So This Is What It’d Actually Be Like To Work On Christmas Day

Turns out it's not quite as shit as it might sound


by Miranda Bryant |
Published on

For most of us, Christmas Day equals full-on decadence. By the time the presents are unwrapped, all the roast potatoes demolished, dinner table debates settled and you and the family are merrily slipping into a turkey-infused coma in front of the Strictly Christmas special, it's difficult to summon the energy to take the dog for a walk, let alone contemplate doing anything that exerts proper energy or, God forbid, brain power - like, erm, work.

As a teenager, I once worked on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day - first putting out the Next sale, then, depressingly, being swamped by the mad people trying to buy it - which ruined the magic a little (a lot) for me. Since then I've managed to avoid working much over Christmas at all costs. But what if you've got no choice? And why do some people choose to? While everyone else is celebrating, a secret army of workers populate the country's restaurants, offices and airwaves. Meet the people who have clocked up a full day's work - or more time than most of us anyway - on 25th December while you shove as much booze and food into your gaping maw while watching yet another Christmas special (no judgment, we'll be right there with you).

The Journalist: Mei-Ling McNamara


Christmas is all about family time, right? Love em or hate em, it is. So when journalist and documentary maker Mei-Ling McNamara** **was faced with spending Christmas stuck in London thousands of miles away from her family in sunny California, rather than spending Christmas alone she thought she would use the opportunity to get some extra work experience (and do some serious sucking up) by taking on a Christmas Day shift at the Independent. Who knew, maybe she'd land that elusive first job in the process?

All local transport in the city came to a standstill so had to call a taxi and London was eerily deserted.

'All local transport in the city came to a standstill so had to call a taxi and London was eerily deserted. It’s quiet down at South Quay during the busiest of times, but this was zombie apocalypse-deserted. No people, no cars, just a few lifeless clubbers.' Mei says. Most of her day was spent covering for the foreign desk manager - taking calls from correspondents, keeping an eye on news from around the world and helping out the foreign editor. 'It was weird no one mentioned Christmas', she continue - it was like an unwritten rule not to talk about it and just heads down and get on with it.' And so that's just what she did.

She did at least allow herself to indulge in some festive cheer once the shift was over by going for a drink with somebody she met on a coffee break. 'I can't even remember her name now but the pub was deserted, just a few other journos sat in corners'. Sounds like pretty bold moves to me celebrating Christmas Day with a stranger? 'I'd never normally do it but it ended up being quite festive in a commiserative sort of way'.

So, the million dollar question: would she do it again? 'Depends what you're offering', she says cryptically. Ultimately it all comes down to family, as lame as that sounds, if they're not with you - frankly you may as well work.

The Waitress: Clementine Ollerenshaw


Look we all know pre-Christmas expectation vs on-the-day reality can be a bit of an anticlimax, but offering to work to get out of it, some would say is a bit extreme. Not 27-year-old Clementine, who has risen to the challenge not once but TWICE by working in her local pub on Christmas Day. Rather than finding it depressing dishing out other people's turkey and port, she says she enjoyed it.

Mum always understood why I did it because she knew how skint I was. Plus they would wait to have Christmas lunch after my shift was finished

The London-based hair and makeup trainee says rather than being the Christmas nightmare it sounds, she says she won all round. Extra money: check, fancy dress: check (tartan Christmas kilt in place of the usual black uniform), free champagne for staff all day: check, and even a present from the boss. 'I've always actually wanted to work,' she says. 'The money's good, the environment's always great and I think it relieves a bit of the pressure and expectation with my family. Plus everyone you serve is super jolly and being from a small village I know most the people i'm serving and they always buy me a drink '.

While some parents might get annoying if their kids were to disappear on Christmas Day, thankfully for Clementine, her family was understanding. 'Mum always understood why I did it because she knew how skint I was. Plus they would wait to have Christmas lunch after my shift was finished, so we could be all together for turkey time and that was all that really mattered.'

Despite being tempted this year she plans to only work on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day - a day in pyjamas was just too temping after working solidly all year, but Clementine would definitely consider working Christmas again should the right opportunity (read: right amount of dosh) arise.

Radio DJ: Greg James


Ok, so most people avoid Christmas shifts like the plague, but not festive workaholic Greg James. Yep, that fella off Radio 1, who loves working on Christmas Day so much that he actually requested to do it this year (yes really). He first started doing the Christmas breakfast show when he was a newbie at the station to impress his boss with his dedication and after doing it several years in a row it became part of his annual tradition.

He even reckons he missed doing it last year when he went on holiday instead. The 29-year-old Londoner says working at Christmas meant he could share in the excitement of other people's celebrations - as well as being a 'friendly voice' to other people who are also working - before going home late morning to his parents' house to be with them.

He says at first when he walked into the empty Radio 1 building he was perturbed by how empty it was but then once he got in the swing of things it turned out to be one of his 'favourite shows ever' as he had the freedom to try things that he wouldn't normally be allowed to do! He phoned other DJs live on air to check if they were listening and even called the boss and in terms of music, back to back christmas songs is the only option.

There's something so special about talking to young children while they are opening presents

'Christmas itself in many ways is the most fun day to be on,' he says. 'No one expects you to be on the radio talking to them live, and there's something so special about talking to young children while they are opening presents, or you can use the show to cheer up other people working. It kind of unifies people. Plus you can play only Christmas songs'

Then he would hop in the car and 'bomb home' (speed limit permitting, obvs) to his parents' house and spend the rest of the day with them. 'It always puts me in a really good mood to be working on Christmas Day,' he says, 'because you finish the show and for years I'd just finish the show and jump in a car and go home to my family and say "did you hear my shout out to you all?"'

Despite offering to work on Christmas Day in August (God, he really IS keen), he says his request was declined as so many other DJs had asked to work xmas day too (what do they put in the BBC water?), but vows to put his request in earlier for next year.

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Follow Miranda On Twitter: @Mirandeee

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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