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Home  >  Features  >  Christmas Day Workers - Part Two


Christmas Day Workers - Part Two

Christmas Day Workers - Part Two

Wednesday December 19 2018

Christmas Day is a UK public holiday. But for some, it will be a normal working day. Jackie Macadam learns how some people will spend the day supporting and helping others.

(Continued from yesterday)

One job that is a 24/7, 52 weeks a year, is working with the police and other frontline emergency services.

Stewart Scott is a police officer and a Session Clerk.

During his 19 year career in the police service, he’s had lots of experience of working on Christmas Day. As a member of the Christian Police Association, Scotland, he detailed how Christmas can be spent on the frontline of policing.

“Christmas to me is a time to be surrounded by loved ones, however I take time to think and pray for those less fortunate than my family and me.

“I am an active member, Session Clerk and Safeguarding Co-ordinator at St Paul’s Parish Church, Provanmill, Glasgow.

“I will always make every effort to attend a church service on Christmas Day, shift pattern depending!

“This normally starts by attending the watchnight carol service, where I offer thanks and celebration. The watchnight service is then followed by a time of fellowship with members of the community, where we come together to eat and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

“The watchnight service is extra special to me as I get to see people who may only attend at church at this time of year to celebrate their Christmas and to pray for those loved ones and friends who might not be around to celebrate with them.

“Having been a police officer for 19 years, I’ve had to work most Christmas Days during that time keeping people safe.

“Working on Christmas Day is no different to any other day in policing, unfortunately crimes still occur, and serious incidents take place. Working over Christmas fills me with a sense of pride and gratitude that I am able to undertake this role.

“Sharing Christmas with colleagues is just as special, as I really do see them all as family.

“To try to make the day extra special, we make every effort to try and squeeze in a wee feast whilst continuing to do our jobs in keeping our communities safe.

“I am also conscious of those on my shift who may not celebrate Christmas, this to me is an aspect of my job that I thoroughly enjoy and an opportunity to involve everyone in the feast because it is a time to reflect on how we come together to support our communities, through good times and bad.

“For me the Christian element is still there, however I endeavour to ensure everyone is involved.

“On my completion of my shift I then have a chance to spend time with family and friends to celebrate the remainder of this special day.”

A range of staff at CrossReach’s Rainbow House, an addiction support service, in Glasgow, will also be working on Christmas Day. Pete Birnie is a Service Leader at Rainbow House. He chooses to work on Christmas Day.

“I have worked for Crossreach’s Rainbow House for 10 Years and worked Christmas Day every year. I feel at this time of year our service users are feeling lonely, maybe down, missing their families and loved ones. So if I can help raise their spirits on this day I will. I sometimes dress up as Father Christmas and give out gifts to all service users, we also include a full Christmas Day dinner, Christmas decorations, Christmas tree and Church service to try our best to bring the Christmas day spirit into our service.

“I feel although this is a very special day on the Christian calendar, God asks me to provide care and support for the less fortunate. After my own shift, I go to my own family and enjoy the festive time.

“Ultimately I finish with prayer and give thanks to God for this day and that I was of use to him and my fellows.”

Another of the Rainbow House Christmas Day workers is John. He volunteers there.

“I volunteer to come to Rainbow House on Christmas day, because it helps me as well as the residents. I like to keep busy at Christmas and I enjoy being a part of the atmosphere that we create for everyone. I understand what it’s like to be estranged from family – I am in recovery myself – so I know that this can be a difficult time of year for people, especially people with kids who maybe don’t get to see them.

“I enjoy making their day a wee bit easier and better. We have a Christmas dinner together and in the morning we give out gifts to everyone. It’s nice to see people’s faces when they get a gift because lots of them don’t get gifts at Christmas – some people don’t have anyone in their lives.

“I volunteer every Christmas because it helps me to remember where I was, and also what Christmas is all about. I get as much out of being here as the residents do.”

“I have been employed here for over two years, and this is the first time in my career that I have had to work Christmas” says Lou, another worker from Rainbow House. “When I first found out that I was working on Christmas Day, I didn’t feel too pleased at first. I have three grown up children, and although they now do their own thing for much of the day, I was worried that working would take away from our Christmas experience – especially since we wouldn’t make Church in the morning together.

“It turns out, working on Christmas Day has added to the joy of Christmas for me. Each year, many of the residents like to attend church at Christmas, and this is a beautiful thing to share with them. But it’s not only the spiritual side that is enjoyable, there is also a lot of humour shared between the staff and residents. It really is a time for counting our blessings and being thankful for what we have. Many of the residents who come into Rainbow come in with nothing and are estranged from family and friends.

“Working at Rainbow hasn’t taken anything away from my Christmas for the past two years – I have still managed to go to church and made it home in time to have dinner with my family.”

It’s not just in the UK that Christians work on Christmas Day.

“I’m a medical doctor who works at Lindimara hospital in Waingapu, Sumba Island, eastern of Indonesia. There are not many doctors in our island and there are only four full time doctors at hospital now,” says Dr Rani Hadassah Manu Mesa, Medical Director of a project run by a Church of Scotland partner church. “There were times I was the only full time doctor at the hospital. So, on holidays, including Christmas, we are often on duty at the hospital.”

“I was raised in a traditional Christian family with a pastor as my dad and Sumba itself has more Christians than other religions. Christmas then is a very important holiday, not just because the Saviour was born on that day, but also because families and friends and basically the whole town celebrate it together at church and at homes. Christmas is a time of togetherness, joy, warmth, and peace.

“As medical providers, we are formed and trained to put the needs of others first, above our own needs. So, for me as MD and for the nurses, midwives and other staff on duty on Christmas, though it is somehow sad to be away from our families, we found that all who work at hospital during that time, the patients who can’t go home and their families at hospital, are all our family now, with whom we can celebrate Christ with the warmth and togetherness and joy as one.

“Do I miss having the day off with other Christians? Yes, if the day off means worshipping together at church or visiting former staffs or former patients in their homes. I don’t miss the commercialised Christmas celebration.

“Those who are also on duty on Christmas Day, patients and patients’ families who stay at hospital, they ARE our family now. So, we celebrate Christmas with them on that specific day. We try though to make sure staff who are on duty during Christmas can spend New Year with their families at home. It’s not exactly the same, but the togetherness and joy would still be there.

“Most patients would ask to go home to be with their loved ones for Christmas. So, for those who can’t, we always try to make it a warm, memorable and meaningful time. A few of us would bring cookies and cakes from home, others would bring juice or syrupy drinks and then together we would go from one room to the next, singing one or two Christmas hymns for them, read the story from the Bible regarding Christ and His birth and how He saves us and enjoy with patients some cookies and drinks. Sometimes we make small Christmas cards with Bible verses to give them. “For patients, it’s always an emotional moment. The love of Christ is somehow translated or delivered to them through that simple act of caring, including for those who don’t share the same faith.

“Though I have been doing this for years, it touches me differently each time.

“Christmas songs played through the speakers as we help mothers deliver their newborns, those we fight hard to resuscitate, those we care for so they can go home to celebrate New Year with their loved ones, God willing, it is all part of the magic.

“I personally consider it a privilege and honour to work at the hospital during Christmas. Compelled by the love of Christ, that’s why we are here and why we do what we do: for those who are sick, poor, lonely, neglected and forgotten."

This story first appeared in December's Life and Work. Subscribe in print or digital here.