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Carrie, Brad, Keith + More Recall Favorite Holiday Traditions

Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

The Boot talked to some of your favorite country stars about their memorable holiday traditions.

Carrie Underwood remembers a family tradition that brought joy to others. “When my grandmother was still alive, we would all go to her house on Christmas Eve, and we would go to the local nursing home and sing Christmas carols up and down the halls and pass out little bags with goodies in them,” she recalls. “And that’s something I’ll always remember. We would walk up and down the halls and sing Christmas carols. I mean, we sang, ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,’ we sang ‘Silent Night,’ we sang, just all those songs that everybody knows, and it was just a really cool thing that we did. I really wish we still did it.”

Brad Paisley is one of those people who procrastinates when it comes to Christmas shopping. “I’m pretty last-minute. Most guys are, I think, are like me,” he says. “You just don’t invest enough, you don’t think ahead and plan it. I really do end up somewhere like the mall or something on the 24th. It’s a shame. It’s really a waste of what should be a fun day, because you know, here I am scrambling around going, ‘Oh, I think they’ll like that.’ They may have never heard of it, and I don’t know what it is necessarily, but let’s buy it! And I could give it to somebody. [laughs] You end up buying all these things, and it’s just a waste.”

George Strait and his family have several Christmas traditions. “We’ve been spending Christmas at the ranch for the past few years, and that’s kind of a tradition for us,” he explains. “And fortunately, my son still likes to come out there and have Christmas with us. And we usually end up having Christmas at three houses now. We go to my Dad’s, and then we go to my wife’s mothers, so Christmas is a busy time.”

Keith Urban, who is enjoying his holiday with wife Nicole Kidman and daughter Sunday, recalls the traditions he enjoyed when he was a young boy. “I have great memories of getting up early and going and jumping on my parents’ bed and getting them up,” he remembers. “And then, of course, you tear open the presents and then it’s done and it’s like eight in the morning, and you’ve got all morning now to sort of wish you had more presents to open. We had great Christmases growing up. I really, really enjoyed them. Mostly, we’d go to the beach, because [in Australia] it’s summertime. We’d load up the station wagon and head off to the beach.”

Rascal Flatts‘ Gary LeVox makes an effort to be home for the holidays. “I think the coolest thing about the holidays is that we really, really try to make a great effort to be home and, fortunately, this year we’ll be able to be home with our families. I’ll be with my wife and my kids; it’s so great to have kids, because you actually get to relive your childhood and be a kid again. You get to relive the holidays. So, I look forward to being home and just being with my family.”

Alan Jackson says his family’s Christmas is more on the traditional side. “We don’t let anybody open any presents until Christmas morning, after Santa Claus comes,” explains the Georgia native. “We don’t let them get up on their own and take off, you know, everybody has to wait and kind of get situated, and maybe have a cup of coffee, and then we start all of the regular Christmas morning activities, opening presents, taking pictures and video. I try to keep Christmas music going in the background. I like to turn that on before I let them come down to the tree and everything.”

Toby Keith says most of his Christmas memories are when he was a young boy. “Probably the one that sticks out the most was me and my brother and sister and cousins were all staying at my grandmother’s, and we were horsing around and playing,” says the Oklahoma native. “And they kept saying, ‘If you don’t get in bed, Santa’s not gonna come.’ And we kept fighting and wrestling and being kids. And my grandfather went out, it was snowing outside, and he threw a four-by-four on the roof and rang some jingle bells, and it was like, you’d never seen seven or eight kids get board stiff. We thought, everybody just went completely stiff, eyes closed, and I don’t remember staying awake another five seconds. It completely freaked us out. We thought we’d really been busted.”

The gatherings at Trace Adkins‘ home includes five daughters, two grandchildren and other extended family members. “They’re loud,” the Louisiana native tells The Boot. “It’s just a very traditional thing. It’s warm and fuzzy and kids running all over the place, and people eating too much and a fistfight will probably break out. That’s Christmas.”

“We have pasta Christmas Eve, that’s always been a tradition since I was a kid and we’ve carried it on through our house,” Tim McGraw says. “And we have little elves that show up about a week before Christmas and start causing mayhem in the house. And just little things like that, little family things, such as get up in the morning and Santa Claus comes and all that kind of stuff.”

