I remember piling into the truck with Dad, Mom, and Sis and heading to Hickory Holler,Tennessee for Decoration Day. Hickory Holler is where my Mom grew up. Decoration Day was a late spring or summer tradition that involved cleaning community cemeteries, decorating them with flowers, and holding a religious service in the cemetery, followed with "dinner on the ground." Decoration Day seems to predate the post-Civil War celebrations. Ultimately, Decoration Day gave us our national Memorial Day.
"Dinner on the ground" was the fun part of the day for us kids. All of the church ladies would have cooked their favorite scratch recipes to share with everyone for a picnic. Some of the churches constructed covered pavilions for the Dinner on the grounds.
Others simply had long tables made from benches with planks on top. The tables would groan with the tremendous load of cooked food. No Take-out Food presented here! I particularly remember the coconut cakes (not your regular two-layer, but a six-layer cake), fried chicken, and deviled eggs.
As an adult, I am still trying to re-create the famous "dinner on the ground" Coconut cake, and my Mom's biscuits and Tea cakes. My sister and I are considered very good cooks, but how we never got the recipe for the Tea cakes is beyond us. Well, on the biscuits.....after 30 years of trying, I have given up! I only make biscuits once a year for my christmas party, and that is pure torture.
I had not really thought much about the many traditions that were a part of my growing up in the deep South, until I mentioned Dinner on the Ground to a friend, and she was completely clueless as to what I was describing. I decided to start exploring other traditions of my childhood and the forgotten wisdoms of country living.
Country Wisdom......Decoration Day was to honor the deceased, and Dinner on the Ground was a way to provide communion to those gathered in the cemetery with the deceased. A lovely tradition that really had a true meaning.