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:
And of course, the iconic movie scene:
Dolly Parton Gets Choked Up Recalling A Christmas When Her Mama Didn’t Get Any Presents
If there’s one thing the incomparable Dolly Partonis known for, possibly even more so than country music, is her heart of pure gold.
She’s become an icon because she’s obviously an incredible talent in the music world, but I think it’s safe to say that what most people admire about her is what an amazing person she is.
Through philanthropic efforts like her Imagination Library Foundation, giving back is always at the top of her to-do list.
A helluva reputation, to be sure.
She famously grew up dirt poor in the mountains of east Tennessee with 11 brothers and sisters, though she always notes how much love they had in their family, even if everybody in their area was poor with three o’s.
And back on her 2020 Holly Dolly Christmas Special, she told the heartbreaking, and very touching, story of a Christmas she remembers vividly from childhood.
Her church had decided to put a little bit of money aside so all the families could get presents that year, including the mom’s, and especially the kids:
“The church had thrown in a little money to where everybody could have a little grab bag.
‘Cuz we had services, and everybody around our parts were very poor, so everybody was gonna get a little Christmas present. Even the grown-ups, the women, and you know, especially the kids.
So I remember this one particular time that Mama had so many kids that they were giving all the presents out to all Mama’s kids, so Mama didn’t get one.”
She remembered a lady from her church asking her Mama, Avie Lee, if it was okay that she didn’t get anything.
Of course, she told her she understood, but as Dolly mentions here, everybody’s a kid at Christmas and her mom actually cried a little bit over it.
Now I’m sure there was probably a lot more to it than the fact that she wanted some new material item, and even as a young child, it obviously broke Dolly’s heart to see her mom upset:
“So I remember this one lady saying, ‘Well, Avie Lee, you won’t mind will you? ‘Cuz you have so many of the kids, they got so many presents.’
So of course Mama, everybody’s a kid at Christmas, and I remember momma saying, ‘No, no, no. I understand. I understand that.’
I saw Mama over there sittin’ on the bench crying.”
Dolly being the sweetheart that she is, she wanted to do anything to help and make the situation better, so she walked over there and told her mom she wanted her to have her present.
Dolly remembers her mom saying no, because of course she wasn’t going to take her daughters new Christmas present.
A bit choked up herself, Dolly has never forgotten that moment and what her Mama told her:
“She didn’t make any noise, but I went over and I said, ‘Mama, you can have mine!’ She said, ‘No, no, honey, I don’t want yours. But I love you because of your good heart.’
So because of Mama, I’ve always tried to have a good heart.”
Mrs. Dolly is good people, and she clearly comes from good people.
She has a salt of the earth family, as the saying goes, and she’s been able to inspire the world because of that simple reassurance from her late mother that probably didn’t seem like such an important moment at the time.
Even saying she has a good heart feels like an understatement…
It’s incredible how she’s never lost touch with who she is and where she comes from, even being a beloved international superstar and cultural icon for decades at this point, and I think a lot of that thanks goes to Mrs. Avie Lee Parton: