SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. — To live in East Tennessee is to know that, for all his jolly cheer and near-universal accolade, Santa Clause himself has hardly bequeathed us as much as Dolly Parton over the years.
Libraries for children, theme park experiences, disaster relief, and funding for a potentially life-saving COVID-19 vaccine have all been part and parcel of what Dolly's doled out to this community's figurative Christmas tree over the year.
We all know St. Nick could never.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the superstar who made a lifelong habit out of giving back has a soft spot for the year's most benevolent season.
With a new holiday series now streaming on Netflix and a Christmas album that dropped in September, how does Dolly spend the holidays?
Folks at Dollywood sat down with Parton recently to speak about some of her favorite traditions, and what she loves most about her namesake theme park this time of year.
[Dollywood]: What are your favorite childhood Christmas memories?
[Parton]: Oh I have so many childhood memories of Christmas. Just Christmas in the Smokies is absolutely beautiful.
But I would have to say there are two Christmas memories that stand out. One being that my brother Randy was born around Christmas. So we always call him our Christmas gift. our Christmas baby.
And my other memory…is the fact that years ago my mom and dad got married when they were very young and they didn’t have the money to buy a ring.
Mom had a house full of kids and never had a wedding band.
So Daddy said this year why don’t we all just pitch in any little that we were going to spend on each other or someone else and buy momma a wedding band. We were all for it. So we made a little game out of that.
So Daddy said well I'm gonna hide the ring. Whoever finds the ring when we give it to mom, then they’ll get the special prize.
We all looked through everything....tore down half the Christmas tree tore down half the house looking for the ring.
Finally found it. I swear that I found, it my brother Denver swears he found it.
So anyway, truth be told Daddy had got a big box of candy for the one that found the ring...but it was so big we had to share it with everybody else. So it really was a gift for all of us.
Momma loved her ring. That will always be special.
[Dollywood]: What does Christmas mean to you personally?
[Parton]: Well Christmas for me personally means the birth of Jesus Christ. I'm so happy every year to say, "Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus!" So to me, sometimes I think we forget the true meaning of Christmas, those of us of a Christian faith.
But to me the other part is like being with family, eatin' all that food eating as much of it as you can. Not feeling guilty about it until the first of the year, trying to get that all off you.
Just being with family and friends. It's just a joyful time. The holiday season is just a joyful time.
[Dollywood]: What is your favorite thing about Dollywood at Christmas?
[Parton]: Well my favorite thing about Dollywood at Christmas is everything! It's really got something for everybody. And it's beautiful and it's joyful. And it's just perfect!
*Editor's note*: Some answers have been edited or condensed for clarity.