“I never got over being a country”

Christmas will be here before you know it and Dolly Parton is already in her element.

As the 76-year-old begins to prepare for a busy season filled with many holiday-related projects, she recently sat down with Better Homes & Gardens to chat about her favorite holiday traditions and childhood memories.

Parton covers BHG’s December 2022 print issue (on newsstands Nov. 11) and also appears on the cover of the publication’s first digital issue.

Parton certainly has her hands on a lot of holiday projects these days, including a reissue of her Christmas album “A Holly Dolly Christmas” and a new holiday movie, “Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas.”

When asked how she feels about being “the new Queen of Christmas,” the music legend politely dismissed the proposed title.

“Now, don’t say that! I’m not going to compete with Mariah (Carey),” he said. “I love her. You think of Christmas, you think of Maria. I’m happy to be second in line to her.”

Parton covers digital and print editions. (Art Streiber for BHG)

The musician’s love of Christmas runs deep and she makes sure her home is decorated to the nines to reflect this, with a Christmas tree in every room, including a real one for her main tree.

“I always want a live tree because dad used to take us to cut down a tree. He would look at all the trees and make us choose the perfect one,” he recalls. “And we all wanted to keep the axe, but he wouldn’t let us because we would probably have chopped each other to pieces.”

Like clockwork every year, Parton starts decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving.

“The Christmas lights are on. The wreaths are going up. I have a small chapel on my property. I put a cross on it,” he said.

Decorating is one of the singer's favorite things about Christmas.  (Art Streiber for BHG)

Decorating is one of the singer’s favorite things about Christmas. (Art Streiber for BHG)

Parton, who grew up with 11 siblings, still approaches the holiday season with a sense of childlike wonder and recalled how her mother always tried to make Christmas more magical, even if the family didn’t have much money.

“Mom was creative and understood that she had to tell the right stories. And he had to make it exciting. He could cook anything, and it would taste good, because he would talk about the magic he put into it. He could take you there. Like, mentally it brought you there,” he explained.

To this day, Parton still follows several of the family traditions her mother instilled in her and her siblings as children.

“We didn’t even have electricity for lights on the tree. We had popcorn garland. This is one of my must haves today. I never got over being a country,” he said.

While sharing her must-have holiday tradition, Parton revealed that she’s a big fan of ugly Christmas sweaters.

“I have a bunch of Christmas sweaters that I wear. Some of them are as bad as I could get — on purpose,” he said.

He also said he writes a letter to Santa Claus and pretends it “is really a letter to God.”

Parton is ready to enjoy all that the holiday season has to offer.  (Art Streiber for BHG)

Parton is ready to enjoy all that the holiday season has to offer. (Art Streiber for BHG)

When it comes to culinary traditions, Parton knows she’ll always make her loved ones happy when she cooks up her famous chicken and pasta.

“Everyone always wants my recipe. But I’m not going to leave it behind when I’m gone. I want them to always say, “This doesn’t taste the same. I miss Dolly’s,” she said.

She also decorates the elevator door in her house to look like a chimney.

“Grandma Clause,” as Parton’s family and friends call her, makes a special appearance the night before Christmas.

“I’m wearing my Santa suit and I’ve got my bag of their presents,” he explained. “And I’m going down the ‘chimney’.”

On Christmas morning, Parton shares a simple and adorable routine with her husband, Carl Dean, that involves making red and green “food coloring” pancakes.

The pair exchange gifts, including chocolate-covered cherries after Parton’s father gave them to her mother.

Parton says Dean “has a beautiful voice,” which he uses to read her poems or sing songs about that special day.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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