What do you think of when you think about the holidays? Is it a big Christmas gathering with family, a fire, the scent of pine, the glitter of holiday packages, the sound of children giggling, a hug, making angels in the snow, or the smile of a loved one when you surprise them with that special gift?
A celebration of family is what Christmas is about, and everyone’s family has their own twist on tradition, views of the perfect holiday, and funny memories. Anne Murray, David Lee Murphy, Gary Chapman, Buck Owens, Bill Engvall, Matt King, Mark Miller from Sawyer Brown, Steve Grisaffe from River Road, and others share theirs.
Anne Murray, whose special Anne Murray’s Classic Christmas airs on TNN twice this holiday season, will spend Christmas at home with her husband and two children. You can see her husband Bill Langstroth and her children, Dawn and William, during the show finale when they join her to sing “Silent Night.” Anne says she always makes an effort to take time off to be with her family during the holidays. They live on a golf course in Toronto and due to some unseasonably warm temperatures, she might be golfing as you read this. If it does turn into a white Christmas, she will break out her cross country skis and “make” the family join her for a once around the course.
Though Anne says her family doesn’t have any special Christmas traditions, she does recall her brother’s, “When his kids were little, he used to make reindeer tracks on his roof. He used to take skis and make big wide marks (like sleigh tracks). What he used to do was amazing! I wish I had some of those great stories to tell you. I do have a funny story that happened when the kids were little. I can’t remember their ages, but they were old enough to get up, out of bed, and come down to the tree. While Bill and I were still asleep, they opened every present under the tree–every present! We had no idea what belonged to whom or who they were from. So that year when we sent thank you notes, it was like, ‘Thank you so much for whatever you gave us. We loved it!'”
She continued, “Another time we set the flue on fire at 8:30 in the morning by putting too many Christmas wraps in the fireplace. The flue was on fire, so we had to get the fire department, who came in and it was all muddy, wet and slushy, ya know. In they came, all over the carpets, all over my beautiful Christmas room. Those two are my funniest Christmas stories.”
Comic Bill Engvall shares his idea of a great Christmas, “My perfect Christmas would be to wake up with some fresh snow on the ground. My family happy and healthy and living back home in Texas. Which of course, you are probably not going to get too much fresh snow on the ground in Texas, but you know what I mean.
“We have a family tradition that every Christmas Eve the kids get to open up one little present. We put out the milk and cookies for Santa like a lot of people. (After the kids go to sleep), then I take my boots and walk them in the ashes from the fireplace to the tree. My daughter has caught on, but my son still thinks it’s cool.”
Prime Time Country host, Gary Chapman describes his favorite part of the season, “We have a Christmas morning tradition that was handed down from my father. As the kids come downstairs brimming with greed, ready to tear into their presents, we first sit down and read the Biblical account of Christmas. I remember really hating this until sometime around mid-adolescence. The truth of it all hit me one year. It’ll hit my kids someday.”
Atlantic Records artist, Matt King’s tradition is truly enlightening! “Every Christmas for some reason, when we are putting the lights on (the tree), I have this habit of putting the lights up my nose. So for each year there is this picture of me wrapped in the Christmas tree lights, before we put them on, and two of the globes of different colors up each nostril. We have this chronology photo series of ‘Matt playing Rudolph’,” He chuckled.
Matt’s perfect Christmas would be for his Mom and Dad to still be together and to get to meet Jesus. He’ll be celebrating this Christmas with his wife Cindy and dog Niku. This year he looks forward to giving. He explains, “This year I want to be able to give some things to some people that I’ve never been able to — in secret and them not know where it came from.” Oops, hope we didn’t spoil any surprises.
Mark Miller, from Sawyer Brown, shares his idea of the perfect Christmas, “Hopefully, it’s what’s going to happen. My family all gets together on Christmas Eve. We eat a big dinner. My mother says a few Bible verses and all the kids pray. Then we open some gifts and when the gifts are open, we eat some more. That’s the perfect Christmas for me. Then we go home and Santa comes. Our kids get up on Christmas morning, and we race them to the Christmas tree to see what Santa has brought.
Buck Owen’s idea of the perfect Christmas is “hunkerin’ down out at the ranch.” He explains, We don’t answer any phones and we don’t answer no bells and that’s what we’re gonna do this time.”
You can bet that one of country songstress Deana Carter’s favorite Christmas memories will be from this year. While the singer was recently in Washington to tape the annual Christmas In Washington television special, she and her brother/guitarist, Jeff, received an extra special Christmas present. The two received an invitation to the White House from President and First Lady Clinton. The visit turned especially momentous when First Daughter Chelsea made a special effort to introduce herself to Deana.
Sometimes the holidays are about remembering, as David Lee Murphy recounts, “I guess when I think about Christmas, I always think about being a little kid back in Southern Illinois, with all my family and aunts and uncles and grandpas. All those people are just about gone now. So my ideal Christmas would to be able to spend a Christmas with all those people again. I guess that’s it — to just spend it with all my family.
“But this is going to be a special Christmas for us, too. We’ve got a brand new baby. I’ve got two boys that are ten and four. The new one is 13 weeks old. So I guess now my ideal Christmas would just be spending time with them out on my farm — being inside by the fireplace with a turkey in the oven and all the Christmas lights turned on,” says David.
Newcomers The Kinleys’ thoughts on Christmas are always of a family nature — especially since Heather and Jennifer are identical twins. The two remember always receiving the same exact gifts to avoid envy and favoritism. There was also another rule to keep from spoiling the surprise. “We had to open our presents back-to-back,” Heather explained. “We’d yell at each other if one started opening before the other,” Jennifer laughs. ” To this day we still do that.” Other Christmas traditions for the Kinleys are watching It’s A Wonderful Life and eating Aunt Grace’s coleslaw.
For Martina McBride, opening presents underneath the tree sparks another fond Christmas tradition. She remembers most the Santa Claus cloth, which was basically a white bed sheet that covered all the gifts that Santa had delivered on Christmas Eve. Another tradition was actually a rule. Nobody removed the sheet until her dad had finished milking the cows. “We’d all come in the living room and he’d make this grand deal of pulling the sheet off, and there would be all the toys from Santa Claus.”
Naomi Judd recalls, “Food, fun, family and friends are important to us Judds, so we seize every opportunity to celebrate. We gather to observe all the holidays, to commemorate family events and religious rites, and just for jamborees of noisy merrymaking and uninhibited fun. The year we took back Christmas, we got a group of friends together and went to an inner-city church in Nashville, where we helped prepare a hearty holiday dinner for 24 homeless people. We gave them warm clothes, sang carols and visited. The next day we went to a center for terminally ill children, giving them presents and refreshments and singing their favorite Christmas songs. The two days made us reflect on our own blessings, and we felt like we acknowledged the reason for the season.”
Randy Travis, who has been touring and filming a movie starring Patrick Swayze, will be filming up until Christmas and then will go to his home in Maui for the holidays. What does he plan to do on his days off? “Sleep,” he laughed.
Lead singer of Capitol’s River Road, Steve Griaffe, says, “My plans for Christmas are to have a quiet day with my family. We’ve been on the road for two months, so it’s going to be really special this year since we weren’t home for Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday tradition is eating a big, giant Cajun meal. Also, reminding the children that Christmas is the day that Jesus was born. Happy Birthday Jesus! And, of course, we always crank up the Elvis Christmas album.”
From all of us at country.com, may your holidays be filled with joy and your heart touched by the spirit of this season throughout the new year.