Christmas means family: family recipes, family traditions, family heirlooms and especially family stories.
In “All American Christmas” (Fox Books), out now, 23 Fox News personalities welcome readers into their Christmas celebrations. From baking to tree-trimming to lighting the candles of the household Advent wreath, they describe their most treasured seasonal rituals.
Here, contributors share the childhood Christmas memories that remain vivid decades later — and a few that their families will never let them forget.
Bret BaierRandy Holmes/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty ImagesChristmas Eve mass at Bret Baier’s neighborhood Catholic church was a holiday highlight, and serving as an altar boy made the night even more special.
“I really got into being up front and part of the sacrament,” the anchor writes.
One year, the parish priests organized a particularly elaborate procession to kick off the midnight vigil. Twenty altar boys in black cassocks and white hooded surplices led the solemn march up the darkened center aisle. Each boy held a tall lighted candle. With their hoods up over their heads, they resembled a line of miniature medieval monks.
“The next thing I knew I was on the floor looking up at faces that gradually came into focus,” Baier remembers.
“I’d been carrying the candle too close to my body. The heat and smoke from the candle’s flame got trapped in my hood.” He had collapsed on the altar, in view of the entire horrified congregation.
“Not the typical surprise you want to provide for your family and your faith community,” he admits.
Late one Christmas Eve, the “Fox & Friends” host recalls, the three boys sneaked out of bed to peek at the tree standing in their Massapequa, NY, living room. Sure enough, a pile of gifts was waiting.
“All of a sudden we heard banging noises. We figured it had to be Santa,” he remembers. As they scampered back to their shared bedroom, Kilmeade noticed the front door standing open. He did the only responsible thing: he closed and locked it.
“The door being open had nothing to do with Santa,” he reasoned. “We had a chimney. Santa doesn’t do doors.”
Actually, the boys had interrupted their dad, James — coming off the late shift at the bar he managed — in the process of ferrying all their gifts into the house from their hiding place in his car. James spent hours shivering outside, vainly trying to wake his wife without alerting the kids to his predicament. (A handful of pebbles tossed at her bedroom window finally did the trick.)
“That’s a parent’s dedication,” says Kilmeade.
SNOOPING FOR SECRETS
Janice Dean as a girl with her mom and today.Long before Fox meteorologist Janice Dean became Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fiercest critic, she investigated childhood’s great mystery: the truth about Santa Claus.
“Perhaps that was the beginning of my career in journalism,” Dean recalls.
When her half-eaten lollipop got tangled in the fuzzy beard of a department-store Santa at age five, Dean got suspicious. “I noticed right away that the beard hair wasn’t normal hair,” she remembers.
She began to snoop around her family home. Hidden in her parents’ bedroom closet, she found a cache of wrapped gifts. Just to be sure, she opened one.
“I was very careful about it and able to forensically reseal it, keeping the tape intact,” she confesses. “I remember being both delighted and horrified by what I’d done: ‘Oh, this is terrible!’ and ‘Oh, YAY! I got what I wanted!’” A newshound was born.
Decades later, when Dean’s son Matthew asked where Santa’s gifts really come from, she confirmed his doubts.
“He was clearly upset,” she writes. But “once he settled down, he said to me, ‘Well, let’s not tell Theodore.’
“I loved that he wanted his younger brother to have … that magic.”
Lawrence Jones today and with mom as a boy.“We were kind of a make-do family,” Fox News contributor Lawrence Jones recalls. His mother’s creativity sparked their low-budget Christmas tradition of crafting ornaments out of cotton balls, Popsicle sticks and pinecones. “I got comfortable using a glue gun early on in life.”
That skill once got Jones in Christmas trouble. Weeks before the big day, he found his parents’ hiding place and spied the toy pistol he’d asked for among the collected presents. But his coveted gift was missing a holster.
“I figured that was a problem I could easily fix,” he writes. “Imagination + cardboard + razor knife + hot glue = holster.” He put it together and tucked it away.
On Christmas day, Jones unwrapped the pop gun and rushed off to fetch the waiting accessory.
“Mama and Daddy figured out pretty quickly that I’d been sneaking around,” he admits.
The toy gun went back into storage for a few months as punishment.
CLAUS FOR ALARM
Peter Doocy as a child with his parents and sisters, and today. By the age of 7, whatever questions White House correspondent Peter Doocy had about the Santa Claus story were put to rest after an awkward encounter with the right jolly old elf himself.
Doocy’s dad, longtime “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy, had scored tickets for the whole family to attend the premiere of “Miracle on 34th Street,” director John Hughes’ remake of the classic Christmas film, at the Ziegfeld Theatre in Manhattan.
“I was a little kid, and after all that time, watching the movie, I had to go to the bathroom,” Peter Doocy remembers.
“As I was standing there, a man with a white beard came up to the urinal next to me. It was Santa Claus!”
In fact, it was Richard Attenborough, the famous British actor, who had grown a full set of whiskers to play Kris Kringle in the film.
The men’s-room meetup is now a favorite family story. “Imagine a kid who still believed in Santa seeing that!” Doocy writes. “Not only was Santa out of uniform but…”
Jesse Watters wearing the red “Michael Jackson” jacket he finally got as a gift years after he asked for it as a child.All Jesse Watters wanted for Christmas in 1985 was a red leather multi-zippered jacket like the one Michael Jackson wore in the video for his hit song “Beat It.”
“Here I was, this little white kid growing up in Philadelphia,” Watters writes. “I was seven. I had no idea how expensive and impractical — I would have grown out of it in no time — that jacket would be.”
On Christmas morning, he eagerly tore the paper off the package he was convinced would make his moonwalking dreams come true. Alas, his parents’ pragmatism had won out. “It was a decorate-it-yourself sparkle-glitter Michael Jackson glove kit,” Watters remembers.
Three decades later, when Watters revealed his dashed Christmas wish during a segment of his show “The Five,” co-host Dana Perino took note. She had drawn Watters’ name in the office’s annual Secret Santa gift exchange.
Perino tracked down a replica Michael Jackson jacket and presented it to her colleague. “The mix of surprise and delight when a gift connects with someone is worth all the time and thought that goes into it,” she writes.
“It was worth the wait!” says Watters, who wore the jacket proudly on the air. “Nothing could ‘beat it’.”
John Rich with father’s guitar, which is his most memorable Christmas gift.“One Christmas, with a single gift, my dad pretty much changed the direction of my life,” writes country music superstar John Rich, who hosts a show on the Fox Nation streaming service.
Jim Rich, John’s father, was a preacher who played gospel music on his acoustic guitar in the pulpit and taught group guitar lessons on the side. When five-year-old John tagged along for a lesson, Jim handed him a plastic toy guitar so he wouldn’t feel left out.
“Over the next year, I got to where I could take that little plastic guitar … and play everything he was playing,” Rich recalls.
That Christmas, a big box under the tree had John’s name on it. “It was the guitar I’d been watching my dad play since the beginning of my life,” he writes. Unable to afford a new instrument for the boy, Jim Rich passed on the only guitar he owned.
“You need a real guitar, and with it you’re going to be better than I am,” the father told his son — who launched his major-label career with it.
“He taught me about sacrifice,” John Rich writes. “About putting your faith in something you can’t see yet, but you know is going to come down the line.”