Dolly Parton has three Christmas albums, and right around this time each year, I bring them out and give them another listen. Her first Christmas album is a duet project that she and Kenny Rogers released in 1984 called Once Upon A Christmas. By 1988, the album sold over five million copies worldwide.

I recall as a young country music-loving and, to be honest, Dolly-obsessed teenager, buying the album on vinyl in 1984. I repurchased it a few years later on cassette and again on CD. I even purchased the project digitally a few years ago.

Before Kenny passed away in 2020, I interviewed him many times over the years, and one thing he always told me was that he wanted to do a Christmas tour with Dolly, but it “never happened.” Now, sadly, it never can.

In one of those interviews with Rogers, he told me of the Christmas album with his friend Dolly; “I never realized the depth of her writing until she wrote seven songs and those songs were the best on that album.” He added, “She’s an amazing talent and an amazing writer, and every song she takes on, she comes from a different place.”

Picking just five of the best Dolly Christmas songs was hard, but I managed to narrow it down to the ones I play repeatedly. The songs that I have known every word to since the 1980s and one that she did in 2020 makes me emotional each time I hear it.

In my many interviews with Dolly over the years, she shared with me what she hopes for each year when the holidays roll around. She said, “More than anything, I just want people to feel the joy of Christmas and what Christmas is really about, which is Jesus. And the love of family and feeling happy.”

Here are our five absolute best Dolly Christmas songs:

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  • "Hard Candy Christmas" (1982)

    This Dolly classic Christmas song was not written by Dolly. The song was written by composer-lyricist Carol Hall for the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Parton sang the song in the movie version, her second big movie after the 1980s’ 9 to 5. Parton re-released the song on the 1984 Once Upon a Christmas album with Kenny Rogers. Reba McEntire also did a version of the song on one of her recent Christmas albums.

  • "Go Tell It On The Mountain" (1990)

    This song came from Dolly’s 1990 album, Home For Christmas. The album was promoted with a television special titled Dolly Parton: Christmas at Home. It aired December 21, 1990 on ABC.

    The special features footage of Parton in the studio recording the album, visiting and singing with her family at the Tennessee Mountain Home where she grew up, as well as performances filmed at a church and various other locations in the Smoky Mountains. In the video below, you can see all of Parton’s ten siblings in the front rows of the church as she sings.

  • "Christmas Without You" (1984)

    One of the seven songs Dolly wrote for the Once Upon A Christmas album. Parton and Rogers sang it together on their 1984 TV holiday special to celebrate the album. In the special, they first sang it as a slow ballad, and then Dolly says, “Oh come on boys, let’s cheer this place up,” the song goes to the upbeat version from the album.

  • "Mary, Did You Know" (2020)

    This was the first song Dolly released before her Holly Dolly Christmas album, which came out in October 2020. Parton’s version of this classic song is quite tender, with Dolly speaking many lines in the song. Her official YouTube channel released a performance version of the song, and that video has been viewed over one million times.

  • "A Christmas To Remember" (1984)

    This is a song Parton wrote for the Once Upon A Christmas album in 1984. The song became the title of a CBS TV special aired the same year. It was dubbed Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas to Remember. The two music icons sang the song in the special in a ski lodge surrounded by mannequins dressed in skiing outfits.

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