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Eating out makes Christmas merry

FILE - In this Dec. 20 2010 file phoMcDonald's signs sprout from restaurant's parking lot New York. Strong sales McDonald's

FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2010 file photo, McDonald's signs sprout from the restaurant's parking lot in New York. Strong sales of McDonald's McCafe drinks and breakfast items in April 2011, drove a key revenue measurement up 6 percent worldwide. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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Updated: January 22, 2013 6:25AM

As a newspaper reporter, it is one’s lot in life to work on holidays.

I spent New Year’s Eve 1999 in a communications center in a bomb shelter in Joliet waiting for a Y2K crisis that never came.

And there were many Thanksgivings and Christmases where dinner was potluck in a newsroom.

That’s why I noted with some sympathy the fact that many thousands of McDonald’s workers will face the same fate this year.

According to Advertising Age, McDonald’s asked its franchisees to keep their restaurants open Thanksgiving and also wants them to do so Christmas Day.

So far the move has been a success, enabling McDonald’s to surprise financial analysts by posting a jump in sales for November rather than an expected decline.

However I don’t imagine McDonald’s employees in the affected stores are happy to see their only two guaranteed days off vanish.

Welcome to the 365-day-a-year world, folks.

If it’s any consolation, know that you are providing a valuable public service.

I would even venture to say that it’s probably more important to eat than to know what’s going on.

For many years, my own family has relied on restaurants during the holidays.

My mom was a great cook, but she sometimes liked to take a break on Thanksgiving and we would head out to That Steak Joynt, a long-gone restaurant on Wells Street in Old Town.

And there was one Thanksgiving when the turkey we were planning to cook at home didn’t work out and we somehow found a place that would deliver a pizza.

Those are the Thanksgivings I remember.

Now, thanks to the time I’ve put in on the job, I’m much more likely to be working on Presidents Day or Labor Day and am again able to spend more time with my family on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But now my father needs a scooter to get around, and so we’ve returned to the tradition of going to restaurants because none of us can accommodate Dad’s scooter in our homes.

So because of restaurants such as Andies in Andersonville and Bistro Margot in Old Town, we are able to join him on Christmas and New Year’s.

I am very grateful to the people who give up their holidays so that my family can get together.

And it’s not just families I see at these restaurants. There are single people who may not have anybody to share the holiday with. I’ve seen restaurant employees become their family for a day.

Now you may say that it’s great that some nice restaurants are open, but who’s going to want to go to McDonald’s on Christmas?

A lot of people.

McDonald’s says that at company-owned stores that opened on Christmas last year, sales averaged $6,000. That’s a lot of value meals.

And if it gives anybody who doesn’t have any place to go an option to eat and mingle with fellow human beings, it’s a good for more than just McDonald’s bottom line.

Art Golab is a Sun-Times reporter. Columnist Steve Huntley is on vacation.

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