Todd And Julie Chrisley Talk Traditions, Favorite Holiday Foods, Gifts, And More - Exclusive Interview

In America, the holiday season — kicking off with Thanksgiving and lasting through Christmas and Hanukah and other winter festivities and right on until New Year's Day, and for some, even well into the New Year — is a time for families to come together and celebrate all they share and cherish together. For Todd and Julie Chrisley and their kids, that's very much the spirit of the season, except that the Chrisley Family happens to be joined by a few million viewers as they enjoy their favorite holiday dishes, deck the halls of their lovely home, swap gifts (and the occasional barb), and generally enjoy the holidays. And, as fans of their long-running reality TV show "Chrisley Knows Best" surely know by now, this season is something these folks thoroughly enjoy.

When Mashed caught up with Julie and Todd for a recent interview, both had plenty to say about their favorite aspects of the season and shared favorite memories and traditions from the past, too. Many of the dishes and the gifting and the other things they discussed will be on-screen as the Chrisleys open their home to the public in their seasonal specials "Chrisley Knows Thanksgiving" and "A Very Chrisley Christmas," but they shared a few tidbits not so easily caught on camera as well. Such as how Todd may like to joke about how his favorite gift is cash (or "anything that has a label on it") but in fact one of his favorite things about the holidays is giving, not receiving. And how Julie just can't seem to arrive on time for anything, even dinner at home. Which works out OK in the end, as she's the one preparing it anyway.

For the Chrisleys, holidays are about being together

What are a few of the most important and enduring Chrisley family traditions?

Todd Chrisley: I think being together.

Julie Chrisley: Absolutely! I think Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, because it's truly about just getting together, having a great meal and not about gifts. It's about truly enjoying each other's company.

TC: I prefer gifts, but none of them have taste like I do. So it really works out better if they just give me cash. 

Are there a few specific Chrisley traditions, whether it's anything from a type of gift that's always given, traditional songs, meals, or things that are always there at the holidays?

JC: Well, I think for Thanksgiving, absolutely. I incorporate things that I had growing up from my grandmother, my mother, Todd's mother, early on, and then the things that my children love, they have their favorites that they always know that mom's going to have at Thanksgiving.

TC: I think that, I grew up — we both grew up — very traditional and Thanksgiving was always a big meal for my mother and for my family, as well as Julie's. And I think what Julie has done has been such a blessing for us as a family, for me as a husband and for my children, that everything that I had, that I love, Julie incorporated into her life and everything she loved, she brought in, and it's turned out to be a wonderful combination. As for gifts for Christmas, we're label whores, so anything that has a label on it, they love.

JC: Well, and I think for me, I love to give gifts to people, my friends, my family, my loved ones, that they would not buy themselves. So I like to buy my mother, I like to buy Todd's mother, something that they would never buy themselves.

TC: And that makes it hard for them, for me, because I will always treat myself.

The Chrisleys' favorite holiday foods

What are a few dishes that are always present at a Chrisley family holiday table?

JC: Well, like I said, or Todd has said, we're very traditional. So we always have turkey. My homemade cornbread dressing is probably a favorite at our table, and that's something that we have every Thanksgiving. I do a sweet potato soufflé. Everyone loves my macaroni and cheese. So very Southern, full of carbs.

What are a few tips you could share for helping people manage the busy and often challenging cooking and prep at Thanksgiving and the winter holidays?

TC: I'm a schedule person, I like for things to run on time. And Julie is always, always, always, always late. [She] will die and the only time she will be on time is for her funeral.

JC: But now let's keep in mind, Julie's doing 99% of the cooking.

TC: Yes, and have been for 26 years, so you should be able to know how to be on time.

JC: Well, it's easy for someone to schedule when they're not doing the cooking. So I think the key for me is just to plan ahead, to buy early, especially this season. I've already begun to buy things. I have it in a particular place where I know where it is and I'm going to actually do some prepping early for things that can be done early.

Can each if you pick one specific dish that you most look forward to each holiday, and perhaps if you know if Nanny Faye or your kids has a favorite?

TC: I think the one thing for me is probably the dressing, the cornbread dressing and turkey.

JC: Yep. And that, I think, that would be Nanny Faye's too.

TC: And she makes an amazing gravy that just like clogs your arteries when you look at it. So I think that's probably my favorite.

JC: Yeah. And the desserts, so I always do my carrot cake, which is a favorite of everybody's.

And is there something that kids always look forward to?

TC: I think for Chase [that] would be the cornbread dressing and turkey and gravy. And I think that, and again, her carrot cake, the kids all love that and have for their entire life. They love the sweet potato soufflé. My mother loves this congealed salad that Julie makes with bananas and pecans and whatever. But you would be hard pressed if we invited you over for dinner for you to say you didn't love everything that she put on the table.

How Todd and Julie get the kids involved in the holidays

How can parents involve kids in a holiday cooking? The setup, the planning, all of it, in a way that creates happy times instead of adds stress?

JC: Well, I think you give every person a job. And I think you give them a job that they're capable of doing, now for Chloe, our 9-year-old, that means putting the ice in all the glasses. So she's responsible for counting how many people we have, and for –

TC: And for putting the napkins out.

JC: For putting the napkins out. Grayson is my trash taker outer. He takes out all the trash.

TC: That we fight over.

JC: That's his job! Savannah is actually a huge help because Savannah's actually a really good cook. So Savannah will cook some. She'll make a dessert. And also, she helps me with prep because she knows how things are supposed to look because she's always been in the kitchen with me.

Julie and Todd talk traditions old and new

What are some ways that people can start new traditions for the holidays that will feel genuine and can last from year to year?

JC: I think for me, and Todd and I did this many, many years ago, we decided that we had to create our own traditions. And that meant we can't go to his parents, to my parents, at the time my grandparents were still with us. We can't spread ourselves so thin, we have to say, okay, Thanksgiving, we're going to do it at our house. Anyone's welcome to join us, but it's going to be at our house. For Christmas, our children are going to wake up at our home on Christmas. If you want to come and see what Santa brought you are welcome to, but we're not going to jump up and start running house to house. And I think that's what happens to a lot of people.

TC: But in all honesty, we did do that when we first got married.

JC: Yeah.

TC: We didn't kind of set that tradition until I started realizing that the kids get up on Christmas morning, they open all their stuff. Now they've got to get to the shower and get dressed and get ready, because now we've got to go to my parents and open their Christmas there, then got to leave there. We'll have lunch there and then we'll go to Julie's parents, where we have dinner and then we'll go to granny's, her grandparents, we'd go there for dessert or we would switch it around each year and it just became exhausting. And so we felt like that we were cheating our children out of those traditions by giving them so much to do on those days. So we established our own.

Is there a way to gracefully let go of a tradition that just does not work for your family anymore, even when, say, the extended family may still want it?

JC: We've tried a few years ago, we actually traveled on Christmas, and we planned this beautiful trip. It was an amazing trip and our children just, they, as much as they loved it and they appreciated it, they wanted to be home on Christmas because that's what they knew. So I do think it can be a little tricky when you start changing things up. I've experienced that with my parents and with Todd's parents over the years that if we changed anything, they kind of, they didn't know how to act. So I think it's easing them into it. And I think for our children, they still try to hold onto those traditions. I mean, it's just what they know and it's what they love and what they look forward to. And I'm okay with that. I mean, there is going to be a time when hopefully they're all married and have their own families and I'm sure Todd and I will experience that when everyone is not here on Thanksgiving because they're having to split their time with other family members.

TC: This is the craziest thing I've ever heard of. My children will always be at home for the holidays, and if they don't, they won't be gifted.

That's going to be in writing...

A few of Todd Chrisley's cherished memories

What are a few specific cherished holiday memories that you have with your own kids and from your own childhoods, those few good memories that you just never forget?

TC: I think for me, the memories that I'll never forget, my mother's always been a hard working woman. My parents worked in a textile factory my entire life and I would watch my mother. She would start towards the end of summer and she'd start putting things on layaway that she knew that she wanted her kids to have for Christmas. And she would always work over every day to make sure that we had a huge Christmas, because Santa was the thing that she wanted to give her children. 

And I think that's why I'm such a big gift giver now. And because why Christmas is so important to me, because it was a holiday that my mother cherished. So I think Christmas and watching my mother start preparing for that at the end of summer, was always something that instilled in me, to work hard, to pay it forward and to make sure that you take care of those that you love the most.

The Chrisleys talk giving back

What is your favorite holiday?

TC: Probably Christmas. I love to, and all jokes aside, I don't love to receive gifts because I buy what I want to buy for myself regardless. But I do love to give things to people like Julie's said that they would not buy for themselves or that they would never expect that they're going to have. Those are things that's important to me. I want to make the people that I love — I want to let them know how much I cherish them. And I think you do that in more ways than just gift giving. I try to do it all year long with the fact that I tell my kids every day of their life, a hundred times a day, I love you, you're perfect the way God made you. But Christmas is a big time for me. I love to give things.

JC: And we love to give back. Over the years, whether that's been, we did an elementary school in Todd's home town.

TC: I did that for 15 years.

JC: For several years, many years, we did a tree and parents could put on the tree what they wanted their kids to get for Christmas. And then we would buy the gifts and allow the parents to come pick them up so that they were giving their gifts, that they couldn't maybe afford to give them. So we find those charities, we find people, just families in need. And that is something that we do every year, whether it's just someone that we come in contact with or someone that we're put with that we can give back to and make sure that everyone's getting a Christmas.

TC: And we've been doing Adopt-A-Family for years. And now I think the great part about that is that our kids do that. And so I think what it's done for us personally is that it's helped our kids to appreciate more of what we do for them, because now they're actually doing for a whole family. And when they see these lists that come in, it's for little boy's underwear, for hair products for a little girl and...

JC: It's a baby doll.

TC: Yeah. It's a baby doll, not a whole department store of dolls. So I think that has helped our children to know that to whom much is given much is required. And through them giving back, it's helped them to receive what we give them in a more appreciative manner.

The gift of some perspective.

TC: Yes!

Julie and Todd on the spirit of the season

What is it about the holidays that genuinely seems to bring people together?

TC: I think for me, it's the hope of a new beginning. It's the hope of letting everything else go that has gotten you to the point that you are today. And if it's something negative or someone's offended you or they've hurt you. I think that I look at it as Christmas is a new beginning. It's the new year for me. It's the thing where we can let go of all of the anger and the hurt and try to move forward in your life.

JC: And I think it's about family.

TC: Yes.

JC: I think it's about spending time with those that you love. [We] rush around all throughout the year and everyone's busy, everyone has their own things going on, but it is that time, Thanksgiving, Christmas, where we can all come together and just slow down for a minute.

Check out "Chrisley Knows Best" and" Chrisley Knows Thanksgiving" streaming on Peacock and on USA.