The last thing you expect to be doing on Christmas Day is pacing the corridors of a hospital ward, but that’s what my parents found themselves doing several years ago when one of my relatives had a heart attack. Being one of the youngest, I remained home with a few others, picking through the leftovers and taking our minds off things with a seasonal Vicar of Dibley. I suppose we look forward to Christmas because it seems to exist outside the norms of everyday life, immune to the problems that regularly invade it. That was the first time I fully realized that kind of existence is sadly not true, and also that for some it is just another day at work; yes, things go wrong on Christmas Day try as hard as you might to make it perfect, but you often imagine it to be something trivial. I can’t stress how much I am thankful to the doctors, nurses and paramedics who were working on Christmas Day and helped get my Nan back to recovery.
You often forget those who put in long hours to make sure everyone has the best Christmas possible. After all, Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of year, and there’s even part of me that breathes a sigh of relief once January comes and its over until the next one. The act of buying a present can be highly fulfilling, providing you know what the recipient wants; otherwise, it can be a struggle that only increases in severity as the big day draws near. If your son wants a toy plane, does it have to be a particular model? If you’re buying for your other half, are you going to set a budget on how much to spend? Or what if you think of a special family member, yet nothing springs to mind? It doesn’t take much for the anxiety to bubble over and become hostile.
Also, there is a kind of chaos unique to working in retail at Christmas. Bright lights and merry melodies blur into one coagulated festive mess as you try to finish one of the hundred-odd tasks you need to complete before the end of your shift, except you cannot walk more than five paces without a customer asking you where something is, or if the item that you definitely don’t have out the back IS out the back. I’m not being overly critical here; customers are the life blood of retail, and I want everyone to have the merriest Christmas possible. The only time it really grates is when you’re faced with a negative reaction. You have to remember that Christmas doesn’t happen without the scores of people who work all over the festive period, such as the postmen who get you your much needed present on Christmas Eve, or those who keep serving drinks until the early hours of New Year’s Day.
It’s not just about those who work over the festive period in the more traditional sense; think of the people in your life who really strive to make the Christmas season the best it can be. We have a massive party on Christmas Eve with family and friends which is primarily the hard work of my Mum; I help out as much as I can, but it will never be compared to how much my Mum does. Then, my Aunt hosts Christmas dinner for over a dozen of us on the big day itself, which is a tremendous achievement. Or what about all those events you attend over the festive period? Somewhere at the centre of all of them, someone is dashing around frantically ticking things off on their clipboard while never actually immersing themselves in the event they have put together. So, I’d like to raise a toast to those who work like hell during Christmas, because that’s what the true spirit of the season is. For them, Christmas is a frame of mind where you can’t settle for less.