Christmas On Duty

By Chelle Cordero

October 23, 2013 5 min read

Post offices and banks are closed on Christmas Day, as are many other private businesses, which close early on Christmas Eve, also. It's a celebrated day off for many hardworking Americans and time to spend with family and friends.

Then there are those who work 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Emergencies and unexpected illnesses don't abide by the calendar. First responders, our police officers, emergency medical personnel (both pre-hospital and in hospital) and firefighters are on call despite the list of federal holidays. Our military service personnel, here and abroad, also stand at-ready every day, on call to defend our nation.

Still, enjoying the festivities seems an ideal and there really is no reason for our on call duty personnel to miss out. Here are a few ways around it:

If visitors are permitted, party at the work site, but be sure to verify with administrators in advance. One ambulance corps hosted an "impromptu" party organized by family members of the duty crews; trays of hot food were brought in by the families and they all got to spend the evening together. Not all locations allow visitors, or are physically close enough to families, but having holiday meals delivered to the crew at the station is always special.

Some diners and local eateries stay open over Christmas to offer holiday dinner or brunch to local first responders on call at discounted rates or sometimes even free. The wait staff and cooks usually volunteer for the shift, knowing that their efforts are appreciated.

One firehouse known for its great cooking took a poll just before last Christmas to find out how many firefighters and Emergency Medical Service personnel would be working the holiday at local stations. Enough holiday meals were prepared for everyone, as well as the firehouse itself and deliveries, which were arranged to drop off the meals. Holiday fruit baskets and baked goods are also welcomed. Unfortunately, nowadays not every place is receptive to homemade goods if the gift-giver is not known, so a store-purchased tray of cookies is a good alternate. Break rooms at local hospitals are great areas to leave your gift.

If you are having a holiday home party, think about extending the invitation as an "open door" to duty crews in your neighborhood. Let them know they are welcome to stop in for food and nonalcoholic refreshments. Don't try to pin these emergency responders down to time or commitment; they never know when they will be called out on the road. Having to-go containers ready may come in handy when call tones suddenly go off. There are also service-specific holiday greeting cards (usually found at online retailers) that can be handed out to an officer walking the beat, etc., on Christmas to let him know he is appreciated. If you can't find these cards, a computer printer or a child's crayoned drawing is a good way to go.

Many military families have found that if their beloved won't be at home for the holidays, they can reschedule the holiday for their convenience. One wife said she had a small household-only holiday dinner before her husband left for a tour and a second one upon his return with the entire extended family. Of course care packages from home are always treasured when they arrive at some far away soldier's location. Be sure to mail them early.

Jenny, a pre-hospital care provider, has a different perspective regarding working a holiday shift. "It's great when the agency organizes a food, clothing or toy drive for local families in need and we help with the collections and deliveries. It's wonderful to be able to be with the public and do something for them without the gore and blood we normally deal with." She also added that it is great PR for the agency. There are cultural considerations among the employees, and the staff manages to swap tours to allow observant co-workers to spend family time as needed. "While it's great to be appreciated with holiday meals and gift baskets, these collections are a wonderful way to foster agency cohesiveness and do good with the people you work with. It is a very positive reward for all."

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