Santa’s little helpers

Posted December 17, 2013, by Julia Watters

It’s Christmas morning and you wake up incredibly early. You sneak downstairs and grab your stocking and then … you put it on, along with the rest of your uniform. And then you go to work.

Old Saint Nick himself only has to work on Christmas Eve, but there are plenty of poor souls who have to punch in the time card on Christmas Day. They’re the people who make sure the wheels are still turning while the rest of us are stuffing our face with, well, stuffing.

Working on Christmas means more to some than just earning penalty rates. We spoke to a few people to find out why they don’t mind spending their Christmas at work.

Holiday health

One profession that doesn’t always get a holiday is healthcare – and nurses are on the frontline. Jess Lovel is a nurse at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital and spent Christmas Day last year caring for the patients on her ward. Jess’ family is based in Victoria, so Jess wasn’t able to spend Christmas morning with them before heading off to work.

Here’s what Jess had to say about doing the Christmas shift:

‘I thought initially that working Christmas Day would be particularly hard. Being a long way from loved ones in a large city, it felt very lonely waking on Christmas morning. However, many of my friends who are also nurses were experiencing the same feelings, and to have that support made it easier to cope I think. I find that nurses, without knowing it, tend to make the best of difficult situations. So together we all made Christmas enjoyable and fun within the hospital walls.

Decorating the ward and making Christmas treats to share among the staff and patients while Christmas carols played softly in the background made for a cosy atmosphere. I also continued to remind myself that I was surrounded by very unwell patients, some of whom were dying, and it was particularly important to not dwell on the fact that I was away from my family but to attempt to brighten up and bring cheer to our patients and their families. To know that I have made someone smile or laugh, especially on Christmas, is the best gift I could have received.’

Christmas cheer

Erica Myers-Davis works as the General Manager, Fundraising and Community Relations, for Prahan Mission in Melbourne. If you think organising Christmas lunch for your family can be hectic, Erica spends Christmas Day each year coordinating 50 volunteers and hosting lunch for 400 people. This year is the fourth year Erica will selflessly spend her Christmas with those in need, and she’s excited that the Governor of Victoria and his wife will be joining them this year.

‘The perks are the sense of satisfaction one gets from providing people with joy and love and giving gifts to the children, who often don’t get anything else. The downside is that I start at 7am and finish at 6pm, and am usually too tired to celebrate later on with my in-laws.’

The power of Christmas

Rachel Power and her husband run Waterfalls Café and Gallery in the heart of Tassie’s Mt Field National Park. Last year they chose to open for a couple of hours on Christmas Day for the benefit of those travelling in the area. Their café is an hour out of Hobart and 30 minutes from the nearest supermarket, so it’s a huge benefit for those who are staying in the area. They only ran a limited service as they refused to ask their staff to work Christmas, yet Rachel and her husband were still flat out all day. Despite this, they thoroughly enjoyed the festive atmosphere of their café and were pleased to see holidaymakers enjoying the best possible visitor experience and making the most of their Christmas Day.

‘This is one of the reasons we opened, teamed with the need to pay off our mortgage and the fact that we were cooking our Christmas dinner in the cafe kitchen while we worked. With three young children (10, eight and four), we did weigh up the time away from them while we worked on this special family day. We found that they enjoyed playing with their new toys, and were actually a big help on the day too!’

Julia Watters

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