While many families wake-up Christmas morning to unwrap presents and spend the day with loved ones, a quarter of Americans go about their day as though it were like any other.
Ali Golding is one of those workers. At the AMC Theatre on Long Island Golding has worked on Christmas three times out of the four years working there.
Golding tells BTR that she still finds time to celebrate the holiday with her family in the early morning and afternoon. By the evening, when festivities slow down, Golding puts on her uniform and clocks into work.
“Honestly, working at the theatre has become part of my holiday tradition,” admits Golding. “I have the opportunity to spend time with my family and then I get to celebrate with my coworkers, who have, in a way, become my extended family.”
According to Allstate/National Journal’s annual Heartland Monitor poll, one-in-four employed Americans are required to work over the holidays, including on Christmas Day.
Most businesses close their doors on December 25, however, restaurants, entertainment establishments, and hospitals remain open. Most notably, Chinese food places and movie theaters look forward to earning a sizable income on Christmas.
Many of the Jewish faith find themselves indulging in the combination of Chinese cuisine and cinema in an amalgamated tradition with what is accessible.
Josh Koopersmith celebrates Hanukkah with his family, and explains to BTR the few options him and his family have on Christmas Day.
“If you’re Jewish, you’re options are very limited when it comes to things to do and places to go on Christmas Day,” assures Koopersmith. “If my family and I want to get out of the house, we typically hit the movie theatre and share a quart of sesame chicken.”
Although Koopersmith partakes in the rather secular custom every Christmas, he often thinks about the people who are working to make his take-out and cinema possible that holiday.
“I often wonder if the employees celebrate Christmas, but work because they have no other choice,” ponders Koopersmith. “They should be able to spend time with their families, but I understand that sometimes people just need to make a living any way they can.”
Daniel Newman also works at AMC Theatres, and like Golding, does not mind working on Christmas as it tends to not obstruct with family time.
“My family has always celebrated on Christmas Eve. We exchange gifts at midnight and then have brunch in the morning,” describes Newman. “By the evening, the house is fairly quiet, so I head into work. Sometimes my family even shows up later in the evening to catch a movie.”
Newman confesses that being scheduled on Christmas Day allows him to earn a larger paycheck. As a recent college graduate, he persists on taking as many shifts as possible to save money to pay back student loans. He does admit, however, that if his family were to alter their traditions, he would as well.
“If my family chose to celebrate on Christmas Day, I would opt out of work,” decides Newman. “I always put my family first, and time spent with them is much more valuable to me than earning a few extra dollars.”
Golding and Newman’s managers understand the importance of putting family before work. Along with other AMC employees, they have the option to be with relatives on Christmas Day, but conveniently they can enjoy both family-time and extra cash.
However, not all American workers have the same opportunities as Golding and Newman. Hospital employees are prime example of this.
All year, hospitals must be open to treat patients and admit new ones as needed. While scheduled doctors and nurses work extended shifts on the holidays, others remain on-call throughout celebrations that day.
Nancy Holland works as a nurse in Queens. She shares with BTR that she may need to work this Christmas. For her, planning for the season each year is a hectic task. She usually hands over holiday hosting to her siblings in case she’s called in to work.
She accepts this as a part of her job, but admits it’s an intrusion on holiday moments with family.
“There have been years where I have been called in on Christmas Day and I needed to leave my family,” recounts Holland. “I don’t enjoy rushing through holiday dinner, or the anxiety that comes along with wondering if I can spend the entire evening with my loved ones.”
The fact that so many Americans find themselves unable to find time to fully observe the holidays possibly speaks to the growing imbalance of work and family life in the country. While some are content in splitting time between work and celebrations, many struggle to understand where the true balance lies.
“The ambiguity makes it difficult to fully enjoy the day,” expresses Holland. “knowing I could leave at any minute.”
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user David Goehring.