Christmas Memories

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Christmas Memories

By Paula Deen

The other morning I was sitting at the kitchen table, wrapped in my white robe and cradlin’ a cup of coffee. The house was still pretty quiet. Lady Bird hadn’t started squawkin’, the dogs weren’t pattering around my feet and the phone hadn’t rung once, which is nothing short of a miracle. It should’ve been a peaceful moment, but wouldn’t you know that my head thought it would be a good time to worry about all the things I still had to do in the days before Christmas—all the shopping, entertaining, wrapping and cooking. Don’t get me wrong; I love every minute of it once I get going, but it’s the starting that I struggle with. Like an ol’ truck, it takes me a good while to warm up, but when I do, this girl really starts to hum.

That morning, I wasn’t humming. I was barely idling. I didn’t know where to begin.

Then my eyes landed on the Christmas tree over in the corner. Like the other trees in the house (a girl can’t have just one), it has been up since just after Thanksgiving. And even though I turn on the tree lights each morning, I really hadn’t given my favorite little tree much thought. Guess I’d just been too busy. 

The tree I put in my kitchen has always been my favorite. My assistant, Brandon, designs breathtaking trees for me—the kind of trees that look like they should be in the White House. But the kitchen tree is special because it’s my family tree. It’s decorated with the most precious ornaments from my childhood and ones my boys made growing up. Some were sent to me by fans and others I picked up while junkin’. But each one tells a story. I can point to any ornament on that tree and tell you where it came from, like the faded dough star Jamie made or the brass ornament that holds a picture of Bobby in his little football uniform. My grandson Jack adds something of his to the tree every year and eventually my newest grandsons, Matthew and Henry, will too.

It’s not one of those fussy trees where everything has to be “just so.” It doesn’t have to be hoity-toity or follow some trendy color scheme. The only requirement is that every ornament—or the little hand that hangs it up there—means something to me.

When someone gives you a special ornament, it’s like they’ve handed you a memory. A friend of mine had a Godmother who would give her one ornament every Christmas. The friend would have to hide her disappointment because what she really wanted was a View Master or a Tiny Tears doll. But once we grew up and learned to appreciate such things, she realized that she couldn’t have been given a better gift. Because while the View Master gave way to Barbie and then to Elvis albums, those ornaments have been timeless. I took this to heart when I gave my stepdaughter, Michelle, a small collection of Radko ornaments for her baby shower. It’s something we can all add to over the years and then when her son Henry is all grown up, he’ll have a wonderful collection for his own tree. Each ornament will have a story and special person behind it.

In a lot of ways, lookin’ at that tree in my kitchen is like flippin’ through a photo album of my life. I could sit there for hours. I must’ve been staring at those ornaments for about twenty minutes, smiling to myself like a kid on Christmas morning, when the phone finally started ringing.

Within seconds Lady Bird started calling for me and the dogs wanted to be fed. My day was going to begin if I wanted it to or not. But having those few moments of silence to walk down memory lane made all the difference. It put the Christmas “To-Do” list in perspective. It got me hummin’ again.

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Reader Comments:


Paula Dean You are the Queen of the south I love you and I also love your home style cooking Keep your head up there are alot of supports out there God Bless you and your family

By Sue Ward on August 22, 2013


Dear Paula, I know you will soon be back on TOP, you are too good not to be. I'm a southern woman, and have watched you for years (visited your restaurant BEFORE the Food Network ever found you!!) And I still visit it whenever I am in Savannah. I have looked for a way for some time to get in touch with you to discuss a recipe you featured on TV many, many years ago. My family has always treasured our Cornbread Sage Turkey Dressing. It was like no other and everyone loved it. When you began that particular show, darn if you didn't start pulling out ALL the SAME ingredients (cornbread, biscuit, saltine crackers, white and wheat loaf bread!! besides the vegies.) I was so shocked. We had never met anyone who put all that into their dressing. Our recipe has been in our family for over 100 years that we know of. Our Grandmother who handed down the recipe had German and Welsh background. I notice with your name of Hiers, that could be German. I would love to know the history of your Cornbread dressing. Where did you get it from, how old, which ancestry did it come from. Hey! We may be related. (:-) I know you are a busy women, but I would appreciate a note from you concerning this. Regards, Shirley Taylor August 22, 2013

