Blame it on the Hallmark movies. You know the ones. A Christmas-hating big city person gets stranded in small-town America for some reason (business trip / snow storm / mischievous ghost). Over about 90 minutes they rediscover the joy of Christmas, largely thanks to falling in love with a wholesome but hot local (carpenter / baker / mischievous ghost) and decide to stay in Hollyville [insert other cheerful town name] forever. They also have a viable business opportunity that will allow them to stay there despite only having 50 people living in the town. I love every clichéd minute.
There’s a seemingly unending supply of these made for TV (and now made for Netflix) films and they have brainwashed me. I am currently drying out orange slices in a low oven to make a garland. There will definitely be some form of cinnamon loaded baking this month. I’ve even downloaded an eggnog recipe from Waitrose. Come December first, I’m inexplicably recreating Christmas traditions that are 4400 miles away from the British-Caribbean-Eastender fusion of my own past Christmases.
This year, it’s intensified. I’m absolutely craving that comfort of Christmas; a festival that celebrates The Gospel [AKA the Good News] where words like ‘joy’ and ‘hope’ on cards and hymn sheets seem to mean more than before. Much of my Christmas spirit will be found as my church is finally able to reopen its doors again, in time for a candlelight carol service which is sure to be magical (FYI most churches require you to sign up online now for free tickets to Christmas events due to covid-limited numbers, so check what’s on at your local church in advance).
But this is a country music blog, so of course I’ll also be indulging in ways to keep in country this Christmas – even here in Britain.
1. The Show Must Go On(line)
Virtual live music has been keeping me sane during lockdown, so I’ll be logging on for some of the Christmas offerings planned by the country community. To name a few the festive season kicks off with a CountryLine and Dixie Fields £10 Christmas concert on Dec 1st featuring much-loved UK acts like Remember Monday and Jake Morrell. Sunday 20th December Destination Country are doing an epic free facebook live event with performances from UK acts including Ward Thomas and a band I love to see live, Foreign Affairs.
2. Get Some Tinsel on the Telly
What could make those gloriously cheesy Christmas movies even better? Dolly Parton of course. Her musical Christmas on the Square is on Netflix now, but I’m saving it for Christmas eve with an equally sweet baileys and marshmallow loaded hot choc. There are also some country music themed Hallmark Christmas movies appearing on UK TV; A Very Country Christmas Homecoming and Christmas in Graceland are on Channel 5‘s catchup service, and A Nashville Christmas Carol (starring Wynonna Judd) keeps popping up (most recently on Christmas24 – we’ll tweet if we spot it playing again). You can also watch the annual CMA Christmas Concert (hosted by Thomas Rhett) on BBC Four on 18th December 11pm (and available on iPlayer after that at more decent hours. The concert will also be on Radio 2 on Christmas eve at 8pm.
3 Deck the Halls with Boots, not Holly
There are some subtle bamboo guitar Christmas decorations included in our Christmas gift guide. But I’m not going subtle, I’ve ordered this set of coloured glass cowboy boot baubles (£23) for my tree. But you can also go for whiskey baubles (individual ones from £6) or even decorate your lockdown beard with clip on Christmas dinner ornaments.
4. Homemade Christmas Treats
I’ve been watching a lot of my favourite country artists making their southern comfort foods during lockdown (don’t judge me). My own culinary efforts are not ready for an Instagram live but I will be trying this eggnog recipe from Waitrose (who are claiming the typically American drink may have actually come from England), the apparently easy iced Christmas sugar cookies from Trisha Yearwood’s show, and – I can’t remember whose instagram I saw this on – but Bourbon Bacon Brittle exists. Finally, have you seen the Pioneer Woman on Food Network? I will endeavour to mix Chsitmas lunch up by making at least one of her Oklahoma ranch recipes for – even if nothing more complex than her hasselback potatoes.
5 Hark, the Country Divas Sing
It’s incredibly easy to have a country soundtrack for Christmas. We’ve already mentioned Radio 2 CMA Country Christmas, 8pm December 24th; in the hour before is, Carrie Underwood is presenting her own special show (7-8pm). Staying with Radio 2. On Sat 19th December at 9pm they’ve also got a programme hosted by Dolly Parton Dolly’s Christmas Good List.
Apart from the radio festivities there’s been a flurry of Christmas albums released by country artists recently (Dolly Parton’s first Christmas album in decades also features Willie Nelson and both Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus and Lady A’s have put out a deluxe version of their 2012 album On This Winter’s Night). To get the best of all the country Christmas albums in one hit, stick on this Country Hits Radio Country Christmas Bangers playlist.
I hope that’s helped get you as excited as I am for the festive season. I’m extra enthused because today is the long-awaited day when I get to open the first window on my Bourbon and American Whiskey advent calendar (thank you Whiskey Santa!). I’ll do it this evening once I’ve put the tree up, maybe over on Instagram so I can find out what on earth ‘Reels’ is all about.
In case the advent calendar gets the better of me and I don’t post again before the big day,