By Deborah Evans Price, senior editor, www.watchgmctv.com
It’s that time of year when even the busiest recording artists begin wrapping up their tours and heading home to spend the holidays with family and friends. Of course, everyone has their favorite memories and their own unique ways of celebrating Christmas, and some of your favorite gospel artists took time to share theirs with www.watchgmctv.com.
“When I come back, the house is magnificently transformed into a Christmas wonderland. She’s really into it,” Charlie Daniels says of his wife Hazel’s enthusiasm for holiday décor. “We’ve got Christmas decorations that we’ve collected from places we’ve been.
“It’s hard for me to put into words how Christmas affects me and always has,” Daniels continues. “It’s such a special time of year. There’s something in the air around Christmas time that’s not there the rest of the year."
For many artists, the traveling doesn’t stop because their touring is over for the year. “Last year Christmas was in England because one of our kids was living in England for a whole year so we went over there,” Bill Gaither says of his daughter Amy who was taking a sabbatical in the U.K. “For about 60 years, Christmas Eve was over at my father and mother’s. We didn’t miss many of those, maybe three or four in 60 years, but our own family is interesting. We have been a little bit more portable. This year we will be home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and that will be nice, but it’s not a tradition.”
Others can relate to the idea of a mobile Christmas. “We will be running everywhere,” southern gospel artist Jason Crabb tells www.watchgmctv.com. “We have five different destinations to hit for Christmas, so we'll be doing a lot of traveling. Spending time with family will certainly be a highlight.”
When the Crabb clan gets together, they have a unique holiday tradition that everyone looks forward to each year. "One of our favorite Christmas traditions is what we call ‘auction,’” explains Jason.
“They pass out Monopoly money, and each immediate family gets "x" amount of dollars for that family. They then bring different items out – say 25 or so. If that's what you want, you start bidding on it. It's a fun thing. We all start jumping in. It ranges from shampoo and conditioner to a flatscreen TV to a Cracker Barrel gift certificate, but you don't know what the gifts will be or when the gifts are done, so you don't know how long to hold out with your bidding. It is a lot of fun!"
American Idol alumni Bo Bice will also be traveling this holiday season, and looks forward to connecting with family and observing their annual traditions. "My favorite Christmas memory is more of a yearly tradition – we always open one gift on Christmas Eve,” says Bo. “It has been a part of our family holiday celebrations for as long as I can remember – hot chocolate, Perry Como and family all gathered around the tree on Christmas Eve. The Bice family will be on the road this Christmas. We always go see both sets of parents and friends in Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala."
Though he’ll get to spend Christmas with his family, Bo will be spending New Year’s entertaining our military on his third goodwill tour overseas. From December 30th through January 2nd, Bo will head to to Cuba, performing at Guantanamo Bay Navel Base, the oldest U.S. base overseas.
“It is a privilege to perform for the men and women who risk their lives every day for our freedom,” says Bo. “Our military and their families make plenty of sacrifices – especially around the holidays. I’m looking forward to the trip so I can shake hands and thank them in person and hopefully put on a great show.”
For most families food is a major part of the holiday celebration. “We get together like Thanksgiving, and exchange gifts, drink some eggnog, have a good meal and open our presents. We just do what everybody does. I do 90% of the cooking,” says Country Music Hall of Famer Mel Tillis, who shares his favorite recipes in his cookbook Mel’s A-Cookin.’ “A lot of people are buying that for a Christmas present.”
“We just love getting together with family and friends and reflecting on all our blessings,” says Elaine Roy, one half of the country/bluegrass sibling duo The Roys. “I love baking cookies with my nieces and spending time with them.”
Music has always played a major part in the Roys’ celebration since she and her brother Lee were kids. “Some of my favorite Christmas memories are when we lived in Fitchburg, Mass. and would go up to Coal Branch, New Brunswick, Canada to be with Mom's side of the family,” says Elaine. “I knew the family was going to get together and that Grandma would be playing her fiddle and all our favorite Acadian tunes. My aunts and uncles would also sing and play guitar and it would just be an incredible time. Every Christmas I think of those memories and it always brings me back to Grandma's house.”
James Otto also has fond memories of Christmas at his grandmother’s house. “She was the center of the family that brought everybody together to have the old traditions that I remember from my childhood,” says Otto, whose latest single “Soldiers & Jesus” is currently climbing the Billboard country charts. “But all the old traditions that we used to do kind of went by the wayside when my grandmother passed away. I think it’s all about new traditions now, starting new ones with our baby girl and I’m looking forward to that.”
About the Writer
Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to CountryWeekly, CMA Close Up, Devo’Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications.
A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.
Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and son Trey.