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Lowcountry Holiday Heritage: Gullah Thanksgiving

Lowcountry Holiday Heritage: Gullah Thanksgiving

When this time of year comes around we often are excited for our family to gather with one another and slightly more excited to dive into a delicious Thanksgiving feast. Today, I am here to share what you all should be looking forward to this Thanksgiving, however in a Gullah-Geechee environment.   

Gullah History 

The term Gullah refers to many blacks located in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and along the Sea Islands of Georgia. The Gullah-Geechee way of life is focused much on tradition and was collectively crafted by descendants of enslaved Africans from places like Sierra Leone and Liberia. From their delicious tradition in food and diverse creole dialect, Gullah culture is constantly bringing the farm-to-table and amping up the Southern hospitality. With deep rooted connections to Africa and their ability to preserve Gullah culture and traditions, Geehcee people are even more known for their tasty Thanksgiving holiday cuisine. 

Thanksgiving Heritage

In the African American community, Thanksgiving is a time where families gather to reminisce, enjoy one another’s presence, and intake delicious cuisine. This time of the year allows for loved ones to travel back to their Southern homes and catch up with childhood friends and most importantly enjoy the surplus of helpings from our mother, grandmothers, and aunts. Southern cultures are known for traditional foods at Thanksgiving such as dressing/stuffing, greens, and sweet potato pie, however in the Gullah household, this holiday has a little twist on cuisine. 

Thanksgiving Traditions in a Gullah Household

While family is still at the heart of Thanksgiving in the Gullah household, the food is much different. Instead of a fried turkey on the table when walking into a Gullah home, Geechee individuals are expected to see a whole hog on the dinner table. Cooking of pork is a traditional Gullah norm and requires seasonal preparation which allows for this dish to be cooked mostly from November through February. This is ultimately why a hog is a must have at many Gullah celebrations, especially Thanksgiving. 

Another Gullah favorite that may shock many are oyster main dishes and side dishes. Whether it’s an oyster stuffing/dressing or oyster pie, the sea oyster will definitely be included as an entree Thanksgiving and many more to come. The usage of oyster is the perfect way for Gullah Southern Belles to add Lowcountry love to their Thanksgiving day feast. 

As many can see Seafood is a staple in the Gullah household and fish is also ideal to be seen at many Geechee Thanksgiving gatherings. Since Gullah heritage hails back to the usage of what was available to them, many made it a priority to create dishes around items that were readily accessible and fish was one of many. Fish is normally seen at Thanksgiving as a side dish and sometimes incorporated into a stew, fried, baked or stuffed. Despite the incorporation of pork as well, fish stands out at any Thanksgiving and can alter to fit anyone personal preferences. 

Black Owned Gullah Products 

At any Gullah home, there is expected to be a few different dishes and a variety of Black Owned Gullah products featured. From the Gullah All Spice Authentic Seasoning to the Gullah Garlic and Herb Fish Fry Batter, Gullah traditional cuisine products are sure to be put to use during the Holiday season. Not only will seasonings be used throughout the day, sweetgrass baskets, which is also a cultural design in the Gullah community, will also be used to hold a plethora of food items or used as a Thanksgiving decor item to add details of the Lowcountry. 

Overall, the Gullah tradition is very much unique to their culture and heritage and is shown consistently throughout everything Geechee individuals do. Next time you are visiting a Lowcountry home for Thanksgiving see if you are able to taste these yummy dishes and share your experience with us by hashtagging #BlackSouthernBelle or submit your cuisine images to info@blacksouthernbelle.com

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Terrianna Mccullough
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