by Matt Conner

“I love Christmas music.”

Michael W. Smith starts the conversation in much the same way he finishes it—with effusive praise for his favorite time of year. In fact, he can’t stop saying so. On six different occasions, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame member says “I love Christmas” in some form or another.

“I’m a huge fanatic and I have been since I was 4-years-old. It’s probably apparent since I’ve got four Christmas albums out,” says Smith with a laugh. “I just love it.”

Smith comes by his love of Christmas honestly. Ever since he was a kid, he’s anticipated the music of the holiday season far before even the most fervent Yuletide music fans.

“I like this as much as anything that I do,” says Smith. “I love leading worship and I love doing pop music, but this comes with so much ease, just because I love this time of year. It’s my favorite time of the year. The Smiths all love Christmas music, and I always pulled the Christmas records out on September 1 growing up.”

Smith has joined Amy Grant in recent years for an annual Christmas tour together, but this year, Smith is taking his friend and former American Idol alum Melinda Doolittle out on tour. Longtime fans will remember Doolittle’s previous stints on Smith’s Christmas tours from a decade prior.

“It’s great to also be out with Melinda again after we’ve done this in the past,” says Smith. “Usually I’m out with Amy [Grant] but she’s taking the year off to be with her daughter, who’s a senior in high school, which is the right thing to do.

“Melinda is so much fun. She’s just so much fun. She’s got great stage presence and brings a whole different element that I don’t have. At the same time, I think it also complements the show. It was awesome when we did this in the past and I’m sure this will be just as great. She knows how to deliver. She also loves Christmas as much as I do.”

Smith’s seasonal love is something he’s passed on to his own family—not only to his children but his numerous grandchildren as well.

“All of the kids and grandkids get to open one present on Christmas Eve,” says Smith when asked about his favorite traditions. “Then we get the kids down and we all watch It’s A Wonderful Life. Sometimes we might not get through the whole thing but it airs on the big screen. On Christmas morning, we wake up and get the family into one sitting room off the kitchen and read and act out the Christmas story.

“It’s a miracle we get through it because the kids are about to go crazy. We’ve got these French doors where you can see into this great room we have which is where the Christmas tree is with all the presents. We have a countdown and then the doors fly open and it’s utter chaos for the next two hours. You just go with it. There’s wrapping paper flying everywhere. It’s really fun!”

Smith’s hope for this year’s tour is the same as ever: to bring some hope during the holiday to those who need it most. Smith is well aware that not everyone feels the same sense of joy and belonging that he enjoys every December.

“I think there’s something sweet about doing these tours over the years because people’s hearts are a bit more open. This is a hard time of year for a lot of people,” he says. “People struggle with the winter or have hard lives and deal with depression. I think a lot of those people show up every night, so I think we give them something to hang on to. I think we give them a little bit more hope that they can get through the battle, through the difficult time. That’s the real joy of what we’re doing every night.”

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