Working on the Christmas presence


Christmas Day for some can involves family dinners and present-giving slotted around the work roster, writes BRIAN O'CONNELL

While most of us will be trying to dig out the last few edible sweets from a box of jellies, or patting our post-Christmas dinner paunches, spare a thought for those for whom Christmas Day is just another workday.

From gardaí to phone operators, medical workers to employees in the catering industry, Christmas Day for some often involves family dinners and present-giving slotted around the work roster.

So what’s it like to actually work on Christmas Day? Is the boss more likely to grant a raise? And what about having to share the day with an employee you never really liked? We spoke to some people scheduled to work on Christmas Day.

Paul Bugler

Farmer in Co Clare

You hope to be winding down by the time Christmas Eve comes along. This year will be a little bit different because of the weather last summer.

Traditionally we’d make silage and you would then fill up the shed twice a week. This year our stock for fodder is a lot lower so we are dispersing it out individually. There will be a bit more work on Christmas Day this year as a result.

At about 8am I’d make my way down to the shed. I’ll have the place filled from the night before and that would save me half an hour. I then take the bales of hay apart, and fork them out. It is like a big workout session in the gym and lasts for about three quarters of an hour. The bad summer means we are at least fitter by the end of the year.

I’d go back in then and have a bit of breakfast and spend time with family and a few friends call up. We always go for a walk around the back of the mountain. We have the dinner at about 3pm or that way. In the evening then I do some more work, which would take another 45 minutes to an hour. Outside of this you keep a close eye on things during the day.

We always try and avoid having cows calving at Christmas, but you do have to keep an eye on stock. I remember one Christmas we had to go out in the middle of dinner as a load of sheep were being chased by dogs.

Working after the dinner is great because I tend to find the dinner too big. It’s great to get a workout for an hour when we’re feeding the animals again in the evening. I actually love working on Christmas morning. I like walking into the shed, because the donkey and the cows were all part of the original Christmas, so it is nice to be with animals on that morning.

Conor Hennigan

General manager of the Malton Hotel, Killarney, Co Kerry

In this hotel, and when it was part of the Great Southern Hotels group, it was always a tradition that the hotel would open for Christmas Day and that the general manager would host festivities. My family move into the hotel here with me for Christmas Day. We’ve been doing it for 12 years.

Early on Christmas morning it is quiet around the hotel unless there are lots of kids staying. If so they’ll be cycling their new bikes around from early. At 9.30am or 10am people come down for breakfast and we have a tradition whereby Santa arrives about 12.30pm.

We don’t do lunch for guests. Instead we do dinner in the evening time. I’ll spend time with my family or I’ll mingle with guests and then we open the restaurant at 6pm for traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.

My family join in and so we get to sit down together, and after we’ll join in the dancing in the lobby.

I don’t mind working the day. As the kids have gotten older, I said to them last year they didn’t have to come if they didn’t want to. But they want to come to the hotel for Christmas and it has become a family tradition.

We organise the roster so that where possible single people work Christmas and married staff are off, while for the New Year we switch it around. It works pretty well. One of the key things we’ve always done is that on Christmas Day management on duty organise a party around lunchtime and we serve the 40 to 50 staff that will be working a Christmas lunch. It’s a bit of fun and we serve a glass of wine or a beer. It makes things easier for what can be a difficult day for some staff.

Andrea Hayes

Continuity announcer for TV3

Myself and the other announcer, Conor Cleere, work the day between us. He does daytime and I do the evening. All the programmes would be tight and in place beforehand so really we are there in case something goes wrong or if there is a last minute change to the schedule.

My voice goes out from 7pm, so I arrive at 6pm, and normally I’d be there until 2am or 3am, but I might finish earlier. This year is different as I now have a daughter who was born in July last year. I didn’t work last year as I was on maternity leave.

Some of the continuity we would pre-record the day before. On Christmas Day we tend to play a lot of movies, and they are generally long ones, so we’d be able to relax and watch the films while we are here. It is all liable to change though. For instance, when the actor Bill Tarmey passed away recently we had a lot of changes to the schedule at short notice after the story broke.

My colleague in the morning would get to say “Happy Christmas”, and in the evening I might say something like “I hope you are enjoying your Christmas Day so far?” and I might make a reference to the festivities. It is a day when people in work are a lot more relaxed than normal and we’d pass a few mince pies around and people bring in chocolates and sweets.

I have worked the past few Christmas Days, and I’m also here on Christmas Eve. Even though I may have seen the movies before, I will still watch them while I am in work. Miracle on 34th Street is one of my favourites, and no matter how many times I’ve seen it, if I can I will watch it in work again this year.

Darrin Bell

Service operational worker with Dublin Simon

This year I was entitled to have the day off as I have worked the last few. But some staff have kids and live outside Dublin, and, as I am from Canada, live near the shelter and don’t have kids, I take a day off in lieu down the line. I’ll be working from 8am till 7pm and the day will start with a fry-up for the residents at the shelter. It gives the residents a reason to get up. If they don’t have family, waking up on Christmas morning can be a depressing feeling.

We always have a dinner here at some time in the evening, and we try and get each resident a little gift. Some companies would donate things like hats and scarves. Before I leave at 7pm we organise a pre-made turkey dinner with potato and vegetables.

Of course, I would prefer not to work and spend it with family and not have to get up. Christmas Day is not so important for me to have a good time. I don’t mind spending that time with someone else to whom it is important. I can’t remember the last one I had off. Maybe if I was working in a company where the owners were making money from me, I would resent having to work. But because I work for Dublin Simon, it doesn’t seem like anything I should be resenting really.

Paul Colton

Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross

Naturally for me, Christmas Day involves church. I’ve worked Christmas Day now since the age of 24, when I was first ordained. It is not so much work though, as a way of life and intrinsic to what it is all about for me. It can be very demanding.

There is a lot going on in terms of people to visit, especially when they are ill. Usually we work hard in the run-up to Christmas and on Christmas Day I am finished by about mid-afternoon. I’m always at the cathedral at 11.15am and then after that I, along with Bishop Buckley and the lord mayor, go to the St Vincent de Paul organisation where we help serve Christmas lunch. I have dinner with my family when I get in and we never open our presents until evening time when everyone is relaxed.

When I was working in parishes you could get called out a lot on Christmas Day to hospitals or to emergencies. We’re usually busy right up until January 6th, and after that, when everyone else is thinking of going back to work, I begin to think of taking a few days rest. My family has always understood that their Dad does this, and they slot in around it. It suited really well when Santa was coming because of the fact the children got up so early. I could get up with them and before I had to go out, I could share in their joy.

It is a big day though as a bishop. More than any other time of the year people come to church at Christmas, and they do listen to the message. Since November, I’d be thinking about what I will talk about on the 25th or what angle I will take on the Christmas message. The message is the same every year – you just have to communicate it in a contemporary way. In the evening time, like many others, I usually relax with the Christmas RTÉ Guide, and I’ll go through what to watch. That’s really my down time, until the following day that is.

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