Does Size Really Matter? Not If You’re Johnny Mathis or Modesto, California

The freelance writer has a late-season Christmas gift for Mathis fans, just in time for the Feast of the Epiphany…and news on the wonderful things Modesto, California has to offer!

By Michael P Coleman

Does size matter? The debate has raged for the entirety of my life.

As a kid, I vied for the largest package under the Christmas tree. Decades later, many in my social circles insisted that size does, indeed, matter quite a bit.

But I’ve found that, in most cases, some of life’s best surprises come in small packages. That’s certainly the case with regard to whiskey (I love a good shot of Jack Daniel’s), hamburgers (White Castle kid, here — everything with no cheese, please), and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups (the mini ones have a superior peanut butter to chocolate ratio).

It’s also true of the legendary Johnny Mathis, and one of the towns in which he performed one of his 2022 holiday shows: Modesto, California.

Mathis stands about 5’7” in a good pair of ski boots, but his big voice has served him very well since 1956, when he burst onto the scene at 21 years old. Just a couple of years later, he released his seminal “Merry Christmas” album, the first of six full length holiday collections. The album was an immediate smash and has been a perennial favorite for almost 70 years.

Earlier this year, Mathis surprised fans with a brand new EP, “A Merry Little Christmas.” That beautiful, four song collection is further proof that great things come in small packages! The Feast of the Epiphany’s not until January 6, so keep on rockin’ around that Christmas tree and playing those Yuletide tunes if you feel like it!

Mathis pauses his ongoing “The Voice Of Romance” Tour each year to perform holiday shows in a handful of hamlets. This year, one of those lucky cities was Modesto, California, where Mathis played to a sold-out crowd at the Gallo Center for the Arts.

Mathis’ December 21 show was a perfect way to roll into Christmas weekend. While the crooner had a rocky start to the evening, clearing his throat a few times and hoping aloud that he remembered all of the words to his songs, he and his throat warmed up quickly.

He led us through beautiful versions of time-tested classics like “Winter Wonderland,” “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” and the newer, equally-gorgeous and Grammy-nominated “Sending You A Little Christmas.”

Mathis did indeed forget a few lyrics, but after over 65 years onstage, who wouldn’t? I’m decades younger than he is, and I couldn’t navigate all of the lyrics to “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” if a visit from Santa Claus depended on it.

There’s no need to venture into San Francisco or other larger cities when downtown Modesto offers the Gallo Center, first-class accommodations at the Doubletree Hotel (valet parking was only $17!), a host of restaurants (try the enormous, delicious garden panini at Picasso’s Gourmet Deli on 10th Street), retail stops, coffee shops, and a huge, first-run movie theatre.

Picasso’s veggie panini was crazy good. I usually don’t like feta cheese, but wow!
Picasso’s Gourmet Deli in downtown Modesto
The Doubletree’s gorgeous lobby was all decked out for the holidays.

Modesto is home to just under a quarter of million people, but is host to tens of thousands more each year thanks to the Gallo Center and other attractions. While walking back to the Doubletree from the concert, at close to midnight, admiring the lights and holiday decorations, I couldn’t help but think that there are stories to be told about Modesto that those of us in Sacramento — and beyond — need to hear.

Modesto was looking good for the holidays! My Santa drag wasn’t too bad that night, either!

You can check out all things Modesto at

If you’re interested in catching Mathis on tour, keep up with his schedule at And since you have stuck with me this whole time, I’ve two surprises for you, especially if you, like me, try to keep Christmas in your heart the whole year through:

Johnny Mathis is already booking shows for 2023! Tickets for his December 9, 2023 Christmas show in Chicago are on sale now!

And, if you’re good between now and next Christmas, I have it on very good authority from an elf who swore me to secrecy that Mathis’ 2022 holiday EP was just the teaser. The legend is reportedly putting the finishing touches on a brand new, full-length Christmas album, to be released in the fall of 2023. Don’t tell anyone I told you…it’s our secret.

Happy Holidays!


Similar Posts