Christmas 2010: No house can hold the Knight family Christmas
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
The Knight family has some unique Christmas celebration traditions, one of which stretches back to when the family won an award for their entry in the Brussels Santa Claus parade. Brad Knight shared the story with The Citizen’s Shawn Loughlin in 2010.
Some families just aren’t built for small Christmas gatherings and many houses aren’t built for large Christmas gatherings, so when the numbers don’t work, there’s only one option: take Christmas on the road.
For Grey native Brad Knight, large Christmases have been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He says that he remembers a few early Christmas celebrations spent at his grandmother’s home, but it wasn’t long until the annual gathering was too big for any home.
Knight’s father, Jack, comes from a large family where he was one of 12 children born in Grey Township.
So when Jack and his brothers and sisters began families of their own, getting married and having children, it was obvious that Christmas couldn’t be confined to a house if they wanted everyone to be involved year after year.
The event’s planning duties were passed from sibling to sibling for years, with approximately 55 to 60 people making their way to the area each Christmas.
The event was more often than not held in Brussels, as much of the family still lived in and around the Brussels area.
There were, however, some gatherings that were held in the Listowel area at a local restaurant, or at the Cranbrook Hall.
Five years ago, however, organization of the Knight family Christmas was passed down to the younger generation, Brad’s generation.
This is when the annual Knight family Christmas took its current shape, being held at the Brussels Legion every year the night of the Brussels Santa Claus parade.
The first members of the younger generation to take control of the planning were Brad and his cousin Brenda Wheeler.
Every year, the organizers were charged with the task of lining up entertainment for the evening, which had consisted of quizzes and other guessing games in previous years.
Brad, however, along with several of his cousins, decided that perhaps preparing and entering a float in the Brussels Santa Claus parade might be a way to entertain everyone who made the trip to Brussels every year.
He was right as the Knight family float has become a hit. The construction of the float has become a true family event and the family riding in the float has become one of the highlights year after year for both local and non-local family members.
Knight says that entering a float in the parade is a treat for the members of the family who live in the area, but for members who live in urban centres such as Windsor, Toronto and Barrie, it is an opportunity to appear in a parade that they may not have in a larger city centre.
For the last five years the family has entered a float in the parade, each one having a theme for the construction of the float as well as for the dressing of the family members.
The first float in the parade was entitled ’Twas The Knights Before Christmas and it featured a fireplace with Christmas socks hanging above the fireplace. There were plenty of lights adorning the float and anyone aboard was asked to dress in slippers, pajamas and housecoats.
Brad says he had no idea what to expect for the first year, but the turnout was “fantastic” he said, with members from all three generations represented on the Knights’ first float.
In addition, the Knights won the award for best family float that year and it became a Christmas staple from then on.
“For a number of younger children who come from bigger centres, they have never had the opportunity to be on a float,” Brad says. “They really enjoy the experience.”
In subsequent years, the Knight family float has appeared in the parade with themes such as Silent Knights, Hockey Knights in Canada and Happy Holly Knights.
After the parade, the family always returns to the Brussels Legion where the large group is welcomed with a meal catered by the Legion Ladies Auxiliary, a gift exchange and a visit from Santa Claus.
Knight says that immediately after one Christmas, the Legion is booked for the next year. After this year’s celebration on Nov. 27, the Legion was booked for 2011 on the Saturday of the Santa Claus parade once again.
Plans are also underway for the Knights’ 2011 parade float.
Brad says a large Christmas with his family is the only way he would want to celebrate the holidays.
“With a group this size, Christmas is really the only opportunity we all have to get together,” he said. “With the younger children especially, they change so much, you feel like if you miss a year, you can really lose touch with them.”
Brad says that many of his aunts and uncles are in their 70s and 80s now and with the younger generation planning, he could see it continuing on for a long time to come.
“If you’re involved in planning the Christmas celebration, it really gives you an appreciation of what the whole thing means,” he said. “Having the whole family involved, planning everything, has really been great through the years.”