If you think the the Hughes Brothers' Christmas is fun on stage, you should hear the stories about what they do at home.
The family -- 86 members strong -- has a lot of holiday traditions, says Marty, one of the five original brothers. One of their traditions celebrating their Swedish ancestry is a big Christmas Eve dinner, after which each of the kids gets to open one gift. Then it's time for the Nativity story created and staged by the children -- which often turns into a talent show.
The Christmas tree is decorated with traditional Swedish Christmas elves and gift wrapped candies. In honor of Santa Lucia, the children serve treats to the adults, followed by singing and dancing to traditional Swedish Christmas songs.
Visitors to the family's Branson theater will get to taste a little bit of that tradition when purchasing Pepparkakor, a Swedish spice cookie made by brother Andy and only available during the holiday season.
"It's a real treat," Marty says, "something people who have been to our Christmas shows look forward to each year!"
The first act of the show includes "all of the traditional, fun Christmas music. People get all the warm fuzzies from seeing the whole family sing and dance together," says brother Jason.
Jason is the producer of the Christmas show, a perennial Best of Branson winner as "Best Christmas Show," and he said in a previous interview, "it's a lot different today than that first year -- when it was just a matter of getting five brothers together. We could do that in a week. But now we've got 55 people on stage, and the production values are so much more complicated. We do have a lot of bells and whistles -- the latest lights and sound equipment and all of that stuff -- but the technical aspects are more enhancements than a feature."
The brothers came to Branson from Utah 29 years ago, after hearing over and over that they'd be a big hit in the country music capital of Mid-America. When the Osmond Brothers started a show in the Missouri Ozarks and got a lot of press, the description of "this enchanting place in the middle of the country in the Ozark Mountains where people from all around would come to hear music" began to capture the Hughes brothers' attention.
"Once we had worked a week as special guests at Silver Dollar City, we decided well, if we're ever going to be a performing group and do this full-time for our profession, we might as well go for it," Jason remembers. So they sold the family business -- a fence company -- in Utah and took "the big leap."
Currently, the show includes four of the five brothers, their kids and their grandkids. Brother Adam is currently living in California with his family, taking care of his in-laws.
The second act of the Christmas show is all about the reason for the season as Santa Claus (portrayed by Marty) narrates the symbols of Christmas and how they point toward Christ.
For example, "Santa" teaches that the color green is associated with the evergreen tree and everlasting life -- and that it points to heaven -- followed by the singing of "O Christmas Tree." At the end, the giant fireplace spins to become a Nativity scene, and the whole cast comes on stage in white robes.
"It's like the heavenly host bursting forth to sing 'Gloria'," Jason says. "There are lots of poignant, tender moments, but this really is the most powerful. The audience comes right out of their seats at the end of that song."
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story ran in November 2020. It has been updated here.
WHEN -- Select dates through Jan. 4
WHERE -- Hughes Brothers Theatre, 3425 W. 76 Country Blvd. in Branson
COST -- $45 adults with dinner add-ons
INFO -- hughesentertainmentinc.com