This Christmas Eve, whether you’re bedding down in your sleeper, dropping in on relatives, headed home or traveling on another long haul … well, there’s not much anywhere better to be than Texas. Chances are, you’ll find the weather to your liking, but the traffic jams around Dallas, Houston and San Antonio may drive you down a different highway altogether.
Traffic aside, you never know what Christmas in Texas (particularly South Texas) is going to offer. Heck, a few years back a few inches of snow fell on the beaches of Galveston on Christmas Day! But for the most part, when Santa makes his way to the Lone Star State, you’re more likely find him pulling a trailer than driving a sleigh.
And when he does visit Texas, Santa may well be playing a Christmas tune by none other than the King of Country Music, George Strait, on his radio.
In 1986, George Strait was just five years into a Hall of Fame career when he recorded his first Christmas album, “Merry Christmas Strait to You.” The album’s title followed a pattern in Strait’s earliest recordings, including his debut album, “Strait Country,” and his follow-up, “Strait from the Heart.”
While the Christmas album didn’t exactly offer any classic songs that would become mainstays of country radio during the Christmas seasons to come, Strait did record a couple of regional Christmas hits that still receive airplay in his home state and surrounding areas.
“When it’s Christmas Time in Texas” is one of the singer’s most memorable holiday songs, and it provided Strait an opportunity to introduce his fan base to a different kind of Christmas than most envision when dreams of sugarplums dance in their heads.
Strait starts out “When it’s Christmas Time in Texas” by letting the listener know he’s telling a personal story; in fact, he points out, “It’s a very special time for me.” Rather than singing a Christmas carol like “Old Christmas Tree,” Strait points out that in Texas, people swing around the Christmas tree while “dancin’ to a Christmas melody.” And even though Christmas may look like a summer day to the rest of the country, just because there’s no snow in San Antonio doesn’t take away that special feeling reserved for this time of year.
So, what does Santa do when he crosses the Texas border on Christmas Eve (other than possibly trade in his reindeer for a Peterbilt)? Well, when he arrives in Texas, those Christmas carols take on a different sound. Twin fiddles provide a melody, along with a good dose of steel guitar and everything else needed for a “western swing” hit.
But don’t get Strait wrong. He admits that he loves to hear carolers sing and watch the people on the go — traveling or shopping — while the kids’ faces are aglow in anticipation of the big day. Throw in an amusing moment when Grandpa chases Grandma, trying to get her under the mistletoe, and in Strait’s words, “Everything is right; the lone star’s shining bright.”
Before he ends “When it’s Christmas Time in Texas,” George Strait even throws in a round of “Frosty the Snowman,” in particular the lines most appropriate in Texas — Frosty knew the “sun was hot that day, so he said, ‘Let’s run and have some fun before I melt away.’”
In closing, not only does Strait offer listeners a Merry Christmas, but he also makes sure to speak on behalf of all Texans.
If “When it’s Christmas Time in Texas” doesn’t get your toe tapping, you don’t have to look far to find another George Strait song to get you in the mood for the holiday. The title track of the album, “Merry Christmas Strait to You,” is performed in Strait’s favorite style — western swing, and he offers plenty of references to his first five years of hits to take you back to the days when he arguably produced his finest music.
Snippets of the lyrics to “Merry Christmas Strait to You” and the references to hit songs include (just to name a few):
- I hope it cheers you up when you are down and feeling blue (“Am I Blue?”);
- Right or wrong, I’ll sing my song … (“Right or Wrong”);
- Without a doubt, the fire’s not out … (“The Fireman”); and
- You’ve been so kind; you’ve crossed my mind, and nothing less will do … (“Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?”).
For good measure, the then-still-young Strait takes a line to do some marketing and offers an invitation to the millions of fans who had yet to jump aboard his tour bus in 1986. “Here comes a Merry Christmas, and to all who might have missed us, a very Merry Christmas Strait to You.”
While most any country singer with even a bit of staying power eventually records a Christmas album, Strait stands a cut above most. Then again, what would you expect from a singer whose commercial career is entering its fifth decade? Of Strait’s 52 albums, seven are devoted to Christmas music.
If you’re cipherin’, that’s over 13% of one singer’s albums focusing on the holiday. Even for the man who has had more No. 1 hits than any performer in any genre (yes, more than Elvis or The Beatles), Strait’s focus on Christmas music shows a holiday spirit few others have exceeded.
So, until next time, wherever your traveling, I hope you find the roads as clear that those around San Antone. If not, pull up some George Strait Christmas music. That western swing will generate enough heat to thaw even the coldest highway.
Since retiring from a career as an outdoor recreation professional from the State of Arkansas, Kris Rutherford has worked as a freelance writer and, with his wife, owns and publishes a small Northeast Texas newspaper, The Roxton Progress. Kris has worked as a ghostwriter and editor and has authored seven books of his own. He became interested in the trucking industry as a child in the 1970s when his family traveled the interstates twice a year between their home in Maine and their native Texas. He has been a classic country music enthusiast since the age of nine when he developed a special interest in trucking songs.