Tim’s wife Faith Hill says the elves do cause quite a bit mayhem in the McGraw household around Christmas. “We have a couple of elves that visit our house before Santa gets there,” she agrees. “We have a few elves that come from the North Pole, usually right after the tree is decorated, because the tree has to be decorated. We put some crackers out, because they like saltine crackers and water. They come and hang out with the girls. They’re little miniature elves and hang out with them. They do little mischievous. They rolled our kitchen. They’ve gotten into all my flour and sugar and thrown it on the floor. But then they just kind of keep the girls company. They come alive at night, and then Christmas Eve when Santa comes, the elves go back with Santa for a year.The girls started to write the elves a note every night. So, there are three elves that visit our house that live with us for three weeks, and they write letters every night.”

Jason Aldean says he has an annual tradition of playing ‘Dirty Santa,’ with his band. “We put names in a hat and we pull them out, and we go spend 20 dollars on a gift. We try to get as creative as you can with it,” he explains, adding, “We had a road manager at one point that was famous for wearing bikini underwear. I guess because he thought they were cool. I don’t know, but so for Christmas one year, one of my guitar players bought him a couple pairs of g-strings [laughs], and he decided to go put those on and come running out of the back lounge and model them for us. So, yeah, it’s the little things like that, and I threw up out the window, so that’s the most memorable Christmas we’ve had on the bus, let me tell you.”

But when Jason is at home with his family, it is all about what they do the night Santa Claus is expected to arrive. “Christmas Eve – that’s usually the one big thing. We make sure everybody gets to where they gonna be, which now is at our house, and just kind of hang out, and cook a lot of food, which is awesome for me. I get to sit back and eat. My favorite thing is sausage balls at Christmas. So, that’s my favorite food, and they come over and they cook those up and I’m a happy camper. I’ll sit there and watch ‘A Christmas Story’ and eat sausage balls, and I’m happy as a lark.”

Michael Loccisano, WireImage.com

“The way my family always did Christmas was on Christmas Eve, it wasn’t really centered around a dinner on Christmas Eve,” Blake Shelton says. “It was more about keeping the kids calm. Sometime after dark is when we were going to open all the presents underneath the tree from Mom, Dad and the kids and everything — just the family presents was every Christmas Eve. I could not wait for that moment. And then the next morning we would wake up and Santa had come and gone.”

As far as his wife-to-be, Miranda Lambert, she likes to show off her more feminine side during the holidays. “I love, love, love holidays. I mean, just, it’s my time to really be a girl,” she admits. “And I grew up with all the decorations and cookin’, and I get really domestic during holidays. And it’s kind of weird ’cause it’s so opposite of who I am on stage. But I love to bake cookies and cook dinner for the whole family, and I have every decoration you can think of. I like to have a tree in every room, and that’s my time to just get ultra-girly. I love holidays. And also it’s my time off usually, because there’s not really a lot going on during holidays, so I really get to spend time with people I really care about.”

When it comes to real or fake, Julianne Hough chooses fake every time. “I’m a culprit of the fake tree,” she shares. “I think it’s nice that you could pull it out of the box, whip it on there pre-lit and then you can just put the decorations on when you’re done in an hour. The real tree – it smells good, it looks pretty, it feels great, but man, it’s hard on your back. [laughs] I know my dad does that one all the time. I like it. I’ve got my own tree that’s fake, and I go visit my dad on the holidays where he’s got the real tree, so I get a mixture of both.”

“Growing up, we always used to go to my grandma’s,” Easton Corbin says. “We do lunch, which they call supper or dinner. We always ate Christmas dinner there around one o’clock. My parents divorced, and I lived at home with my mom and we opened presents at my mom’s house and then around 11:30 AM, we’d go over to my grandma’s and the rest of the family — the extended family and my dad and everybody — we’d all gather there and eat and open presents there too.” The newcomer has had an amazing year, and tells The Boot he already has everything he could ever want for Christmas. “I’m asking for nothing. I’ve had a great year. Santa’s already come to me, so I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Chris Young‘s family traditions include food, family … and guns! “Holidays are actually a really, really big time around our house. Christmas is huge,” Chris states. “For the longest time, we actually bought gifts and then we realized that was getting too expensive. Now we just kind of show up, and it’s funny because it’s always like a very set pattern of what happens. Everybody shows up about 11, and then I show up really late — about 11:30 – because it’s my bad habit. And then we all sit down for lunch, which my grandmother spent, like, two days cooking. It usually breaks up after that to the girls and the guys. The girls go hang out with my grandmother in the sewing room and just chat. The guys will usually go outside and go to my grandfather’s shop. He’s actually got a metal shop and a wood shop out behind his house. He does tool and die work. We’ll go out there and tell jokes with him or go out back and shoot guns. [laughs]

