Christmas 2009: Story time a tradition for Brussels' McArters
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Doug McArter, the 2007 Citizen of the Year for Brussels and area, shared his family’s Christmas traditions with The Citizen’s editor Shawn Loughlin in 2009.
Tradition around the holidays is always important, but for a man as strongly committed as 2007 Citizen of the Year for Brussels and area, Doug McArter, family and community are what matters most during the Christmas season.
When McArter thinks about Christmas, he thinks about his family and the time the holidays will afford him with them. Whether it’s the traditional reading of The Night Before Christmas, or the fancy dinner on once-a-year plates, the McArters are together over the holidays.
The McArters have a candlelight supper every Christmas with what McArter’s eldest child Olivia, calls “the special dishes.” This affords family time and is one of the most special times around Christmas.
The family untraditionally stays away from turkey on the holidays, having barbecued steak and salmon for Christmas dinner, complete with a festive centrepiece.
While McArter’s children haven’t come around to salmon just yet, he says the fish is a treat for Rhonda and him.
It is the tradition of reading The Night Before Christmas, however, that has a long-standing place in the McArter family now and before that, was a tradition with his wife, Rhonda’s family.
After McArter married Rhonda years ago, they travelled to her family’s home on Christmas to listen to her father read The Night Before Christmas. McArter joked about the tradition, but it was something enjoyed by both of them well into their 30s.
When Olivia was born, however, McArter began hosting his own readings of The Night Before Christmas for his wife and daughter and eventually for sons Nicholas and Sam.
The story became a family staple on Christmas Eve before everyone went to sleep and waited for presents to appear under the tree on Christmas morning.
Growing up, however, McArter says there wasn’t always a lot of activity around his house on Christmas Eve.
“With three boys in the house, growing up,” he said. “There wasn’t much going on Christmas Eve.”
On Christmas Day, however, he and his brothers would wake up, open their presents and make the trip to their grandmother’s house, which was only a block away.
“We’d have our toy that we got for Christmas and bring it over to grandma’s house,” he said.
Now, however, with technology taking the steps it has, Christmas Eve involves the tracking of Santa Claus’s journey on the internet, a favourite of Nicholas and Sam’s.
In fact, Nicholas has taken it upon himself to start a new tradition in the McArter family, waking everyone up as early as possible. McArter said last year it was around 6:30 a.m. and he hopes to aim for 8:30 a.m. this year. Nicholas, however, says he has other ideas.