Thanksgiving at Kiawah River: Serving up Southern Traditions

For Southerners, there’s seemingly no better holiday than Thanksgiving. From hosting a home-cooked meal for a crowd to watching highly anticipated football matchups, the celebration combines all the best parts of fall into one long weekend. Like many across the U.S., residents throughout the Lowcountry serve up decades-old family recipes for Thanksgiving dinner, but we also put our own spin on a few long-standing traditions.

Here are a few of our favorite traditions to bring to the table at Kiawah River:

In the Kitchen

While we always serve Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving) staples like turkey, stuffing and gravy, Southerners have their own fixings that make their way onto our plates each November.

Across the region, dinner menus often include modified versions of more conventional dishes such as fried turkey with bourbon-infused gravy, giblet gravy, sausage and cornbread dressing, Southern buttermilk biscuits and one of our favorite desserts – chocolate bourbon pecan pie. It’s also common for hosts to serve up non-traditional Southern favorites like macaroni and cheese, collard greens, congealed salad, banana pudding and sweet potato or sorghum pie.  And before you search the ingredients of congealed salad, let us share nearly every Southern grandmother’s advice: Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Some Lowcountry locals pay tribute to the Gullah Geechee culture that has flourished in the Sea Islands for generations by serving an assortment of cultural dishes including okra soup, black-eyed peas, purloo (a dish similar to jambalaya), garlic and rice.

Another local must-have during the fall is an oyster roast. With November at the heart of oyster season (which is limited to the months containing the letter “R”), there’s no better time to gather friends and family for mollusk roasting than on Thanksgiving Day. Read Kiawah River’s guide to hosting the perfect oyster roast. Some even incorporate oysters into the main menu – a delicious example is Chef Edward Lee’s oyster dressing recipe, as featured in Garden & Gun.

On the Table

Southern hosts are no stranger to the art of creating a jaw dropping Thanksgiving tablescape.

Pulling from the Lowcountry’s natural beauty, hosts often use magnolia branches, fig and bay leaves, eucalyptus sprigs, dogwood leaves, persimmons, moss and hypericum berries in their centerpieces. Native plants to Kiawah River like saw palmetto, Carolina jessamine, sweetgrass and American beautyberries also add natural elegance to Thanksgiving table arrangements.

For place settings, cotton and linen textures are popular Southern décor options that complement family heirlooms, like china collections or chinoiserie jars. For a more eclectic aesthetic, check out Garden & Gun Style Director Haskell Harris McKinney’s Thanksgiving table styling tips.

Whether you’re a tradition enthusiast or prefer to switch it up with your own holiday rituals, Thanksgiving is ultimately a time for togetherness and gratitude no matter how you celebrate.

From all of us at Kiawah River, happy Thanksgiving.