It’s no secret – in the South, we do things a little differently, and the holidays are no exception. Below we’ve compiled a list of some Mississippi holiday foods we consider beloved traditions, while the rest of the world may think them unusual. We hope you’ll be inspired to think outside the box(ed potatoes), too!

Shrimp and grits

On Christmas Eve, many Gulf Coast Mississippians make shrimp and grits the main course. Traditionally, tender shrimp and spicy sausage are served over buttered grits, made from ground corn, topped with a savory, creamy sauce. Although not usually considered a “holiday” dish, this meal is quickly becoming a Southern Christmas tradition.


For quite a few Mississippi families under a Cajun influence, no Christmas Eve is complete without a big pot of gumbo. Made with chicken, sausage and/or seafood, gumbo warms up any holiday gathering.

Pear salad

This vintage recipe is making a reappearance around holiday tables across the South. Canned pear halves are filled with mayonnaise and freshly grated cheddar cheese. In some recipes, the completed pears are topped with a cherry.

Pimento cheese

Many Mississippi families dine on a spread of appetizers on Christmas Day, and pimento cheese finger sandwiches are common fare. The simple spread is composed of grated cheddar cheese, mayo and jarred pimientos and typically spread onto white bread and cut into finger sandwiches or used as a dip for crackers. In Mississippi, pimento cheese is considered a Southern classic.

Oyster casserole/dressing

A step above cornbread dressing on the fanciness scale, oyster dressing, or oyster casserole, is traditionally served only at Christmas. Baked into a mixture of bread, cornbread, chopped veggies and stock, chopped oysters add a depth of flavor to the dish and an air of importance to holiday festivities. Try your hand at making oyster casserole with this family recipe.

Mince pie

For some Mississippi families, particularly those in the Delta, mince pie bridges the gap between dinner and dessert. Consisting of minced meat, suet, fruit and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg baked into a traditional pie crust, mince pie makes a delightful transition course with sweet and savory notes.

Lime sherbet punch

This holiday drink is made from only two ingredients – lime sherbet and ginger ale. The sherbet gives the sparkling soda a creamy, cold consistency, and the bright color is sure to liven up any party.

Gumdrop Cookies

Christmas cookies are never in short supply in a Southern household. As a tasty addition to the traditional Christmas cookie assortment, some households make cookies using Orange Slice candies for a bit of nostalgic Southern flair. Many Southerners have fond childhood memories of eating orange slice candies around the holidays. This recipe for gumdrop cookies is sure to recall those memories.

Black eyed peas and greens

Nothing else will do on a Mississippi New Year’s Day. This tradition is said to bring good luck for the rest of the year. Black eyed peas are simply salted and simmered with bacon fat. Greens can be cooked a few ways but add a ham hock for authentic Mississippi flair.

Photo by Connie Ma