Dolly Parton Says “Hard Candy Christmas” Isn’t A Christmas Song, But Something Much Sadder


Dolly Parton explains the meaning of Hard Candy ChristmasDolly Parton explains the meaning of Hard Candy Christmas

Dolly Parton never hesitates to bring the festive cheer through movies, Dollywood events, and, of course, music. Her discography includes A Holly Dolly Christmas and the collaborative Once Upon a Christmas. But one part of her collection that Parton actually doesn’t consider a Christmas tune is actually “Hard Candy Christmas.” Why?

As soon as the jolliest time of the year nears, Parton goes fully into Christmas mode. “Christmas lights are turned on. The wreaths go up,” she recounted last year in celebration of A Holly Dolly Christmas. “I have a little chapel on my property; I put a cross on top of that.” She always goes for a live tree and she’s “happy to be second in line” behind Mariah Carey for the title of Queen of Christmas. But don’t count “Hard Candy Christmas” as part of her festive spirit.

Dolly Parton confirms that “Hard Candy Christmas” is not a Christmas song

Once Upon a Christmas by Dolly Parton and Kenny RogersOnce Upon a Christmas by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
Once Upon a Christmas by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers / Amazon

There have been some peculiar jingles sung around the holiday season, like “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” which boasts a morbid plot but is still a holiday favorite. Not so for “Hard Candy Christmas,” says Parton.

“It’s kind of funny that people think it’s a Christmas song, and it’s really not,” she mused. In reality, it’s rooted in some very real, somber facts of life. She elaborated, “It’s really just about people having hard times and saying, ‘It’s like a hard candy Christmas,’ like when you’re so poor that all you get for Christmas is a piece of hard candy.”

The most treasured, impactful stories are the real ones

Dolly Parton lived through her own hard candy ChristmasDolly Parton lived through her own hard candy Christmas
Dolly Parton lived through her own hard candy Christmas / Karolina Wojtasik/©Lifetime Television/courtesy Everett Collection

Released in October of 1982, “Hard Candy Christmas” was written by lyricist Carol Hall – what a perfect name for composing Christmas songs – and appeared in the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, whose film version starred Parton. Following the not a Christmas song’s release, it reached No. 8 on the U.S. country singles chart in January ‘83.

In the late ‘90s, RCA reissued Parton’s ‘84 holiday album, Once Upon a Christmas, created with Kenny Rogers; this latest release had “Hard Candy Christmas” added to the tracklist.

CHRISTMAS ON THE SQUARE / © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

As a metaphor, hard candy is an easily accessible treat that families going through hard times can gift their young ones en masse. Like the confectionery, life can be sweet and hard, a fact Parton actually understands all too well from her own childhood growing up in an impoverished family. The family did not have electricity in their single-room cabin, tree decorations were whatever they could find laying around, and one year, everyone gave up getting presents so their dad could give Dolly’s mom a wedding ring at last.


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