By SHIRLEY TAYLOR on August 21, 2013


Hi Paula, know you will be back on top soon. You're too good not to. I have wished for a way I could connect with you to discuss your "Cornbread Sage Turkey Dressing you showed on your show many, many years ago. My family has always been proud of our "magnificent" turkey dressing because it was not at all like anyone elses.

By SHIRLEY TAYLOR on August 21, 2013


Reading this, brought back memories of the things on my tree. They all have meaning, some are coming apart but the meaning is to precious to throw them away, so they reside in a boxe preserved. Thank you for reminding me.

By Patricia Ingram on July 08, 2013


Sweet Story, touched my heart. I think all of us go down memory lane often. Do you mind if I ask, where is the father? Beautiful family...

By Teresa on March 02, 2013


Is Brooke going to do any more articles?????? I enjoyed the ones she did a lot!!! I think she would do great at having her own cooking show, has she considered??

By Anonymous on April 09, 2012


Paula, this story made me cry! I too give my two beautiful children (27 & 21) a Christmas ornament every year since they were born. But over the years they have gotten pushed down to the bottom of my ornament box and have been forgotten. Christmas is over now, but as soon as it comes around this year, I have promised myself that I am digging each and everyone of them out and putting them on my tree! My kids mean everything to me so thank you for reminding me how precious those ornaments are! LOVE YA!

By Teresa on February 25, 2012


The media is being very hard on you right now, but God didn't bring you this far to let you down now. You have worked and climbed the ladder the hard way. God Bless, keep looking up!!!!

By Linda Clifton on January 24, 2012


I love your Christmas pictures!!

By Yolanda on January 23, 2012


Paula, food is for family and family deserves the best. I admire you and know that you have told us fans many times that you do not eat all the high calorie, (tasty) foods everyday. Yes, we all know that. When you gather with friends and family you sit not only to enjoy each other but to treat everyone once in a while. You inspire me, we are both baby boomers, and have grown up with southern influences for cooking. The best times of my life growing up was going to Springfield MO. to be with my fathers family. My grandmother had the yeast rolls cooking for my mother when we came into the house, the smell alone is still a fond memory. Bisquits, gravy, homemade jelly and jams make lasting memories. Now with 5 grand children of my own, I delight in cooking up some family foods for every holiday. They have all told me grammy we only want to come to your house to eat, because it is the best. So, I am hoping that our family foods and legacy goes on and on. Hope to meet you in person someday!

By Sharont on January 19, 2012


Dear Paula, Your story touched my heart as read it today, as I have had a similar tradition. Beginning with their first Christmases, I have given my son and daughter (now 35 and 33 respectively) an ornament. The idea was that when they moved out and on their own, they would have the beginnings of their own ornament collection. Each ornament represented something about that year - over time, their ornaments commemorated first jobs, first cars, first home, new hobbies, or something else special about that year. Now that they are on their own, their Christmas trees tell their personal histories. The tradition continues... now their ornaments represent "just married", "new baby", "big move", etc. Keep doing what you do, Lady Paula. People love you because you're so real and down-to-earth -- like the best friend who lives next door and shares her favorite recipes and big heart.

By Marti on January 18, 2012


Paula, I have two ornaments which were given to me by kindergarten students who I taught over 30 years ago. The sand dollar given to me by Kevin's momma reminds me of that little 5 year old whose momma apologized in advance for her misbehaving son. I took the "let's see who's tougher" attitude with him & he became one of my favorite students. When his family moved to WA at Xmas I cried. So that ornament means so much to me.

By Martha in KS on January 07, 2012


Ms. Deen: I just received a call from my sister in Hinesville, GA (Rene). Her son drove down from Atlanta, GA and took her and her mother (Pearl)- his grandmother to Savannah for Christmas dinner at your restaurant. Rene described the meals and how absolutely delicious the food was. To put it in her words, "girl, the food was so good, it made your tongue slap your brain." I thought you would love this. I am an avid fan who owns some of your cookware and a recipe book. Thanks so much for your positive role model of a fabulous southern home cook/mama!! Countess

By Countess Crenchaw-Murphy on January 03, 2012


I love the story, memories are forever photo's made in the heart and mind. That are shared for long after everything is said and done. Your grandson's we have memories of a life time like your son's. I love your show, and have started memories for my soon to be 3 year old son. Since, he was 2 when he got into trouble I didn't sit him in the time out chair I sat him in front of your show. He now loves your show as well. I set forth a memory that Mommy doesn't get mad when you do something wrong, she teaches you a lesson that will teach you later on in life a skill, a trade or even a dream! Yesterday, they were given one of the oldie's when you first maarried your second husband. You were cooking steak with bacon, Cody turns around and said why is Paula cookin' Snakes and bacon Momma? Looking at his sweet face I laughed and said because she wants to? He said I want snakes for dinner too. From the mouths of babes. Thank you for doing a great job on the show. Happy Holidays From NY To Savannah, GA Ann

By Ann Alvez on December 31, 2011


hey paula I love you show I watch it all the time because I love watching food network because I love cooking I went to school in a technology center in indiana PA for 3 yrs.I have I neat little mix called early morning mix I would love too see it on your show. all you need is potatoes,maple sauceage,onions,maple syrup,meatenderizer,salt and pepper also sour cream.fry 1med. diced onion with 7 maple sauceage links without caseings diced and then add meatenderizer,salt and pepper in the mean time steam the potatoes which is 4-6 med. potatoes diced. when all is done mix together and add 1-1 1/2c sour cream

By idajane87 on December 31, 2011


I just love watching your cooking show and this article is very touching. It really made me think over the years of raising my own two girls (who are adults now) and I can relate to a few things too.. God Bless and Happy Holidays!!

By Malli on December 30, 2011


Paula, I just love reading your blogs we share so much of the same sentiments. I have the most beautiful Christmas tree and it is due to all the ornaments I have collected since I was a baby and I'm 52 years old! That's a lot of ornaments. I don't decorate the tree anymore, my 7 grandkids do and each year it is a stroll down memory lane. The grandkids know the stories behind each ornament on that tree better than I do now. They are all my precious gifts from God. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, you are an inspiration. May God continue to bless you and your family.

By Theresa McDonald on December 29, 2011


Thank you for your peaceful vignette of Christmases past. How beautiful! You've inspired me to have a kitchen tree next year to hang those one of a kind ornaments made by or given with love from our grandbabies. On another new Christmas memory note: This morning my husband, Dennis, and I enjoyed the last portion of your sausage and bacon gravy recipe. We chatted about how much everyone else also enjoyed the thick, savory meat sauce over the homemade biscuits yesterday at Christmas morning brunch. "You know in restaurants," Dennis began, "you find specks of sausage and they call it sausage gravy. This is what I call sausage gravy and so does Paula, " he smiled. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you and your family. Thank you, Paula, for helping us to make a new Christmas memory - Paula Deen's Sausage & Bacon Gravy for Christmas brunch. Kathy Barrett on December 26, 2011

By Dennis & Kathy Barrett on December 26, 2011


just bought a set of your porcelain pans. I actually read instructions and they said do not use dishwasher. Where do I go to find an answer why?

By diane mcbride on December 26, 2011


Merry Merry Christmas to u n your family! I have plans to make almost total Paula Deen Christmas dinner! But I do have a huge question for u please tell me where I can get that white pepper grinder u use on your show---------------------please please please! I have hunted this whole month for it because I have soooooooooooo many family members who what them! I loved your story it is a story that truly inspires!

By dawn furgerson on December 24, 2011

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