Lee Ann Womack says she doesn’t have a lot of holiday traditions. “I’m not a creature of habit like most people are, so I’m not very good at that,” she admits. “One thing we always do is bake the cookies on Christmas Eve. We don’t put store-bought cookies out for Santa. We roll them out. We do the sugar cookies and roll them out and cut them out with the cookie cutters and ice them, decorate them. So, that’s our one and only real tradition.”

“We make sure we’re all together to decorate the Christmas trees,” says Montgomery Gentry‘s Troy Gentry of his holiday tradition. “Everybody has their own little tree and ideas. That’s pretty much it, other than everybody trying to be together for Christmas dinner.”

Chuck Wicks is at a time in his life when he remembers his old Christmas traditions, but he’s also starting to make new ones, as well. “My new holiday tradition is sleeping in,” he jokes. “As a kid, I was the first one to wake up. I was trying to wake my mom and dad up. I’m like, ‘Come on! Santa came, I saw the tree, it’s full of Christmas present!’ And now I know why my mom and dad always slept in, because they were getting ready for Santa, as well.”

Sara Evans remembers Christmas traditions from when she was a little girl. “My whole life growing up, we would have a huge Christmas celebration, because my family’s huge,” she recalls. “We would spend Christmas Eve at my Granny and Paw-Paw’s house, and then we would go home, and it was the only night out of the whole year that we were actually okay with leaving and going home because we knew that Santa was coming. Then we’d have a huge Christmas breakfast at my mom’s.”

Craig Morgan and his family have a tradition of getting Christmas off to an early start. “It’s a tradition within my family that started when I was young that we start early,” he explains. “We start about 10 or 12 days out and every night the kids get to open one present leading up to the last night, Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve, they get to open everything that’s left under the tree. And then Santa Claus comes Christmas Eve and leaves presents, so Christmas Day, they have all this stuff. So, it’s a long ordeal.”

Josh Thompson loves spending time with his family over the holiday season. “I love the holidays mainly because to me it’s not about getting anything. You know, I love giving gifts, but more importantly, I love just being around family. Especially since I moved to Nashville, it’s only certain times of year that I can actually go home and spend quality time with my mom, sisters, nieces, you know, cousins, so, that’s what I look forward to. Basically just sitting on the couch, watching hunting shows, eating too much. Family time. That’s it.” (laughs)

Newcomer Frankie Ballard‘s family tradition took place on Christmas Eve. “For Christmas Eve, we would get to open one present, and it would always be pajamas and a book, and we’d put the pajamas on and then we’d get up for Christmas morning. Mom still does it to this day. But as we got older, she still did it. Even now, Christmas Eve, we’ll get in our new pj’s. I don’t think I’ve ever read the book that she’s got me.”

Danny Gokey says that holiday traditions have evolved for his family. “There were Christmas traditions when we were younger. Now that we’re older, it’s not about us: it’s about my nieces and nephews, and I have 15 of ‘em, so now the whole thing revolves around tradition around them. Traditions have changed for our family, so, now it’s all about the kids, and it’s all about the adults stuffin’ their faces.”

Joanna Smith says that there’s definitely a pattern to Christmas morning at the Smith home. “Well we wake up on Christmas morning, and it does not matter if I’m 50 years old, my parents are still gonna treat me like a kid, which is sweet — although slightly embarrassing – and my sister and I walk down the hall and they take our picture and we come around the corner and [gasp] Santa Claus has been there! And we look at all these gifts, and we open them, and then there is undoubtedly going to be a candy trail to our big, grand-finale Christmas gift. And we follow a trail of usually Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups down the steps and outside, and there will be something awaiting us. So, the older we get, the more dorky it seems that we still do this stuff, and the smaller the grand-finale prize gets.” While Joanna may “complain” about the annual tradition as she gets older, she says she truly loves it and will subject her own kids “to the same form of torture.”

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