Have You Ever Heard of "Sunday Houses?"
 This Texas Tradition Goes Way Back in History

The perfect place for granddad’s nap chair. 

By Kaitlyn Yarborough July 19, 2022 (Originally published in Southern Living)

It's no revelation that many of us can't wait to make it to the weekend, but Southerners have always tended to take weekend festivities to the next level. Fridays are for small-town football games or tickets to the local drive-in movie theater, and Saturdays are spent hunting down the best farm stand tomatoes or serving up sweet tea to friends on the porch. However, there is no day that has ever been more beloved in the South than Sunday.

Beyond being the day of rest—just ask grandpa who's snoozing in his nap chair—it's the day that many Southerners spend with family members for quality time and a big meal that usually consists of at least two creamy casseroles. Now, that might look many different ways, whether everyone is still gathering around the table or catching up over a video call. But for many Texans back in the day, that looked like a day spent at the "Sunday house." 

What is a Sunday house? The history goes back to the late 1800s, when German-Texans living in the Texas Hill Country resided primarily in remote areas on ranches and farms. Each weekend, the families would journey into town to handle business and shopping, as well as to enjoy Saturday night socializing and to attend church on Sunday, which included both morning service and afternoon Bible study. Thus, the Sunday houses were built as secondary homes to spend two nights during the weekend before heading back to weekly duties in rural areas. At times, the Sunday house could be used if a special circumstance drew a family member into town, and it could even become the permanent residence of retired ranchers who had already passed down farming duties to their children. 

Usually consisting of just two rooms and one level (sometimes with an extra half-level containing a sleeping loft), Sunday houses were compact and meant for easy upkeep and fleeting stays. Sunday houses in Texas were made with natural materials and a rustic finish befitting of the era. The unique architectural style makes the still-standing Sunday houses exist like miniature historic monuments of Texas Hill Country.  

If visiting a traditional German-Texas town in the Hill Country, you can still see the small dwellings residing around, typically located walkable to the main downtown area. Many Sunday houses still exist around the popular (and thoughtfully preserved) German-Texan town of Fredericksburg, which has many farms outside of town and hosts a big Oktoberfest celebration each year. You can also spot remnants of the tradition in nearby towns like New Braunfels and Castroville, too. In fact, these towns have remained huge destinations for Texas families on the weekends, letting the old-fashioned Sunday spirit live on. 

Really, Sunday houses don't seem like such a bad idea. Can we have ours at the beach?   

 

Sunday House seems  to me to mean --"Sunday, stay home --rest." That's when Grandpas nap, which is what grandpas seem to do wherever there's a sofa or chair  available. Doesn't have to be just in Texas either.  Of course, Sunday is the day to spend with family---enjoy that big family meal and catch up on the family gossip. How do you spend Sundays at your house? 

Miss Nancy

20 Unspoken Rules of Etiquette That Every Southerner Follows

SOUTHERN LIVING CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE


                                                Not only does Mama salute Emily Post, but she "goes her one better."

By Valerie Fraser Luesse Updated July 19, 2022  (originally published in Southern  Living)

There's social etiquette and then there's Mama'n'em's etiquette. None of these rules are written down. Southerners just absorb them through cornbread and the liquid sugarcane we call sweet tea.

We took a quick poll of our Facebook Brain Trust and found some common threads. It should come as no surprise that many Southern rules for proper etiquette revolve around food.

First of all, we're happy to report that the more draconian dining/entertaining rules for children have loosened considerably over the years. Back in the day, children were to be "seen and not heard" when company came over. Or at the very least "speak only when spoken to." When Mama entertained the preacher, the young'uns didn't eat till the good reverend had finished, and he always got the "pulley-bone."  Nowadays, there's plenty of Publix fried chicken for everybody. Still, some dining restrictions apply . . . and Mama has other rules, as well.

