats or white pants and white dress shirts with the sleeves slightly folded at the cuff.

As God As My Witness, They'll Never Go Hungry Again!

 Park yourself at the picnic table, in the gazebo or unfold a quilt under a spreading oak tree and get ready to put a little south in your mouth.

Settle back and dunk fresh garden vegetables into a low-fat honey-mustard dip ladled into a hollowed out red pepper. Don't pass up your favorite deviled eggs made crunchy by adding bacon bits as a topping.

As you sit sippin' your long cool ice tea, flavored with a sprig of mint, or a traditional Mint Julep, remember to save your appetite for the main course.



4 sprigs of fresh mint

2 tsp. of water

2 1/2 oz. of bourbon

1 tsp. powdered sugar


With a mortar and pestle, muddle the mint leaves, water and powdered sugar

 into an on-the-rocks glass or silver mint julep cup that’s been filled with shaved

 or crushed ice. Add the bourbon and more ice. Serve with a short straw.



When your clan gathers with an "I'm famished" look on their faces, set them down to a feast of Southern favorites including cold fried chicken, thick slices of baked Virginia ham, a wedge of sweet potato pie, tangy collard greens, black-eyed peas, cole slaw, corn bread and fried green tomatoes.

Set the food in bowls and platters garnished with edible flowers for a cultured presentation.

Create shady places with parasols, to protect food items.


Chips and Tips

To keep fried chicken cold while on the buffet table, fill a large zipper lock-style plastic bag with ice cubes. Remove as much air as possible and seal. Place the bag in a bowl or basket. Cover it with a napkin or other absorbent cloth. Then put the fried chicken on top of that. The melting ice will keep your chicken chilly for hours.

 After your kin comes back from playing in the afternoon sun or taking a dip in the swimmin' hole, refresh them with watermelon, Mississippi Mud Pie and praline ice cream.

 Mmmmm, that's good eatin'!


Minstrels and Mirth

While the young folk wear themselves out playing "Johnny on the Pony," having a game of croquette on the back lawn or hitting the badminton birdie, you can relax in a hammock and listen to the music of Dolly Parton, Tex Ritter, Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, Kenny Chesney and other country stars.

After supper, gather the gang and put together a barbershop quartet or Sweet Adeline's to sing classic songs of the Confederacy: "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again," "Dixie," "Mammy," or "Swanee."  You also can put together a washboard, spoons and banjo band to play alone or accompany the singing.

If you feel like kickin' up your heels, hire a square dance caller and get everyone up for the Virginia Reel. But don't forget to pencil in your best beau on your dance card for a "Tennessee Waltz."


Chips and Tips

Contact dance schools or square dance clubs to find a square dance caller. These schools and clubs are often listed in the local telephone directory. If they are not, call your reference librarian or your local parks and recreation department to put you in touch with a caller. They will undoubtedly be able to supply you with some suggestions.

If the weather's not cooperating, enjoy some indoor activities. Rent "Gone with the Wind," "Steel Magnolias," "Driving Miss Daisy" or "Fried Green Tomatoes" to keep you in a southern state of mind.

You also might want to get the ladies together to form a quilting or sewing bee. You might like it so much, you'll keep the group going long after the party is only a memory.

High steppin' or laid back, there's fun for all the folks at this festive feast.


Enhancing the Estate

White wicker and floral prints are the perfect accompaniment to a pretty picnic.

 Fill your chairs with overstuffed floral print cushions. Adorn the tables with pastel prints and pitchers filled with flowers. Jonquils, magnolias and/or jasmine would be exquisite in this anti-bellum setting.

 If you prefer a more masculine design, use tapestries with fox hunt patterns or velvet skirting with heavy fringe. Accent the tableau with French horns, confederate hats and flags, stuffed foxes, bronze horses and riding crops.

When the sun starts to set and fireflies light the night, burn citronella candles to discourage mosquitoes. Oil lamps and twinkle lights add a combination of authenticity and whimsy to your personal "Tara." 

To further the authentic plantation look, buy Spanish moss in bags and adorn trees and bushes with it for a true southern setting. The version you buy in craft stores has been cleaned of any live organisms that could hurt your plants.

 Shindig Sayings

Definition:  Spanish Moss

Spanish moss, found primarily in the southeastern United States and West Indies, are dense greenish-gray strands of plant matter which usually attaches itself to tree trunks and branches by wiry roots.

Souvenirs of the South

As a gracious way to say, "Thanks for showin' up. Y'all come back now, heah," grace your guests with these southern-style somethins.’


Don't "think about it tomorrow."  Plan this party today!

 Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Throwing a Great Party by Phyllis Cambria and Patty Sachs, 2000.


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