ANSON, Texas – When it comes to holiday traditions here in the Lone-Star State, it’s not all about who’s got the largest display of lights. Over in Anson, things are much simpler. They like to cut a rug when it comes to Christmas.
Every December, the town of Anson gets together for a big ol’ bash. First, the locals prepare a traditional barbeque Christmas dinner with all the holiday favorites. As you peer into this Texas town during this time of year, you start to notice more than the extremely popular deviled eggs and the out of this world bread pudding. People here dress a bit differently. But as soon as you enter the Pioneer Hall, it all makes sense. This is a celebration of the Texas Cowboy’s Christmas Ball. As one regular at this event put it, “This is as Texas as it gets.”
This annual Anson tradition has been the special gift locals and people from all over the country look forward to each Christmas.
Clay Deatherage was born and raised in Anson and he’s been raising Christmas spirit at the ball since he was a boy. But the very first Christmas ball here took place in an entirely different century.
“The original Christmas Ball was held in 1885 in the Morning Star Hotel in Anson,” Clay said. “The hotel owner held a party Christmas Eve night to celebrate a wedding, and also probably to draw people to his hotel.”
One of those in attendance was Larry Chittenden. He was so impressed with the party that he wrote a poem dedicated to the one night soiree. That poem inspired two school teachers, Leonora Barrett and Hybernia Grace to re-enact the Christmas ball. It hasn’t stopped being a local Christmas favorite since. There are some ground rules that have stood the test of time here and will keep you on the nice list this Christmas.
“Gentlemen do not dance with a hat on, and that, that is just an old Texas dance hall tradition,” Clay informed us. “It’s out of respect for the lady your dancing with. Ladies are still required to wear a dress or skirt on the dance floor.”
Since 1993, one performer has been a staple of this celebration, Texas legend Michael Martin Murphey. Murphey was also inspired by Chittenden’s poem and wrote a song dedicated to the ball before he even knew it was still going on.
“I come to this ball because this is the heart of real Texas music,” Murphey said. “This hearts back to the original Texas music, cowboy music, it was invented here.”
Murphey and his band play an assortment of songs that are perfect for this sort of soiree.
“We emphasize a wide range of songs, but we emphasize cowboy music and some of the traditional cowboy songs for people to dance to, and uh so it’s a mixture of that and Christmas music,” Murphey said.
He also partakes in the old-time dancing and even he abides by the rules.
“It’s all about the heart and soul of the culture,” Murphey says. “This is sort of like if you are a New Yorker not going to Times Square on New Years Eve. You know what I mean?”
Buck Carter is another local who’s attended many Christmas Balls.
“It’s something to be proud of,” Buck says. “They have been doing it forever and a day, so.”
While the Texas Cowboys Christmas Ball is a celebration of the season, it’s also a connection to the way of life in this part of the Lone-Star State. It’s a chance to toast the true cowboys who help cut the cloth of culture and Christmas.
“You meet the real old timers here, and that’s really an important thing to me,” Murphey says. “This is the oldest most venerable tradition in Texas that was started in Texas.”
So, if you happen to be in the Big Country during the Christmas season, swing on by the Texas Cowboy’s Christmas Ball for a holiday experience with true Texas roots that’s well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List.
“If you want to key into the culture here and really learn who we are this is the place to start,” Murphey says.