The holiday season is officially in high gear and some parts of the U.S. woke up to snow this week, making the likelihood of a “White Christmas” very real. Since December is often a time of reflection and celebration among many cultures, American Songwriter talked with countless artists to learn their favorite holiday memories from years past.
Deana Carter, who recently wrapped her first Christmas tour with Phil Vassar, where the pair performed holiday classics and two original songs, details a Christmas miracle while Kurt Vile shares his funniest holiday tradition. Debbie Gibson, who released her debut holiday album, Winterlicious, in October and ended her tour of the same name on December 17, shares fond memories with her grandparents. Meanwhile, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor, who released a cheerful animated music video for “Trim This Tree” this year, recalls a snowy walk to Christmas dinner.
Read below to learn more holiday memories from Vassar, Lainey Wilson, Ayron Jones, John Carter Cash, and more.
“I grew up super close to my grandparents and I’m so grateful for all the time we got to spend together. My older brother and I loved going ice skating in the winter, so every year we’d beg our grandad to take us and that became our tradition. He’d take us to a rink in downtown Virginia Beach, we’d get hot chocolate, and spend a few hours just the three of us. To this day, those are still some of my favorite Christmas memories.”
“Last Christmas has to be my all-time favorite. It was my first Christmas after releasing my first record. My family and I had just moved into our first house together. We were dressed in matching flannel pajamas, and I’ve never seen my wife and kids happier than when they woke up to open their presents that day.”
“One year my Dad received a miraculous kidney transplant at Vanderbilt Hospital and we celebrated with him in the hospital back in 1994.”
“Santa always came to my Grandparents’ house live and in person and gave gag gifts to the adults and one great present to the kids as a teaser of what was to come on Christmas morning!”
John Carter Cash:
“We were always in Jamaica and so I remember gathering around across the tropical tree down there and having Christmas dinner. I remember going to the SOS Children’s [Villages] Orphanage down there and my parents would bring suitcases full of shoes to share with the children that were in the orphanage. I remember doing that with my parents so that’s probably one that stands out the most.”
“My wife Suzanne reminded me of my funniest holiday Christmas tradition. Every year now we go to a Christmas Eve service at an Episcopal church that is very beautiful in Philadelphia. I sit there in the pew with the family while the songs are there and it really is a nice service, it’s pretty. But then a few songs in, I start tapping my foot and it reminds me of when I was young, and I was always having to sit in church and I was just wanting to get out of there.
“So, what I do is, I go to the corner Dunkin Donuts in all my holiday finest and I have some coffee and donuts. And I just sit in the car and wait for the service to be over. And it sort of makes me feel good and free, but it’s also like, I have my kids in there. So, it’s full circle again, where it takes me back to growing up and being excited about Christmas, but also being free enough that I’m an adult now, and I don’t have to sit through a whole service, and I can still enjoy some fine Dunkin Donuts ‘til I drive my family home. It’s become a running gag sort of Christmas tradition. It’s literally something I do every year now. I’ll definitely do it again this year.”
“A Christmas memory I’ll never forget is one year me and my sister—we were at that age where we were fighting all the time. They kept telling us, ‘Santa Claus is gonna bring you some coal, is gonna bring you some switches.’ Instead, Santa Claus brought us a punching bag that year. So, instead of hitting each other, we got to hit on the punching bag.”
“My favorite holiday memory is when my wife and I went to cut down our own tree for the first time and our little girl was with us. It was a seven-foot tree when I cut it, but when we got it home after it was all said and done, it was about five feet tall after they trimmed it! With the help of a tree stand, it was epic. So now we have a tiny little tree, but it’s perfect because of the memory we shared cutting it down.”
Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor:
“A snowstorm in the farm country of central Ohio. Our Ford Torino wagon was unable to grip the road up an icy hill, and we walked the rest of the way past grandpa’s barn and the old salt lick on Christmas morning.”
“I think my favorite Christmas memory is when I brought my little girl Presley home from the hospital. It was December and Haley (my oldest) was five at the time and we were in a new house. I just looked at those pictures a few days ago… my heart melted.”
Tank and the Bangas’s Tarriona “Tank” Ball:
“So many! But I guess I’ll narrow it down to my mama always trying to make it special for us, even if it was one gift.”
The White Buffalo’s Jake Smith:
“Most of my favorite holiday memories are reliving Christmas through the eyes of [my] own child. Those first couple of years when my son was three or four or five—those years up until 10 or 11. I think he held onto Santa a little longer than he was letting on. He’s way more into death metal than Santa at the moment.”
Photo courtesy of Adkins Publicity