Combining a love of Deep South settings, a generous dose of Southern flavor and humor, and heartwarming romance, Alabama writer Lauren K. Denton pens stories that chronicle women’s journeys towards truth and love, hope and healing. Here, she talks with FaithGateway about Southern holiday traditions, faith, family and, of course, good books!
1. What’s most special/unique to you about the holidays in the South?
Homes are always a big focal point in the South, and even more so around the holidays. I love seeing the different ways people decorate their homes for Christmas — from simple pinecone garlands (which I’m going to make this year, thanks to Pinterest!) to grand staircases draped with greenery and bows.
Another southern favorite is food, of course. Ham, dressing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce are staples around Thanksgiving, but my family often tries different foods for Christmas. One year, my mom made a delicious oyster stew. Other year, we added potato latkes to the menu.
One last unique aspect to holidays in the South — often, the AC is pumping! My youngest keeps talking about snow coming soon since it’s Christmastime, and I hate to break it to her that the appearance of shorts is more likely than snow!
2. Tell us about a family Christmas tradition you had growing up.
When I was young, my mom and I saw “The Nutcracker” every Christmas season. The costumes, the sparkle, and the music were all such a treat. Even now, the music from The Nutcracker is some of my favorite to listen to during the season. I’m also continuing the tradition by taking my daughters to see the ballet.
Another memory of my childhood holidays was sitting in front of the fireplace at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather would keep a low fire burning all day long, and he always had a box of pecans and a nutcracker (the real kind) on the hearth. I’d sit by that fire and eat pecans and read while the adults would talk and cook. That’s one of my favorite memories.
3. What traditions have you created with your family?
Pulling our boxes of Christmas decorations out of the attic is always a fun day with our children. They love to poke through the boxes and “Ooh” and “Ahh” over things they’ve forgotten about. We have a big nativity set they love to set up in different ways and a big stack of Christmas books they read to each other. We also recently started using a Jesse Tree as a way to celebrate Advent. Using a few bare branches in a glass jar, the “tree” represents the stories of people in Jesus’s family tree. There’s an ornament and a scripture for every day leading up to Christmas.
4. How did you teach your children the Christmas story?
Honestly, I don’t remember the first time we taught our children about the Christmas story. It seems like they’ve just always known it. They learned about it in preschool and at church, of course, but in our family, the story of Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection is a fairly regular topic of conversation. And with their simple, yet often startlingly clear way of looking at life and faith, we often learn a lot from them.
5. If you could have a holiday meal with a character from your debut novel, The Hideaway, who would it be and what would you want to eat?
While I’d love to eat dinner with any of the characters in The Hideaway, I’m going to choose Dot. She loved Mags so well for all those years, despite the fact that Mags often made bizarre choices and clung to memories of a man she only knew for a short time. Dot must have wanted to shake some sense into Mags a few times, but she remained the definition of a loyal friend. I’d ask her to bring along some of Bert’s gumbo.
6. Now that the new year (and your new book Hurricane Season) is on the way, is there a focus scripture you’re keeping in mind?
“Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” Psalm 116:7. This is sort of an anti-anxiety verse for me. The Lord has been good to me and He will continue to be good to me, so I can rest. It’s a good reminder for me when things feel hectic or stressful, and with my second book releasing in April and working hard to finish up my third, things definitely have a potential to become stressful!
7. Have you come across a daily devotional or inspirational book you’d recommend to your readers?
Many of the readers who’ve sent me messages after reading The Hideaway have said the book was a way for them to relax, slow down, and savor rather than rushing, working, hurrying. I recently finished a book called Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren that served that same purpose for me. It slowed me down and showed me how to be more focused on the holiness of regular days. I heartily recommend it. I’m also reading through a compilation called Seeking God’s Face, edited by Philip Reinders, as a way to pray with scripture through the whole year.
8. Finally, what are you most grateful for this year?
This year, I’m most grateful for my family. It sounds cliché, but having gone through various illnesses in my family, I’m just thankful we are all together for another Christmas season. This time of year is so sweet, it’s an overwhelming blessing to be able to celebrate it with the people I love the most. (I’m also grateful for coffee — especially as the deadline for book #3 approaches!)
* * *
Come share your answer to the question put to Lauren — If you could have a holiday meal with a fictional character who would it be and what would you want to eat? We want to hear your answers!