As the holidays approach, Dolly Parton is revealing her favorite Christmas memories. Some moments she'll never forget are from experiencing Christmas in the Smokies as a child.
Raised in the hollow of Locust Ridge woven in the Great Smoky Mountains, Dolly comes from a big Tennessee family. Dolly's mother, Avie Lee Owens Parton, married her father, Lee Parton, in 1939 when the couple was still very young.
Together, the couple raised 12 children but one thing was missing: a wedding band for Dolly's mother. The matter became the center of what is now one of Dolly's best Christmas memories.
"My mom and dad got married when they were very young. They didn’t have the money to buy a ring," Dolly said. "Mom had a house full of kids and never had a wedding band, so Daddy said this year why don’t we all just pitch in any little dab we was going to spend on each other or with someone else and buy my Mama a wedding band."
But the heartwarming story doesn't end there.
"We were all for it, so we got to make a game out of that. Daddy said well I’m going to hide the ring and whoever finds the ring on Christmas when we give it to Mom, then they’ll get the special prize. So we all looked through everything and tore down half the Christmas tree, tore down half the house, looking for the ring, and finally found it. I swear that I found it, but my brother Denver swears he found it. So we about tore the house down fighting trying to get the ring."
No matter who actually found the ring, the shining memory has a happy ending the award-winning performer will always cherish.
"Anyway, truth be told, Daddy had got a big box of candy for the one that found the ring, but it was so big that we had to share it with everybody else. So it really was a gift for all of us. Mama loved her ring, so that will always be special," Dolly remembered.
Another holiday memory that stands out to the country queen is that her brother, Randy, was born around Christmas.
"Oh, I have so many childhood memories of Christmas. Just Christmas in the Smokies is absolutely beautiful, but I remember all of the things we used to do back when," Dolly said. "My brother Randy was born around Christmas, so we always called him our Christmas gift."
Now, the siblings share a Christmas song together "You Are My Christmas" on Dolly's latest album.
What does the holiday season mean to Dolly?
"Well Christmas personally to me means the birth of Jesus Christ, who I’m so happy every year to say ‘Happy birthday dear Jesus’, so to me, I think sometimes we forget the true meaning of Christmas, those of us of Christian faith," Dolly said. "But to me, the other part is like being with family, eating all that food, eating as much of it as you can and not feeling guilty about it until the first of the year, trying to get all that off of you, but just being with family and friends and all that great music, the decorations, and it’s just a joyful time."
Joy that Dolly says she's happy can be passed on while families make their own holiday traditions at her amusement park, Dollywood.
"I love the fact that Dollywood is now known for a tradition," Dolly said. "People come from all over the country, even all over the world now because word gets aroundIt’s just like a wonderland and everybody loves all the music that goes with Christmas, they play that all in the park all the time, millions of lights so radiant, all the great music that they have to go with it and the families that take part in all we do."
Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas continues through Jan. 3, 2021. This season's celebration features more than five million lights, holiday-inspired food, and a 2020 take on the traditional visit with Santa. Find more information here.