Skip to content

Tip your hat to people working Christmas Day

Movie theatre, pet care, restaurant and gas station employees take up shifts

Any number of things can go wrong on Christmas Day.

Perhaps you need a litre of milk, or the gas tank is near empty and Uncle Frank is waiting for a pickup to dinner.

It could be the turkey is still too frozen to cook or it’s accidentally burned to a crisp. Or maybe you just want to get out of the house because your family is driving you nuts.

We’d like to believe everyone is home polishing off a holiday feast and watching TV movies. But emergencies do happen and a front-line workforce is in place to keep society’s wheels greased.

Healthcare employees, paramedics, firefighters and police officers are ready to assist at a moment’s notice. In addition, the clergy, restaurant cooks, hotel desk clerks, taxi cab drivers, pilots and news anchors are just a few groups of individuals who deserve a special salute for their quiet dedication.

People have different motivations for working this statutory holiday. They range from earning a few extra dollars to escaping loneliness to negotiating a trade with someone who needs the day off.

The Gazette would like to pay a special tribute to four people working Christmas Day and we hope you will too.

Damien Lee

Landmark Cinemas St. Albert

Damien is a Grade 10 student at Bellerose Composite High School who was hired in July. As part of what Landmark management calls the “cast,” he is moved into whatever floor positions need a fill, such as usher, ticket taker, cleaner or concession.

He explains his family is atheist and has done away with gift-giving and decorating a tree.

“We don’t do anything that is related to Christmas. So there was nothing stopping me. I can work on Christmas and that way my friends can enjoy the traditions and activities they have planned,” said Damien.

But there’s a tradeoff. The entire Lee family is wild about Halloween and that’s one day of the year Damien plans to take off.

“Our house really sticks out at Halloween. We go all out. One year, we went so crazy even the mayor sent us a letter with free passes to Servus Place.”

With a shift that could range anywhere from three to eight hours, Damien is enthusiastic about working Christmas Day.

“I’m slightly excited about making time and one-half pay. It’s nice. But I’m more happy to work there as long as I’m not sick.”

Morgan Simpson

Dog-cat caregiver
Barkers Pet Motel

Morgan, a MacEwan University arts major, likes to spread the holiday cheer tending cats and dogs.

Passionate about animals, she aims to become a veterinarian, and Barkers Pet Motel, a service that offers daily or long-term cat and dog boarding, is a first-hand training ground.

She volunteered to work Christmas Day, saying, “I want to make sure the dogs get love on Christmas. No one should be alone on Christmas.”

Part of a caregiver’s routine is feeding pets, cleaning cages and shepherding them outdoors for daily exercise playing fetch, tag or chase. But Christmas Day is special.

“I will bring treats – liver treats and pepperoni sticks for them. Sometimes pet owners leave treats, bully sticks and chew toys for them as well,” says Morgan who is on the supper shift from 3 to 6:30 p.m.

It is Morgan’s family tradition to celebrate festivities on Dec. 24.

“We go all out with glitter, two trees and tons of decorations: garlands, little fake Christmas trees and snowmen – tons of them.”

Family and extended family converge on Christmas Eve for a meal and gift openings. And anyone who spends the night joins in the Christmas Day morning brunch.

“Grandpa always makes pancakes. They’re not special. It’s just Grandpa makes them, and they somehow turn out better than anyone else’s.”

The two family pets are Sophie, a 21-month old Shepherd/huskie cross and Cece, a nine-month malamute/shepherd cross.

This year promises to be a full house as Morgan, a dog fosterer for Zoe’s Animal Rescue, is also caring for HeyZeus, a 10-week old pitbull/mastiff puppy.

As for giving someone a pet for Christmas, Morgan has a few words of cautious advice.

“If it’s a family decision, it’s OK. But if you want to give it as a gift, wait and let the recipient help make the decision.”

Umesh Bali

Tandoori Fuzion

This year, the Christmas holiday season is full of poignancy for Umesh. An immigrant from New Delhi, India, his wife Namrta and 10-year-old daughter Akshiita are still back home.

But thanks to advances in communication technology, he Skypes with them every day – “sometimes two times a day so I can see my daughter,” Umesh said.

Lately, the Skyping has revolved around tree decorating and gift-giving back home.

“My daughter wants a doll and I would like to bring her a nice dress.”

Umesh explains there is nothing strange about non-Christian Indians celebrating Christmas. Indians have always observed a dizzying number of festivals regardless of religious affiliation.

Although only two per cent of India’s population is Christian, Christmas is celebrated in a big way where taller trees, more lights, brighter decorations and countless Santas dim North America’s efforts.

“In India, everything is done on a huge scale. All the hotels do wonders on Christmas and New Year's. It’s the only time all hotels light up and we serve different menus,” said Umesh.

A 15-year veteran of New Delhi’s hospitality industry, he was employed at the high-end Hilton, Sheraton and Carleton. Christmas Eve at one hotel celebrated by entertaining and feeding 1,500 children living in poverty.

“In India, people celebrate with joy. They want the mechanics of life to disappear. They just want to enjoy themselves.”

Nearly two years ago, Umesh immigrated to Brampton, Ontario, immediately securing a position at Brars, a popular Punjabi-styled restaurant.

Back in India, Umesh was employed with Saveen Saggi, owner of St. Albert's Tandoori Fuzion. When the gregarious restaurateur offered Umesh a position, he immediately accepted and arrived here one month ago.

On Christmas Day, Umesh will greet and serve guests.

“Restaurants are places people who are alone and lonely can enjoy themselves. So many people want to enjoy peace and beauty surrounded by people. We can be part of that happiness for people.”

And at the end of the day, all the staff will probably kick back, share a drink and shoot the breeze.

Emma Balacang

Petro-Canada Gas Station

Originally from the Philippines, Emma has booked a Christmas Day shift at Petro-Canada since 2012. This year, she’s on the early shift from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“I work Christmas every year because I enjoy the extra kindness and heartwarming greetings I get from customers. I also know a lot of stores are closed and I’m happy to help. My mission is to provide great service so they can feel appreciated,” said Emma.

The soft-spoken cashier notes most people dash in for small items they’ve overlooked: eggs, milk, pop and treats for children.

In return, certain regular customers stop by with small tokens of appreciation – gift cards, bread, biscuits and cookies.

“I really don’t need a gift. Just a smile. It’s a good gift to receive.”

Emma’s own festivities start on Christmas Eve. In the Filipino tradition of Noche Buena, the Roman Catholic mother of four attends midnight mass with family. After mass, the immediate and extended family converges at her home for a holiday banquet and the annual present opening.

A must-have at a Filipino party is Queso de Bola, a yellow Edam cheese in a round shape usually flattened at the top and bottom and coated with red wax. Emma also plans on serving a festive ham, sticky rice and Leche Flan, a dessert made from eggs, milk and sugar with soft caramel top that resembles crème caramel.

Not only does Emma decorate a tree, but the family also clears a corner for a miniature nativity scene honouring the birth of Jesus.

And on Christmas morning while Emma is at work, her children will visit the elder relatives and godparents for a blessing. After her shift, the entire family goes for a second mass before another group gathering at her sister-in-law’s house for a second feast.

Whatever your choices and traditions, may Dec. 25 be a happy one.

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks