Dolly Parton Still Writes Letters To Santa Claus: “I Pretend Like It’s Really A Letter To God”

The icon shares her story with Better Homes & Gardens.

Dolly Parton Better Homes And Gardens

Art Streiber for Better Homes & Gardens

Dolly Parton is a chart-topping singer, a successful business woman, generous philanthropist, and a cultural icon, but beneath all that power and sequins, she’s still a Tennessee farm girl who can’t wait for Christmas. 

In the December cover story and digital issue for Better Homes & Gardens, Parton shares her favorite Christmas traditions, and how she still manages to teleport herself back to her childhood holidays in Locust Ridge. 

“I remember the foods we used to cook, and the stories we used to tell, and the songs we used to sing,” the country legend tells Better Homes & Gardens. “Momma would always sing all the great ones: ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ ‘Silent Night,’ and ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain.’”

Dolly Parton Better Homes & Gardens Cover

Art Streiber for Better Homes & Gardens

Parton is the fourth of twelve children born to Robert Lee Parton, a Sevierville, Tennessee, farmer, and his wife, Avie Lee Parton, who raised their family in a two-bedroom log cabin without electricity. They were poor, but she says that she and her siblings didn’t realize that fact until somebody told them.

The Parton family’s Christmases in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains were decidedly humble. But there was a magic in them, she says. 

She recalls her momma decorating their tree with colored paper, rags, foil-covered eggs, and popcorn. 

“We didn’t even have electricity for lights on the tree. We had popcorn garland,” says Parton. “That’s one of the things I have to have today. I never got over being country.”

Dolly Parton BHG

Art Streiber for Better Homes & Gardens

There are other things she has to have during the holidays. She insists on having a Christmas tree in each room of her house, and hosting Christmas Eve for friends and family. At some point in the night she dresses up as Santa Claus and comes down the elevator with bags of presents wrapped in newspaper because it reminds her of being back home. 

Christmas day is a little more relaxed. She wakes up early to make her husband red and green pancakes before they sit down together to open gifts. Chocolate-covered cherries (something her father gave her mother) are always exchanged. 

Perhaps most interestingly, Parton's 76 years of life haven’t managed to dim her belief in Santa Claus. Not one bit. “I do believe,” she tells Better Homes & Gardens with seriousness in her voice. 

“I like to write a letter to Santa Claus,” she says. “I pretend like it’s really a letter to God.”

The December issue of Better Homes & Gardens hits newsstands on Friday, November 11. Dolly is also on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens’ first-ever digital issue. Visit for more. 

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