Christmas will be here before you know it, and Dolly Parton is already in her element.
As the 76-year-old begins to prep for a busy season filled with multiple holiday-related work projects, she recently caught up with Better Homes & Gardens to chat about her favorite holiday traditions and childhood memories.
Parton covers BHG’s December 2022 print magazine (on newsstands Nov. 11) and also appears on the cover of the publication’s first-ever digital issue.
Parton certainly has her hands in lots of holiday projects these days, including the rerelease of her Christmas album “A Holly Dolly Christmas” and a new holiday film, “Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas.”
When asked how she feels about being “the new queen of Christmas,” the music legend politely refuted the suggested title.
“Now, don’t you say that! I’m not going to compete with Mariah (Carey),” she said. “I love her. You think of Christmas, you think of Mariah. I’m happy to be second in line to her.”
The musician’s love for Christmas runs deep, and she makes sure that her home is decorated to the nines to reflect that, with a Christmas tree in every room, including a real one for her main tree.
“I always want a live tree because Daddy would take us to chop a tree down. He’d look at all the trees and make us pick out the perfect one,” she recalled. “And we’d all want to hold the axe, but he wouldn’t let us because we’d have probably chopped each other to pieces.”
Like clockwork every year, Parton begins decorating for Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving.
“Christmas lights are turned on. The wreaths go up. I have a little chapel on my property; I put a cross on top of that,” she said.
Parton, who grew up with 11 siblings, still approaches the holiday season with a sense of childhood wonder, and she recalled how her mother always tried to make Christmas extra magical, even if the family didn’t have lots of money.
“Momma was creative, and she understood that she had to tell the right stories. And she had to make it exciting. She could cook anything, and it would taste good, because she would talk about the magic she put in it. She could get you there. Like, she mentally got you there,” she 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. That’s one of the things I have to have today. I never got over being country,” she said.
While sharing her holiday tradition must-haves, Parton revealed that she’s a big fan of ugly Christmas sweaters.
“I’ve got a whole bunch of Christmas sweaters I wear. A couple of them are as ugly as I could get ‘em— on purpose,” she said.
She also said she writes a letter to Santa and pretends “it’s really a letter to God.”
When it comes to culinary traditions, Parton knows she’ll always make her loved ones happy when she cooks her famous chicken and dumplings.
“Everyone always wants my recipe. But I’m not even gonna 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 door of the elevator in her home so it looks like a chimney.
“Granny Clause,” as Parton’s family and friends call her, makes a special appearance on the night before Christmas.
“I get in my Santa suit, and I got my Santa bag with their presents in it,” she explained. “And I come down the ‘chimney.'”
On Christmas morning, Parton shares a simple and adorable routine with her husband, Carl Dean, that involves making red and green pancakes “with food coloring.”
The couple exchange gifts, including chocolate-covered cherries since Parton’s father gifted those to her mother.
Parton says Dean “has a beautiful voice,” which he uses to read poems or sing songs for her on the special day.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com