Gladys Knight celebrating Christmas — on screen and off — in a big way

Knight will be celebrating the holiday on screen in the TV movie “I’m Glad It’s Christmas,” airing Saturday night.

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Gladys Knight stars in “I’m Glad It’s Christmas” on the Great American Family channel. 

Gladys Knight stars in “I’m Glad It’s Christmas” on the Great American Family channel.

AP

LOS ANGELES — Gladys Knight recalls Christmas as more than a family affair when she was growing up in Atlanta.

“Because Mom and Dad were the way they were, they would just embrace all the kids in the neighborhood,” said the legendary singer. Many of the children were in the same church choir and ”we were just so excited about the music.”

She counts “O Holy Night” as a favorite Christmas song. The best childhood gift she received? A bicycle, blue and silver, “and it was sharp.”

Knight will be celebrating the holiday on-screen in the TV movie “I’m Glad It’s Christmas,” airing at 7 p.m. Saturday on the Great American Family channel. Knight plays matchmaker Cora, who wants to bring together a salesclerk dreaming of Broadway fame (Jessica Lowndes) and a songwriter (Paul Greene) for a small town’s Christmas concert.

Knight said she and husband William McDowell expect their Asheville, North Carolina, home to be packed as usual this Christmas, given their large brood of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Everybody’s invited to come in a good mood and share the joy,” said Knight, a seven-time Grammy winner known for hits including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

Great American Family recently came under fire for comments made by Candace Cameron Bure regarding the programming to be featured on the network where she serves as chief creative officer.

Bure, 46, told USA Today in October during a discussion about inclusivity on the channel that Great American Family would “have people of all ethnicities,” but is “going to focus on traditional families. ... We certainly don’t want to be exactly like any other network, and I know that Great American Family will focus on tradition,” she said.

Following social media backlash, Bure said in a statement on Instagram Nov. 16, that “beyond question” she has a “great love and affection for all people” and “it absolutely breaks my heart that anyone would ever think I intentionally would want to offend and hurt anyone.”

Contributing: Erin Jensen, USA TODAY

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