How to Be Polite at the Dinner Table

  • Never chew with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full. Do. Not. Smack.
  • Take off your hat or cap in the house, especially when eating or when a lady is present. Don't even think about coming near Mama in her house with that thing on your head. Not if you want to keep it. And we'll leave it to you to decide whether "it" refers to your hat or your head.
  • Elbows off the table.
  • Don't sing or whistle at the table.
  • Don't talk about unpleasantries at the table.
  • No cell phones at the table, in church, at the cemetery, or anywhere near Memaw. She hates those things.
  • Surely that stack of paper plates you just plopped down on the serving table aren't for takeout supper, prepared free of charge by your host. Surely, surely not.

How to Be a Gracious Host

  • When friends come over, children should let their guests choose the games and the snacks. It teaches consideration and courtesy.
  • Speaking of refreshments, we always offer some, even if they're simple. And we always take some (or at least offer to) whenever we attend a gathering, be it a barbecue or a funeral.
  • Always send a thank-you note (not a text) for a gift.

How to Be a Good Guest

  • It's considered bad form to ask for something to eat when you're a guest. You must wait to be offered food or drink—sometimes hope to be.
  • Always see your guests to the door when they leave.

How to Speak Politely

  • Always say please and thank you.
  • Always say "yes" instead of "yeah" or "yep," and if you're speaking to someone who prefers it, add a "ma'am" or "sir."

How to Show Respect to Others

  • Men and boys, open doors for women and girls.
  • Everybody holds the door open for whoever is approaching from behind you. "Southerners instinctively know if people are behind us when we're walking into stores, restaurants, and offices, and we patiently hold the door. My son inherited this ability even though he was born in NYC and is growing up northern," said Kelly, a Southerner transplanted to the Big Apple.
  • Men and boys should stand when a lady comes into the room or when she's being seated.
  • Everybody (regardless of gender) should stand when an elder (regardless of gender) enters the room or is being seated.
  • Never let on that you've heard PawPaw tell that story before. Says Gae in Alabama: "We are very good at listening to a friend or relative's retelling of a story for the umpteenth time as if it's the first time we're hearing it. It's respectful and just part of the fun of spending time together."

How to Behave in Church

Parents should teach their children how to handle themselves in "big church." Fortunately, there aren't that many rules to remember. It's not everything but it's enough for Junior and Sissy to qualify as raised right.

  • Eyes forward.
  • No running.
  • No talking.
  • No loud whispering.
  • No looking like you want to say something.
  • Eyes closed and head bowed during prayer.
  • No bellowing during the song service.
  • No turning to see who's behind you.
  • No kicking the pew in front of you.
  • No fidgeting.
  • No taking off your Sunday shoes.
  • No pointing.
  • No rummaging in Mama's purse.
  • No pushing at the fellowship table.

 

If no one else listens to Grandma telling everyone how "it's supposed to be," at least the dog listens!

Miss Nancy

Keep Sake Chests

                                                            "One that will be treasured forever"

By Anna Price Olson May 20, 2022 (originally published in Southern Living)

In the South, we tend to treasure things: family recipes, time-honed traditions, antique heirlooms—the older, the better. And the worth is not just in the item's value, but in the memory too.

For example, take the high school awards, pageant crowns, birthday cards, and letters handwritten from summer camp. Even tiny baseball gloves, used blankies, and stuffed animals that have seen better days. These items may be worthless in value—made of polyester, plastic, paper, and rhinestones bedazzled on metal—yet our Mamas save them like prized possessions. They do the same with objects that, in theory, are worth a little more. Smocked dresses, silver rattles, christening gowns made of vintage lace. 

These are all equally treasured gems—mementos from chapters of our lives that are stored as such, more often than not in what's called a keepsake chest. See, no average box or plastic bin will do when holding goods of such sentimental value. Our Mamas are known to make a display of said accessories, presenting them in trunks as if they are a curated exhibit at a museum. Only these are stored in a childhood bedroom, at the foot of the bed, or in an attic with easy access. A keepsake chest is one that will be treasured forever. 

