Every family has their own favorite Christmas traditions, and country stars are no different! Here, they share some of their own traditions.
Eric Church’s favorite tradition started as a child, and it’s one he plans to carry over now that he’s a father. “My grandmother, when she was alive, would always come over, and every year she would bring this Christmas story, and some of them were gut-wrenching,” he explains. “I’m not going to lie to you. They were just heart tugging stories about people who had had…about a Christmas miracle, who had something happen to them; something magical for Christmas that had turned [their] life around…whether it was a homeless person, or just anything,” says Eric.
“And she would always look all year long and find this story, and then we would have breakfast and she would read it, and it was just our family and we’ve carried that on,” continues Eric. “My mom does that now, and she finds the story, and that’s something I’m going to do with my family. And Katherine [Eric’s wife] and I have talked about it. It’ll be her turn to find that, and we have a big Christmas breakfast and we sit around and we share that.”
Luke Bryan has a somewhat unusual family tradition for Christmas. “Our main Christmas tradition is we like to do chili dogs on Christmas Eve, and then wake up and just open presents with all the kids.”
Food also plays a part in Tim McGraw’s house. “My mother’s maiden name is d’Agostino, so we come from an Italian family on her side, so for Christmas Eve, we always have homemade pasta. That’s sort of a tradition that I’ve had growing up and it’s continued since I’ve been married [to Faith Hill], so we look forward to that Christmas Eve, and getting up Christmas morning and making eggs with spaghetti sauce.”
Darius Rucker says Christmas Day at his house is laid-back and fun. “Christmas at the Rucker house is pretty laid-back. Our kids wake up early – real early – and open their gifts and we hang out, have breakfast, go to church, come home and PLAY, play with toys and hang out and see family who comes by, and we go to see family. It’s just a pretty normal, fun Christmas Day.”
Here in Southern California, we can appreciate Dierks Bentley’s lack of “White Christmases.” “I grew up in Arizona, so we didn’t have like a white winter kind of deal,” he recalls. “Once you experience that, it’s hard to go back and like celebrate Christmas in the desert but for us, me and my family and a couple other families would go out to the desert and bring a big turkey and just kinda have a cookout in the middle of the desert…and drink beers and ride four-wheelers and…well, I wouldn’t drink beers, but they would. We’d ride four-wheelers and horses and just kind of spend it out in the middle of the desert, which was kind of a cool way to spend Christmas. So whenever I think of Christmas, I always think of the desert, which is a little weird, but that’s just the way we did it out in Arizona.”
Eric Paslay’s favorite traditions start on Christmas Eve. “I remember always [on] Christmas Eve, we’d go to my mom’s mother’s house – my grandmother – and we’d open up gifts from the family,” he says. “And my great-aunt lived across the street, so all of those cousins, we’d go over there and hang out and steal some more cookies and kind of sho what you got and play with the toy for five minutes and move on to the other cousin’s toys. And then the next morning, open up some more presents, you know, and then go to my other grandparents’ [house], my dad’s parents and hang out with that family, and it was always fun. We’d always have turkey, ham and football.”
Kip Moore also hopes to keep his favorite childhood Christmas traditions going with his future children. “Growing up, the night before Christmas, we would rent a bunch of movies,” he says. “My dad would take us to the store, the video store and we would rent a bunch of movies and we’d watch them all through the night. That was always a thing that we’d look forward to was all hanging out together and laugh until 3 or 4 or 5 in the morning, then waking up two hours later for the presents. I hope that I can carry that out when I have a family – I’m still a little ways away from that. But, I think all of the video stores will be gone by then, so I guess that’ll be a Netflix night, but hopefully I can do that kind of stuff.”
Kip also hopes to make fishing part of the holiday tradition. “I grew up going on tons of fishing trips with my dad and brothers, and usually the holidays were a time to get to do that again,” Kip recalls. “I hope I can be half as awesome as my dad was with us, and knowing how much he worked taking the time to take us on those fishing trips.”
Danielle Bradbery says her family’s annual Christmas exchange. “We draw each other’s names and get gifts for them. We all get together at my grandma’s house and there’s food and lights everywhere, and we give each other gifts. It’s really fun.”
For Easton Corbin, Christmas is synonymous with Grandma’s house. “Growing up, we’d always go to my Grandma’s. We do like lunch – they call it dinner, supper you know. We’d always do Christmas dinner there at 12 or 1 o’clock,” he explains. “My mom and dad divorced, and I lived at home with my mom and we’d open presents at my mom’s house, and then around 11:30, we’d all go to my Grandma’s and everybody, the rest of the family, the extended family, my dad and everybody, we’d all gather up there and open up presents too. So, that’s kind of where everybody would congregated at my Grandma’s.”
Philip Sweet of Little Big Town has his daughter Penelopi involved in his family’s tradition. “You know the little tree in the countdown to Christmas? We put little treats in each little doorway. [Penelopi] opens the countdown to Christmas. She gets a new little treat every day leading up to Christmas.”
Meanwhile, his bandmate Karen Fairchild has a sweet tooth, thanks to Christmas. “Christmases at our house usually included making candy with my mother and my grandmother,” she says. “We did everything from potato candy to chocolate dipped peanut butter and fudge. My mom’s fudge recipe is amazing.”
What exactly is potato candy? “It does use a potato, but it’s rolled and it has peanut butter inside,” Karen explains.
Kimberly Schlapman of LBT also shared her favorite Christmas tradition. “It’s happened every year that I can remember. We would go over to my grandmother’s house and have Christmas over there, and everybody would come home to Mama and Daddy’s house. We’d sit down and Mama hands out everybody a gift, and we act like we don’t what it is, but we do ’cause it’s always Christmas pajamas. So, everybody opens their Christmas pajamas and goes and puts ’em on, and we come back to the living room and we sit around Daddy and he reads The Christmas Story. And we tuck ourselves in until Santa comes.”
Making sure the tree is properly trimmed is critical for two members of Lady Antebellum. “My mom, I gave her such a hard time when I was a little girl,” Hillary Scott recalls. “She went to some store and got these, it’s like snowmen with an icicle hanging down from the bottom, so I thought they were so gawdy. But you know what? Now that I’m older, I love ‘em. And if they’re not on the tree, I’m like, ‘Mama, where are they? Where are the snowmen icicle lights this year?”
Charles Kelley of Lady A has to include some of the ornaments he made as a child on his tree. “My mom actually sent me some of our old ornaments that we had made and stuff, ” he reveals. “We always had the cheesiest tree, but I miss it. It was always so very colorful. And with my wife, she’s very stylish, so she wanted this really chic tree, and I said, ‘Baby, I’m sorry. We’ve got to put a little color in this.’ So, I put some of my cheesy little stuff on there, and I think that’s part of Christmas. I think you have to have that, so she relented.”
The big Christmas meal is what solidifies David Nail’s Christmas memories. “My grandparents lived right across the street from us,” he says. “I would get up in the morning, and I’d look out the window and you’d see a car there, and you’d get in the shower and come back and see a couple more cars there and it was kind of that anticipation of seeing all the family members start to come into town in the morning. And then we always got to kind of roll over there last, and it was like once we showed up, that was kind of the go-time! The food’s out, you eat, and so after we ate and after we opened gifts, it was kind of a race to see who could catch my dad sneak back across the street to take a nap, because he was always the first one to start dozing off on the couch.”
Kacey Musgraves is proof that in your grandparents’ eyes, you’ll always be a little kid. “My grandpa has a scavenger hunt puzzle that he does every year,” she says. “Even though I’m like too old for the puzzle, he’s like, ‘You’re still gonna do it.’ So, every year we do that, and it’s funny ‘cause sometimes you’ll find your present in the bathroom or in a tree or out behind the shed. He does a little trail of like either corn or a string to it. It’s very imaginative, and it’s something I look forward to every year.”
Eric Gunderson and Stephen Barker Liles of Love and Theft are celebrating their second Christmas as fathers this year. In a recent interview at a show they were playing, they told me about the traditions they have planned for their families. “So far, we haven’t really because last year, my son was two months pre-mature, and his first Christmas was pretty emotional for all of us – we were just happy he was there and alive. This year he’s talking, he’s walking, running around, so I think we’ll start the tradition thing this year.”
“We’ll keep the matching pajamas for Christmas Eve thing going, and the Christmas ornament every year for his first, second [Christmas] I think we’ll wait to add some more when he gets a little older. I don’t think we’ll do Elf on the Shelf, but we’ll definitely do Santa Claus.” “I’m definitely doing Elf on the Shelf,” Eric replies.
Joel Crouse, who opened for Love and Theft, told me his family’s holiday tradition came about due to his sneaky older brother. “We always used to open our gifts on Christmas Eve. Let me tell you why that started! I’m like, ten years old at this point, and my brother’s sixteen, and for some reason, he goes, ‘Let’s convince Mom to open the gifts on Christmas Eve from now on, and I was the baby of the family, so I could convince my mom to do pretty much anything we wanted, so we started opening presents on Christmas Eve, and I realize today it was because he could play my new PlayStation that I got that year. I never even got a chance to play my own PlayStation! So that’s how that tradition started, and we laugh about it today.”