Maybe it’s the fragrance of a freshly cut fir. An old-fashioned card. A smoldering log in a fireplace beneath bulging stockings. From childhood recollections of reindeer hooves on the roof and visions of sugarplums to the joy of buying a unique gift for that special someone, everyone has cherished memories of Christmas. Your favorite country stars are no different. We asked many of them what their fondest recollections of the holidays were and here’s what they told us!
“I always sort of lean toward this one when I was young. I must have been 8 or 9 or so and I got a go‑cart for Christmas. Daddy didn’t have enough money to buy us a lot of things we really wanted. So, he bought this go‑cart used and fixed it up and it was real nice. It looked new; I wouldn’t have known the difference. That Christmas morning was cold, and the little two-cycle engine threw a rod and wouldn’t run. I didn’t even get to ride the thing. But Daddy, who was a mechanic, went out in the garage and took a bunch of old lawn-mower engines and parts and put another engine together. He had it back on there about lunchtime and had that thing running for me. I thought that was pretty neat. I didn’t think that much about it then – I was disappointed the thing wouldn’t run. As I got older, I looked back and realized it was pretty special for him to do something like that.”
“I love Christmas because it’s not only family time, but it’s a time we’re celebrating the end of the year and Jesus’birthday. It’s very sentimental to me and very spiritual. One thing I always remember about Christmastime is my older brother Pake. When we were kids at home, he’d always be the first one to jump out of bed and hurry down the hall. We had a floor furnace at the time and you had to sort of run around it and it made a lot of noise when he’d hit that side pocket as he was running around it. He was just running down the hall with his underwear on, and he’d say, ‘You’d all better hurry up and get up, or I’m going to open all the presents by myself.’But he knew the rule was we’d all have to be there before anybody could open a present. But I can still see Pake running down the hall.”
“It’s going to sound really terrible at first, but it has a happy ending. The ultimate Christmas, maybe not the favorite for the reasons a lot of people think something would be your favorite, but the most meaningful Christmas was the Christmas I had a car accident. I wound up in the hospital on December 25, which sounds really weird, but I was kind of a wild child and my parents were splitting up and it was just a real turbulent time. I was 16.
“But when I woke up in the hospital, they were standing there. The way they looked at me when I opened my eyes, I just knew that there was nothing I could ever do that would make them so mad. When you’re a kid, you don’t know how far you can push your parents, but I knew there was nothing I could ever do that could make them just love me more than life itself, and how much they love me even though they were having problems and splitting up.
“But it didn’t matter: They were my parents and they loved me more than anything. I’ve just never forgotten that. It was the gift of love. I knew I could really mess up and they *still* loved me. I was lucky to be [alive]. It was the gift of life and the gift of my parents’love, and the gift of a second chance.”
“My most memorable Christmas was the last one I spent with my grandfather, who died of emphysema. He had come to live with my dad, and he was always pleasant to be around. When he came to live with us, we got attached to him, and we knew he didn’t have long to live. He was the Will Rogers of the family. He used common sense in everything he did. One time, my brother and sister and I had misbehaved, and we thought Santa had passed us by. So my grandfather climbed up on the roof and banged on it with a two-by-four while jingling bells, and that quieted us.”
“At Christmastime when I was 11 years old, I had been hunting for two weeks with my grandma, who I call Na Na. We were scheduled to go back to my Mom and Dad’s on Christmas Eve to open gifts. I had been asking for a new 12-gauge shotgun for Christmas for months and months. All I had at the time was a .410 shotgun that Na Na had given me.
“When we got home, I rushed into the living room, excited at the thought of that new shotgun I just knew was going to be under the tree. My parents were waiting with the camera in hand to take a picture of my reaction to my Christmas present. But my surprise was bigger than I expected because I didn’t receive that shotgun. Instead, it was a gift that I least wanted – a weight bench and barbell set. I was crushed and the snapshot my mom took showed it. I tried to cover up my disappointment, but it was no use. I should have been satisfied with what I had gotten, but my parents could tell I was let down. My parents felt terrible; they’ve always done whatever they could to see that my sister and I were happy. Later that day, Dad took me down to Gibson’s Department Store and bought me the 12-gauge shotgun. That’s just the way my parents were, and still are today. Thanks Mom and Dad.
“Oh, by the way, I loved my shotgun and hunted with it the next two weeks. Then our house got broken into and guess what was stolen? I guess it just wasn’t meant for me to have that shotgun for keeps.”
“One Christmas Eve, when I was about 5, our whole family was over at our house, which is where we always gathered. Someone started yelling as they were looking out the window, because they could see Santa Claus coming down the street. He went to my friend Jennifer’s house across the street and we just knew he was coming to our house, too. Well, it was Jennifer’s father who had done this for Jennifer. My mom had to go in the back, call him up and say, ‘There are 20 kids over here who are going to go nuts if you don’t put the suit back on and come over.’And he did. He came up the hill and he had clipped sunglass visors on his glasses, saying that Rudolph’s nose was so bright this year he had to wear sunglasses. I really thought he was Santa, but I remember saying, ‘Mom, you know Santa sounds just like Mr. Anderson.’”
“This past Christmas was the most wonderful. My parents had come up from Georgia to visit and my daddy, Roger, found a leather jacket that he really liked. But it was expensive — too expensive for him, in fact, so he didn’t buy it. Well, I went back to the store later on and bought Daddy that jacket and wrapped it up as a present. On Christmas, he opened the box and found that jacket he liked so much. His face had this great look on it that was so special, it made my Christmas.”
The Tractors’ Steve Ripley
“The first Christmases that my daughter Angeline and son Elvis would have been old enough to experience are my favorites. And then I go back and remember when I was that age. We found some 8mm film that my cousin shot when I was 7 or 8 at Christmas on the farm, me singing ‘All Shook Up’for the relatives. So it’s those two – of me as a kid and my own kids ‑ especially the first time when they’re excited about Santa coming.”
“One of my favorite Christmas memories involves a trick played on me. My husband and I were living in the basement of my parents’house in Gallatin, Tennessee. And like I did every year, I offered to vacuum around the Christmas tree. My vacuuming is a little holiday tradition, because I get to rearrange all of the gifts and see which ones and how many are for me. Well, my sisters figured out that that’s why I vacuumed, so they ganged up and put just one little gift under the tree for me. And I thought that little box was for our dog, because she always got the smallest present. So when I figured out the one box was for me, I was crushed! Then on Christmas Day, my family surprised me by wheeling out a baby carriage full of gifts for me. The joke was on me! But I still vacuum around the tree.”
“My most memorable Christmas was the last one I spent with my grandfather, who died of emphysema. He had come to live with my dad, and he was always pleasant to be around. When he cam to live with us, we got attached to him, and we knew he didn’t have long to live. He was the Will Rogers of the family. He used common sense in everything he did. One time, my brother and sister and I had misbehaved, and we thought Santa had passed us by. So my grandfather climbed up on the roof and banged on it with a two-by-four while jingling bells and that quieted us.”
When pressed for his memory, wisecracking Vince came up with one we can all relate to:
“My most memorable Christmas was the last one. Anytime I make it through another Christmas, that means I’ve lived another year, and that’s as great as it gets!”