Two and half years ago, in August 2015, Gwen Stefani was in a dark place, as her 13-year marriage to the father of her three children, Gavin Rossdale, whom she’d been with since 1995, came to a shocking end. However, by Thanksgiving of that same year, she was in a blissful new relationship with her Voice co-star, Blake Shelton, aka People’s reigning Sexiest Man Alive, who had just split from his wife of four years, Miranda Lambert. And seemingly against all odds, “Shefani” are still going strong.
Spending their third holiday season together, the couple’s celebration plans this year include Thanksgiving weekend at Shelton’s Oklahoma ranch, Christmas in Los Angeles, and, of course, a feel-good duet on the title track of Stefani’s new holiday album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas. Shelton will also appear on Stefani’s holiday special, airing Dec. 12 on NBC.
One might wonder how Stefani maintains her steadfast, starry-eyed belief in romance after two very public back-to-back breakups (her previous long-term relationship, with No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, inspired much of that band’s landmark album Tragic Kingdom). Stefani tells Yahoo Entertainment she “wasn’t even looking [for love] or trying or anything” back in 2015, and admits that when she first started dating Shelton, “I know everybody was like, ‘What are you doing?’ I was the same way! But it just happened, and I just took it.”
Stefani credits her religious faith and a recent spiritual rebirth for allowing her to love again. “At the time when it was going down, never in my wildest dreams would I ever imagine the miracle that happened to me,” she says. “Some people don’t like to hear this, but for me it was a spiritual intervention. It was a true miracle. I think the only way I got through all the hard times is just my spiritual faith and my belief in God, because I’ve just seen the miracles around me.
“I know it makes people uncomfortable to talk about it, but we are at Christmas, a spiritual time, and I am proof of those things,” she continues. “Honestly, that’s just how I got through it and how I got to this place and recognized the gift that was given to me: a new friendship. My No. 1 thing in my life is my faith and everything else falls after that, and I just always have been constantly asking for guidance. That’s all I care about. Everything else is underneath that. [Shelton] was just one of the gifts that I was given. And I’m so very, very, very grateful.”
Stefani may be religious offstage, but on You Make It Feel Like Christmas she sticks with mostly lighthearted, secular holiday fare like “Santa Baby,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Let It Snow,” along with some Blake-inspired originals. “I’m not a choir singer! I never pretend to be anything more than what I am,” she chuckles.
However, You Make It Feel Like Christmas does include some serious moments — like a recording of “Silent Night,” one of Stefani’s sons’ favorite songs (“I’ve sung that to my children their whole life, even when it’s not Christmas, because for some reason it’s such a good lullaby”), and a cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas,” a modern-day carol that has taken on sad new meaning since George Michael passed away literally last Christmas, on Dec. 25, 2016.
“I am a child of the ’80s,” Stefani says proudly, “and that is one of my favorite Christmas songs. … I didn’t really do it for any other reason except I love that song so much, but when we were about to do it, I started to realize how actually big it was to be doing it right now, and that I did need to get it right. That was one of the ones where I was like, ‘Wow, how are we going to flip this?’ I think the hardest thing to do when you’re doing covers is to make it your own, and also not disrespect or offend the original. I’m proud of [my version], and it’s also my favorite one to do live. I was so scared to learn it, because the way the song is written, it almost sounds like George was writing a bunch of ad-libs; the melody’s pretty hard and complicated. It really is just a magical song, and I think it turned out so good. I would hope that George would love it.”
As for this Christmas, last year Stefani and Shelton made homemade gnocchi, manicotti, and Stefani’s grandmother’s lasagna (“We just cooked and cooked and cooked!”), and this year, Stefani says, “My holiday challenge will be, if I can do it, gingerbread.” Stefani says “tradition is really important” to her, but says her favorite new holiday tradition is just getting to spend the season with her new love on his home turf.
“I think really for our whole family, that’s a new tradition right there, just the experience of Oklahoma and the middle of America. It’s just that cultural collision [between Oklahoma and Stefani’s Southern California] that I love. I’m such a huge fan of cultures and learning their traditions and combining them with what we’re doing. It’s cute.”
This article originally ran on Yahoo Music.