Christmas Is Family to Country Entertainers
When Christmas rolls around, our favorite country stars steer the tour bus home. The Boot gathers some traditions and memories from Craig Morgan, Chris Young, Hank Cochran and the Bellamy Brothers -- all of whom are spending time with family this holiday season.
Having served on active duty in our armed forces, Craig Morgan knows what it's like to be away from family during the holidays. The singer recalls being part of the invasion of Panama 20 years ago, which kept him away from his family.
"In 1989, we invaded Panama, and if you remember the ousting of Manuel Antonio Noriega, I was in Panama for that; I was in the presidential palace. We had just assumed control - my team - of the palace, so it wasn't until probably a week after Christmas that my wife knew I was alive."
This year the singer plans to be home for the holidays! "I'm just gonna spend some time at home for a couple days, and then actually I leave. Two days after Christmas, I head to Missouri for a hunt, and then when I get back, we're going to Texas to visit my wife's family."
Chris Young says Christmas is his favorite time of the year. One of the big traditions in the Young family is enjoying the closeness of having everyone come together to decorate his parents' Christmas tree.
"We've got ornaments from when my parents were kids and when we were kids, and you talk about that when you're hanging stuff on the tree. And it's just a time to really remember everything that you've done and be with your family."
Chris also believes in the adage it's better to give than to receive. "I get really excited to buy other people gifts, and especially this year ... they have no idea. It's on this year, with everything that's been going on, been so good. I'm gonna go make people hate me because I'm gonna get them gifts they really, really, really wanted."
Songwriter Hank Cochran remembers the year he learned what it meant to believe. He says he always heard the other kids talking about Christmas and presents, but that was not the kind of Christmas he experienced. "As a child, I lived with my grandparents, and we were very poor. We talked about Jesus, but His birthday wasn't a gift-giving occasion at our small home in Mississippi."
When he was six or seven, Hank finally got up the nerve to ask his grandmother why they didn't celebrate Christmas like everyone else. She just told him he had to believe. "So I began to concentrate - and believe. That Christmas Eve, Grandmother reminded me of my promise to believe, and I went to bed that night praying for 'Christmas' with all my might. That year, my uncle and my grandparents scrimped and saved to buy me a present. When I awoke on that magical Christmas morning, there was a stocking hung from the mantel, and inside, a toy gun and holster set. I was amazed! From that day forward, I have understood the power of believing - and that is a present I will forever cherish."
The Bellamy Brothers were raised in an extremely rural area of Florida on a cattle ranch, so Howard and David say their family made up some of our own Christmas traditions that are repeated every year. David recalls, "Our mom and a couple of our aunts congregated in the kitchen each Christmas Eve to fry up cornbread to make stuffing for the Christmas turkey, along with delicious pies, cakes and cookies for the big day.
"Meanwhile, our dad and uncles would gather outside, usually on horseback, under a large grapefruit tree in the corner of our yard and start their own celebration. First, they would pick a nice, ripe grapefruit and cut a plug in the top with a pocketknife, then squeeze it till it got good and juicy. Then they would pour shots of vodka from a flask directly into the hole. One of the brothers would pull a saltshaker out of his back pocket and shake a little on top of the grapefruit/vodka blend and presto! A homemade Salty Dog!"
This particular tradition would go on for most of the Christmas Eve afternoon and then around sundown, when the kids were beginning to wonder when Santa Claus was gonna get there, the men would start to provide sound effects to announce his arrival. Howard remembers, "Santa wasn't shy or quiet at our house! First, our uncle Doug would start throwing grapefruit and oranges up on top of our old tin roof to get us kids good and keyed up. Then, just for good measure, he'd fire off a couple rounds from his trusty double-barrel shotgun! He'd tell us it was Santa's sleigh backfiring as it was coming in for a landing. We'd fly out of our bedrooms and find a new bike or a red Western Flyer Wagon sitting under the tree! So right on time, Santa always arrived at our house - a little tipsy sometimes - but he sure did leave us some great presents!"