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The calendar says spring starts on March 20, but I think it’s been sneaking back for the last few weeks. I’m not complaining about the unseasonably warmer temperatures, but it’s weird for spring to start appearing so early. Maybe Mother Nature is giving us a head start.

It’s time to bid adieu to winter and usher warmer temperatures, bluer skies, blossoming flowers and everything else that comes with the changing season. My mood always improves significantly when spring arrives.

When it comes to spring, there are 13 things every Southerner knows to be true.

So pretty. So full of pollen.

1. Pollen is a curse. That icky yellow stuff comes back with more of a vengeance each year. It can rain cats and dogs overnight and you’ll still wake up to a nice coat of pollen on your car. And it takes your spring allergies to a whole other level of nightmare.

2. So are mosquitoes. Nothing makes me itch like a mosquito bite. Of course I’m a magnet for the little suckers; they feast on me in the summer like it’s Thanksgiving. When the mosquitoes start biting, I know that spring has arrived and summer is just around the corner. If you have any recommendations for making mosquito bites not itch, please send them my way.

3. Magnolias and gardenias are the epitome of floral Southern beauty. Yes, roses are nice, but when these flowers bloom, my heart is full of joy. I’ll always stop to admire a towering magnolia tree or stick my nose in a gardenia plant. Nothing smells quite as sweet as freshly cut gardenias. Sunflowers are also nice, but those come later.

4. Hold the white and open-toed shoes until after Easter. Even if the calendar says “spring,” every good Southerner–or anyone with an ounce of fashion sense–knows that the white doesn’t come out until after Easter, and it goes away after Labor Day. I’ll make an exception for my Chacos sandals because they’re pretty utilitarian, but that’s it.

5. Seersucker is a staple. Whether a dress, a pair of shorts or a full suit, every Southerner needs at least one article of seersucker clothing. I’m a proud supporter of seersucker and am counting down the days until Easter when I can wear my dress again. Even on the warmest spring and hottest summer days, seersucker clothing is light as a feather and I love it.

foxfield horse races 2014

Officially Southern. Proof that I’ve worn a floppy hat AND been to a horse race (Foxfield Races in Charlottesville, Va.).

6. Pastels are everywhere. In closets, in stores, in the garden, at the farmer’s market, at church… you name a place, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll find something pastel there.

7. Derby Parties are of utmost importance. A Southerner loves a good reason to dress up, and the Kentucky Derby is a prime opportunity to do that. I’m talking nice dresses and suits, floppy hats with giant bows (to match, of course), those fancy shoes you only break out for the most special of occasions. We have to look our best to drink mint juleps, munch on deviled eggs and watch horses run! The parties away from the actual event are just as fancy.

8. Nothing beats a good backyard or cul-de-sac cookout. When the nice weather hits, so does the insatiable desire to invite over some friends, throw some burgers on the grill and have an outside dinner party. Some of my favorite memories from my childhood are cookouts with our cul-de-sac neighbors. Back-porch dinner parties are also fun. What’s your favorite Southern summer cookout recipe?

magnolia blossom

Pretty May flowers like magnolias.

9. April showers bring the prettiest May flowers. I love a good spring thunderstorm, especially on a weekend when I don’t have anything to do and I can sit inside, wrap up in a blanket and watch it rain. I also love the flowers they bring afterward. Except that means more pollen. But pollen also means more bees, and bees make honey, so it’s all good.

10. Gardening and yard work are regular weekend activities. My parents are blessed with green thumbs, but I can hardly keep a $1 sunflower seed alive (y’all know those little seed kits in the dollar bin). That doesn’t stop me from trying, though. In the spring and summer, my dad’s favorite Sunday afternoon activity was mowing our yard. He said he planned his work presentations while mowing. Every year for Mother’s Day, we took my mom to Lowe’s or Home Depot, let her pick out her flowers, and spent the rest of the day planting them. Ours was one of the best-kept yards on our street.

11. Spring cleaning is nothing to joke about. I should be more diligent about this myself. It’s an opportunity for me to go completely Monica Geller and clean literally everything in my apartment. Spring signals a fresh start, and a clean space makes me feel ready for whatever the rest of the year (or day, or week, or month) throws my way. Spring cleaning with your windows open is an added bonus. If you just don’t have the energy to clean, you can rely on maid services to do the dirty work for you, literally. But before hiring one, it’s best to take note of details like “How often should a maid service clean your house?”.

12. Humidity. It’s almost a dirty word. After growing up in Hotlanta, I like to think I can tolerate humidity, but that doesn’t mean I like it. Stay hydrated, y’all.

13. Windows down, music up. The first day the weather is warm and nice enough, my windows are down and I’m blasting “Ocean Avenue” by Yellowcard on my drive downtown to work. When we lived in Pennsylvania, my mom and I quite enjoyed driving through back roads with the sunroof open and (the long version of) “Friends in Low Places” playing as loud as we could bear it.

I love summer in the South as much as the next person.

There’s something so lovely about Southern spring. What’s your favorite thing about spring in the South?