What Is a Keepsake Chest 

Today's generation is following in the footsteps before them. (One look at Instagram, and you'll see Southern bloggers from Dallas to Charleston post about how they are ordering special trunks for their kids.) But the notion of a keepsake chest is not a new one—and, as much as we hate to admit, is technically not specific to the South. 

"Keepsake trunks have meant so many things to so many different cultures around the world for generations," explains Lindsay Mullenger, founder of Petite Keep, a company that specializes in making "heirloom-quality" trunks in Saint Louis, Missouri. "My favorite aspect of the concept and tradition is that it's so personal to its owner—the trunk can tell whichever story they would like it to." 

What to Store in a Keepsake Chest

Mullenger founded Petite Keep as a mom herself, as she was searching for a special place to hold her daughter's things and prepare for the birth of her second with no luck. Today, her two daughters—Heidi and Bella—each have their own keepsake trunk. 

"In my girls' trunks, I've kept their core pieces that have been a part of key moments (i.e. holidays, celebrations, milestones) or everyday memories—these are some of my favorites to hold on to because they make up the most of my memories," she explains. "There is something incredible about finding the special sweetness in the ordinary days!" 

Notable items include coming home outfits from the hospital, Beaufort Bonnets from their first summers, cards from family members, and prized artwork. "Perhaps my favorite pieces though are the simple things—the piece of paper Heidi first wrote 'Mom' on and the picture Bella first wrote her name on!" she adds. 

Items from her own childhood—from dresses she wore when she was little to her American Girl collection and first communion bible—have made their way into the girls' lives, too. All because they were kept and treasured by her own mother. "My mom made sure that our most special pieces were tucked away so that we could enjoy them in the future," she explains. "I am so, so grateful she did. It's so fun to see tradition live on." 

The Legacy of the Keepsake Chest

While we most associate keepsake trunks with our mothers, who have for generations held onto memories for us, it's never too late to start a keepsake chest of your own—whether for your children or grandchildren, yourself, or even your partner. Mullenger has one devoted to her wedding and sells them for special trips, life events, and even just-because "thank you's." She plans to surprise her husband with a trunk for Father's Day that will be filled with "memories of his time in the military, academic and career accomplishments, fun childhood snapshots of his I've been handed down over the years, and most notably, masterpieces from our three little artists." 

No matter the owner or recipient, we can guarantee that generations to come will be glad this piece of history exists. And, as tradition holds, will treasure it forever.

In the South, we tend to treasure things: family recipes, time-honed traditions, antique heirlooms—the older, the better. And the worth is not just in the item's value, but in the memory too.

For example, take the high school awards, pageant crowns, birthday cards, and letters handwritten from summer camp. Even tiny baseball gloves, used blankies, and stuffed animals that have seen better days. These items may be worthless in value—made of polyester, plastic, paper, and rhinestones bedazzled on metal—yet our Mamas save them like prized possessions. They do the same with objects that, in theory, are worth a little more. Smocked dresses, silver rattles, christening gowns made of vintage lace. 

These are all equally treasured gems—mementos from chapters of our lives that are stored as such, more often than not in what's called a keepsake chest. See, no average box or plastic bin will do when holding goods of such sentimental value. Our Mamas are known to make a display of said accessories, presenting them in trunks as if they are a curated exhibit at a museum. Only these are stored in a childhood bedroom, at the foot of the bed, or in an attic with easy access. A keepsake chest is one that will be treasured forever. 

What Is a Keepsake Chest 

Today's generation is following in the footsteps before them. (One look at Instagram, and you'll see Southern bloggers from Dallas to Charleston post about how they are ordering special trunks for their kids.) But the notion of a keepsake chest is not a new one—and, as much as we hate to admit, is technically not specific to the South. 

"Keepsake trunks have meant so many things to so many different cultures around the world for generations," explains Lindsay Mullenger, founder of Petite Keep, a company that specializes in making "heirloom-quality" trunks in Saint Louis, Missouri. "My favorite aspect of the concept and tradition is that it's so personal to its owner—the trunk can tell whichever story they would like it to." 

 

What keepsakes have you put aside for your family?