Working on the Holidays

Going back to ancient times, holidays are times when people rest from their labor. Here, in our time and place, that is the case for some, but not all. There are some basic, modern services that simply cannot ever shut down: the military, law enforcement, emergency services and healthcare. There are also market forces that drive retailers, logistics, supply chains, and restaurants to remain in operation regardless of what day it is. 

I’ve missed thanksgiving and Christmas from when I started working out here nearly 3 years ago and I’m gonna miss them both again this time. No biggy…. we get paid double pay on holidays. – Dylan

I have worked a few holidays myself, mainly because I needed the money and my employer at the time, a fast food chain, offered time-and-a-half pay for those who volunteered to work on Christmas. Would you believe that Christmas Day was one of the busiest days at that restaurant? It was ironic how many customers remarked how sorry they were they we were working on a holiday.

As a night worker, I encountered for the first time that I would work a considerable amount of time on Thanksgiving day in the early morning—even taking off a few hours early once our main work was accomplished, I realized I would have to be up “all night” simply to share the Thanksgiving Turkey. Although I had worked holidays before, I found that it was much more difficult to enjoy the time off when my body’s fondest desire was simply to sleep. – Isaac

For many, their work schedules do not reflect the traditional nine-to-five pattern. Holidays can be technically challenging for night-shift workers as they have to adapt their sleeping schedules in order to gather with loved ones for special occasions. 

I worked retail my senior year of college, and was too far from family to drive in for the one day I had off. It was hard, but I look back on it as a step into adulthood for me. – Rebekah

Many times life takes us far away from loved ones and our employment and financial situations prevent us from gathering with family. I work full time in customer service, as well as part time at a local church. Since I have to be at church on Sundays, this can make traveling on the weekends a challenge. 

I used to work at a veterinarian’s office which was also a boarding facility. The first year that I was there I had to be there at 6 AM on Christmas morning. We did not finish that day, with barely a lunch break, until after 8 PM. I went home and got my kids and got to their Nana’s house to do their Christmas around 10 PM. We did our Christmas there and then got home around 1 AM and they finally got to do their Christmas at home. – Vanessa

As lofty as the idea of communal holidays might be, it is simply unrealistic to apply them universally. Modern society is a relentless machine that must continue rolling regardless of what day it is. Whether this is greed, consumerism, or just a basic fact of human existence is up for debate. 

911 Dispatch. We get to see the ugly side of the holidays. We spend our holidays taking the 911 calls when those awful drunken family dinners (that everyone likes to joke about) turn into actual violence. We take the calls from hysterical family members or friends who’re checking on someone going through a hard time during the holidays, only to discover they’ve taken their own life. – Alicia

Like most areas of life, we do not all experience holidays in the same way. This is not an invitation to feel bad or guilty about enjoying time with family. This is a reminder to be grateful as well as considerate. 

Retired now, but when I was working as a firefighter/paramedic working twenty-four hour shifts during holidays was just something that came with the job… I have missed quite a few holidays but if there was a chance to spread holiday cheer while at work to someone that was not as fortunate as me, that made me feel like I made a difference in their life. -Tim

Many, if not most of us, have had to pass on a holiday with family at some point or another. This is the price we pay for the world we live in. While some of us pay more than others, we all have to do the best we can to enjoy what we have as something special that is not to be had by all people all the time. 

I missed the last Thanksgiving Grandmother … spent on this earth due to being deployed to the Kuwait-Iraq border when Saddam threw out the Arms Inspectors. Immediately upon my redeployment, we went to see her…when I relieved Mother from the vigil at the hospital early that morning (it was my shift and I think Stephen Frazier was next up to sit with her), I walked into the room and to the side of her bed, took hold of her hand and felt her take her last breath as she gently squeezed my hand. I’ve missed more holidays than I can remember during my 34 years in the Military. – Mark

What about you? Share your working holiday stories in the comments below!

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