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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
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'Enjoying the kids playing with presents will have to wait': Heading out to work on Christmas day speaks to some of those who’ll be getting up to go to work today, and how Christmas is for them.

FOR A GREAT many of us, today will be a day off, a time to unwind and a day to spend with family.

But for others on Christmas Day, they get up out of bed and head to work and put any festive celebrations on hold for the time being at least.

Public service workers feature strongly among those professions required to work on Christmas Day and, while we unwrap presents, they are joined by the likes of taxi drivers and hotel workers in putting in a shift. spoke to some of them to find out what it’s like to work on Christmas Day.


Mark Toner is a firefighter and advanced paramedic with Dublin Fire Brigade.

When it comes to who ends up working Christmas Day, he said it was a matter of “luck of the draw”.

“The shift is just a regular shift for us which happens to fall on Christmas day, we have been unfortunate enough to have our shift fall on some or part of Christmas for the last few years, and next year looks the same,” he said. 

Today, he’s starting at 10am where he and colleagues will relieve those who worked through Christmas Eve night.

Toner said: “The later ‘Sunday’ start may just allow those of us with young families to experience the surprise in our children’s eyes when they see what Santa has left them.

The feeling will be short-lived as enjoying the kids playing with their presents and the traditional Christmas dinner will have to wait until later that evening.

Like other emergency services, the firefighter said that the actual shift itself feels like another normal day in many ways. 

While unwilling to jinx it, he did express the hope it wouldn’t be as busy as other days.

“As there is generally less people on the roads, less people working and more people at home with their families, in theory, that should lead to less RTC’s [road traffic collisions], less industrial accidents, and hazards in the home are caught quicker,” he said. “But in the emergency service world, theory and practice are two very different things.”

If there are any fires or medical emergencies they must attend, it’ll be business as usual until he clocks off in the evening time.

Toner added: “Late turnouts aside, we finish at 1800hrs, whereby our oncoming B watch colleagues take over.

Allowing us to get home to the postponed Christmas dinner and to spend the rest of Christmas day where it should be spent – with family. Beannachtaí na Nollaig oraibh go léir.

Hotel worker

Caroline Maurer works in the Westport Woods Hotel and Spa. She’s worked at the hotel on Christmas Day for the last several years and is doing so again this year.

“It’s always really, really busy,” she told “But generally people are lovely at this time of year. There’s always a lovely atmosphere about the place.”

The hotel caters for a number of guests on Christmas Day and also hosts many for dinner, so it means it can be all hands on deck for staff.

“We do our best to be fair on everyone,” Maurer said.

“In our specific department, we’d see who wants to work Christmas Day, Stephen’s Day, New Years. We’ll all work it out between ourselves on how to work it.”

Originally from France, Maurer said Christmas Day in the west of Ireland was always going to feel a bit different anyway.

The shifts are organised so that even for those working on the day itself, they still get a chance to enjoy it.

“That’s why I don’t mind working,” she said. “The first year here I’d have spent Christmas on my own, but I’ve found myself an Irishman in the meantime. His mother invites me for dinner, and she does have it quite late so I get to have my Christmas day then.”

And why would a hotel be so busy on Christmas Day?

Maurer said: “It’s a few different possibilities. It’ll be some families who don’t want to have to cook and then clean up afterwards. People like that do come in groups of six or 10.

And then we have the people who are staying. It could be older people who may not have family around. They come to stay to be around people. We cater for that.


Teresa Bell has been a volunteer with the Samaritans for 21 years.

For 20 of those years, she’s answered calls on Christmas day.

“Everyone who volunteers – we all devote a little bit of our time,” she said. “I enjoy being a Samaritan, I get a lot from it.”

Having done it for so long, taking the few hours to answer calls has become part and parcel of every Christmas for Bell, fitting that in and around family commitments on the day.

She said that there are some common themes that continue to reappear each and every year.

“One of the biggest things right through all of the years has been loneliness,” Bell said. “When the Samaritans opened here in Athlone 27 years ago, loneliness was a big issue in the calls we received, and it still is today.”

Being on the other end of a phone at Christmas day has meant that the volunteer has got an insight into how the festive season can throw up particular difficulties for people, and for a host of reasons.

“It’s a lot to do with the way Christmas presents itself these days,” she said. “The commercialisation, and the financial aspect and that pressure, and all the rest. You have people who experience the other side of that. 

Any day of the year we get calls, but Christmas brings another load on top of that. It brings more pressure on things that may be in existence already. 

Even for those who might not be on their own and surrounded by family, things can get on top of them.

Bell said: “Even for those fully engaged, sometimes it can become a bit too much. Sometimes you just need to tell someone how hard you’re finding it. Maybe there are things happening you’re finding difficult to cope with, and it’s about trying to work that through.

To be able to talk to somebody, and have them not judge the situation or judge you. That’s important. We’re there to listen, to try to help people explore their own feelings. It doesn’t have to be a crisis, people can talk about how they feel. 

You can reach the Samaritans on 116 123 or email

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