There’s a reason our culture generally accepts this season as being “the most wonderful time of the year,” and that’s because IT IS.
Christmas cheer softens us, opens our hands to generosity and warms us from the inside out so kindness and goodness flow more freely.
It’s been a hard year for all of us. I thought I’d break from sharing with you business-like Dollywood information and instead share some insight into who Dollywood hosts are and what we love about Christmas.
Spoiler alert: we’re probably a lot like you and your family.
I’ll start. On the scale Scrooge to Buddy the Elf, I’m definitely Team Buddy. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loudly for all to hear, duh. This being the case, I have a LOT of family traditions. Sometimes my children comply, sometimes they don’t. [Their loss, haha.] One tradition everyone looks forward to is our Christmas in the Smokies trip to Dollywood. (I suppose that doesn’t surprise you). It’s something even my extended family enjoys. This year, my niece visited for the first time. Such sweet memories.
Karen works in a couple shops in Craftsman’s Valley. You may see her at either Old Flames Candles or Smoky Creek Leather. When I asked her about her favorite Christmas tradition or one of her things to do this Christmas, she didn’t hesitate: “Our family tradition is just to get everyone together, and we don’t have the normal ham and turkey. We have steak! It’s a treat,” she laughed. “Expensive, though for the one who’s cooking! It’s a lot of fun.”
I found Lori as she was cleaning seats at Back Porch Theater. She’s one of Dollywood’s Ambassadors who ensures we take every precaution to keep guests and hosts safe during the pandemic. I posed the same favorite tradition question, and she told me what she really loves to do each year is bring cheer to her community. “On our family’s farm that we’ve had since the 1800s, every year we continue to hang wreaths up high on the horse barn on the hay doors so folks can see them as they drive by.”
I bumped into Ashley and Jerry on their lunch break from their Appalachian Christmas performances. Ashley smiled and had an immediate answer when asked about her family’s holiday traditions: “On Christmas Eve, we watch A Christmas Carol and open our stockings, and on Christmas morning we do Santa’s gifts.”
Likewise, Jerry didn’t have to think about his favorite Christmas ritual: “Christmas Eve—we do our gifts to each other and we marathon A Christmas Story,” he told me. “Sit up late and then get up early on Christmas day.”
In Country Fair, you’ll likely see Glynn encouraging guests as they play games. He lit up when I asked him what he and his family enjoy doing during Christmas. He talked about getting together with extended family, but mostly he wanted to tell me about their Dirty Santa [think White Elephant] gift exchange: “Men will get a gift for the men. Women will get a gift for the women and the kids for the kids,” he continued. “If I see some gift I want, I’ll say I want to trade then I can change that gift. Some people aren’t willing to give it up! My wife got the best gift this year—a weighted blanket.”
Benjamin is on the Operations Team, so he can tell you all about Dollywood’s star attractions. He agreed with me that trips to Dollywood are some of his fondest Christmas memories. He even had pictures handy to prove it! “Christmas for me has always centered around family time. Family trips to Dollywood have always been part of our Christmas traditions. My favorite memories include the lights. We would always go into a show just at dusk,” Benjamin told me, “so, when it was over and we stepped outside the sky would be dark and the lights would be glowing bright. It’s like stepping into a magical land!”
From all of us at Dollywood, we wish you and your family a very safe and memorable Christmas.