The Hunsaker Family, Christmas 1993

It was December of 1993 when Papa's Song happened.  I was a junior at the university, and life was coming to a bend in the road.  During my Christmas break, I had several touching moments at home with my family.  The most memorable was on Christmas Eve, when Papa rocked me by the tree for the last time, singing a song he had sung to me every Christmas for as long as I could remember.

As the Christmas holidays drew to a close, I needed an essay for a story contest. I wrote Papa's Song late one night, recalling the events of the week before around our Christmas tree.  I wondered if our simple family tradition might touch other hearts.

I submitted the manuscript by the January 1st deadline, and was surprised when, several weeks later, I received a letter informing me that I had won 3rd place.  I was pleased and excited, and thought that the story of our family Christmas Eve tradition had fulfilled its destiny.

Two years later, I was serving as a volunteer missionary in Ube, Japan.  I recall a grey, windy December day when I opened a packet of mail from the states and a copy of the New Era fell into my lap.  Papa's Song was featured in the magazine, along with a beautiful oil painting depicting my dad rocking me.

"This looks just like Papa!" I thought, noting the balding head and glasses.  "This also looks just like me!" I thought as I saw the long, brown hair and fuzzy slippers.  I determined that the magazine editors and artist must have contacted my parents in the states for a family photo to use as a sample.  However, during a phone call home, I learned that my parents were equally amazed by the very close resemblance of the painting to Papa and me.  They contacted the artist, Keith Larson, in New York City, who told them he had used models for the painting.  I believe he was inspired in his illustration.

I was back home in the states when, a year later in December 1996, I was once again surprised to learn that Papa's Song was featured in the Liahona, an international magazine, and the story had now been published in 23 languages.

During the following decade, I had siblings serve around the globe as missionaries, and consequently learned of how Papa's Song had touched people in many nations.  In Russia, my sister Katie met a girl who immediately recognized our last name, Hunsaker, from the story.  My brother, Tommy, in Brazil, discovered a copy in Portuguese, our German friends read the story, and faithful friends in Japan called me when they saw the Japanese translation.

Our first son was born in 1997, and every Christmas Eve since then, my own husband has rocked each of our children - and me - in turn by the Christmas tree.

In 2002, Papa's Song was included in a compilation of Christmas stories published by Deseret Book, and I heard feedback from more people who were touched by the message.

                                                                     Stock Image

In 2010, I was working in the kitchen on a July day when I felt that it was time to publish Papa's Song as a stand-alone Christmas booklet.  I immediately set about securing permission to include the sheet music, Christmas Lullaby by Peggy Lee and Cy Coleman.  By early November the first books were printed, and by December the first printing sold out.  The second printing sold out the following Christmas, and the third printing was on shelves in September 2013.

This year, through permission of Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Papa's Song is available in 20 foreign languages at Meadowlark Media, LLC.

A version of Christmas Lullaby can also be viewed on Youtube.


I have been overwhelmed with stories shared by readers of feeling love, peace, and the arms of a comforting Heavenly Father through reading Papa's Song.  Others have shared how their homes have been touched by a new tradition, and a revived Christmas carol.  Coincidentally, last Christmas my husband and I lived in my parents' home while they served as missionaries overseas, and my husband rocked our children by the Christmas tree, in the same place that Papa rocked me twenty years ago.

I believe in Christmas.  I believe in the power of music, and of traditions, and of love.

It is my sincere desire that readers and families everywhere will feel the spirit of Christmas in their homes, and consider making Papa's Song part of their family traditions.

Please share your personal stories of Papa's Song by emailing them to:


  1. Love this fun history of how it all came to be. I will never forget that day in Russia when that girl approached me and asked if I knew Nettie Hunsaker. What a tender mercy! She gave me a copy in Russian and told me that for her Christmas present to her friends that year she was giving all of them a copy, too. Such fun memories!

  2. We love this story and share it with our friends every year for Christmas. Thanks for explaining how it came to be! What a priceless Christmas memory.

  3. We gave this story to our neighbors after it was first published as a booklet two years ago, and it is so neat when we get stopped by someone who says, "We pulled that Christmas story out again. It's so touching. Thanks for sharing!" I loved hearing the background to the story! It is a testimony to the power of simple family traditions to bring comfort during times of change in our lives, and the role music has in bringing the spirit and keeping memories alive. It causes me to reflect on how the traditions in my life have strengthened me, and blessed the family I have now.