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The Real Heroes of the Holidays

The holiday season is a time of joy and giving. One reason we look forward to the holidays is the long-awaited break from school and work. On Christmas, we have a chance to spend time with our family and friends and enjoy the warmth of each other’s company. But what about the people who don’t get a break?

By Allie Perez


The holiday season is a time of joy and giving. One reason we look forward to the holidays is the long-awaited break from school and work. On Christmas, we have a chance to spend time with our family and friends and enjoy the warmth of each other’s company. But what about the people who don’t get a break? There are many occupations where you have to work on the holidays, whether it’s as a local police officer or a cashier at the grocery store. These people sacrifice their time with family and friends throughout the year, and especially on Christmas, in order to help everyone else. And yet, even as they give us the gift of their time so we can spend our holiday celebrating or relaxing, we barely even give them recognition.

This year at the hospital, there are many people working on Christmas. I’ve been able to meet with a few of the nurses and many of them have said they don’t mind working during the holiday.

One man says the meaning of Christmas is to help people, which allows him to enjoy working even at this time of year; it makes him feel good about what he is doing. The nurse also shared that one of the wonderful things about the holiday season is that everyone helps each other out. When a Jewish practicer wishes to have Hanukkah off, they’d switch shifts with a Christian practicer who wishes for Christmas off.

Chara, an RN, doesn’t mind working on Christmas because she doesn’t have children. She likes to work for the people who do have kids because she thinks it’s more meaningful for the kids to have their parents home for Christmas.

“I also don’t mind working on Christmas because some of these patients don’t have any family. We’re the only family they have,” she says. “I’m not missing out on any traditions, because it is a tradition to work here!”

“The patients need us, but not having to celebrate the holiday gets old pretty quick if you can’t celebrate each year and have to miss traditions,” chimes in another nurse who’s working Christmas yet again this year. “But overtime is necessary–for gifts especially, and more importantly, for the people who need our help and care.”

“There’s definitely sacrifice,” Desiree, also an RN, tells me. “I’m missing my daughter opening presents. But somebody needs to do it. It’s something everyone needs to trade off on because life still goes on even on holidays— especially in the medical field.” The work is normally slower during the holiday season because surgeries are planned before, so not many people remain in the hospital for the holidays. But there are still some people who have to stay while the final frantic Christmas shopping is done and kids put out cookies and milk for Santa. The nurses don’t mind being the ones to care for them, because that’s what the holidays are all about: giving.

The local firefighters in town who have to work on Christmas are working from 8 A.M. on the 25th to 8 A.M. on the 26th.  Many of them would rather not work on the holiday, like everyone else, but they share the sentiment that somebody has to do it. The same men who worked Thanksgiving often have to miss Christmas as well, but understand it has to be done. Martin, one of the many firefighters working on Christmas, says he’s worked between 12 and 14 Christmases in the past 25 years! But he doesn’t mind it; he says he’ll just celebrate the day before, as do most of the employees who have work on the holidays.

“There’s usually a Christmas dinner at the station, too,” another firefighter, Mark, mentions. “Everyone from the shift comes together to eat and celebrate.” He, too, has had his fair share of many Christmas mornings and dinners missed, but it all comes with the job.

“There’s a price to pay, but it’s for the greater good,” another fireman adds. “The holidays can sometimes be busier than normal, but we can never tell. One day we might get two calls, and the next fourteen, so it differs. We just have to be ready on Christmas, in case it is extra busy.”

These men are sacrificing their time with loved ones to make sure everyone else is safe. This may be because they have no choice, but it’s also because they know they are making the world a better place.

The nurses and firefighters aren’t the only ones working holidays. People in stores have to work as well, and barely even receive a simple “thank you.”

“The difference I’ve noticed,” a nurse, who was once in the retail industry reminds us, “is that working in a hospital is necessary, while in a grocery store it is not. Maybe for the extra money, but barely anyone comes to the store on Christmas, so there’s really no point.”

Make sure this holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas or not,  you thank someone for their sacrifice. It could be a family member or friend you know who has to work on a holiday, or the cashier who helps you at Safeway. Whoever it is, let them know you appreciate all they do for the community, and I guarantee it’ll make them feel good about what they’re doing. You’ll feel good for giving back, too, just like all of the holiday heroes who work tirelessly to make everyone’s holidays happy!

4 comments

  1. I never realized that people worked on the holidays… I hope they had a great Kwahanumas or whatever they celebrate.

    1. Yes, many people don’t realize– I didn’t until I experienced it with my mom (she’s a nurse)– and since then I’ve been trying to spread the word to recognize the hard workers!

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