Apparently, Dolly never considered it to be about Christmas at all:
“It’s kind of funny that people think it’s a Christmas song, and it’s really not.
It’s really just about people having hard times and saying, ‘It’s like a hard candy Christmas,’ like when you’re so poor that all you get for Christmas is a piece of hard candy.”
Of course, the song was originally recorded by Dolly in 1982 for her role in the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and peaked at #8 on the Billboard U.S. Hot Country Songs chart in 1983.
Although it was written by Carol Hall, Dolly related deeply to the sentiment that while her family didn’t have a lot of money to buy presents and exchange gifts, they always got a box of hard candy every year.
When she was young growing up in the mountains of East Tennessee, they didn’t even have electricity. So she would go walking with her dad to find the perfect tree and they’d decorate it with whatever they had laying around the house instead of lights and ornaments:
“In the early days we didn’t have electricity so we used to go out I the woods with my Dad in the afternoon, find the best tree that we could and we’d take it back in the house and decorate it with whatever Mamma could (find).
Buttons and popcorn, anything that we could have which was great, those days were great.”
Some of their Christmas traditions were simple because they couldn’t afford to do much, but now Dolly looks back on them as some of the most special memories in her life regardless of the lack of gifts:
“Momma would always tell Christmas stories, read the bible, then we’d go out to the barn and they would tell us that at midnight the cattle would kneel, like in honor. But we never could stay awake long enough to see it.
We could never see that happen. But we always had a little something…. It didn’t matter what we got… it was great for us.”
A simple reminder from the great Dolly Parton about what’s really important this holiday season.
The track has been covered by many artists over the years, including Leann Rimes, and even Dolly’s friend Reba,who covered it back in 2016 on her My Kind of Christmas album: