Jingle all the way — to work: Edmontonians share what it's like to work on Christmas

Christmas comes but once a year.

But all is not calm and bright.

While many Edmontonians gather with loved ones for festivities, and others relax at home, a number of people trudge off to work.

Gas has to be pumped. Fires have to be extinguished. And someone has to take tickets for movies that premiere on Dec. 25.

CBC Edmonton spoke to several people who are working Christmas shifts across the city.

The zookeeper

The Christmas shift is a special time of year for zookeepers — and the animals they care for.

"That's the only day of the year that we're shut down, so 100 per cent of our time and efforts and energy gets to be spent on our animals," said Sheena Gross, a zookeeper at Edmonton Valley Zoo.

With the gates closed to the public, zoo staff spend time with the animals, often presenting them with gifts and special treats.

Gross often works with the Valley Zoo's family of red pandas: mates Kalden and Pip, and their two-year-old baby Paprika.

The pandas are getting grapes for Christmas, Gross said.

"What I'll probably do tomorrow, is take a bunch of grapes, put it in a wrapped box, and they have to work to try and get the grapes out of that box," she said.

Zoo staff are also allowed to invite their family members to hang out at work, and the employees often bring treats to share.

"For having to work, it's a pretty great day," she said.

Paige Parsons/CBC
Paige Parsons/CBC

The doorman

This is Zachary Koziak's eighth Christmas manning the door of the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald.

Koziak will work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and expects a big rush while the hotel serves it's Christmas brunch.

He said he doesn't mind working the holiday, and this Christmas has the added bonus of a relatively balmy forecast: a high of - 4 C is expected for Wednesday, according to Environment Canada.

Working as a doorman in Edmonton means becoming a bit of an expert at staying warm.

"Lots of layers, and hot chocolates. We often have lots of guests who will bring us Tim Hortons, or doughnuts, or anything like that. That always helps warm us up," he said.

The server

Dynasty Century Palace Restaurant is open 365 days a year. Christmas Day is no exception.

Server and cashier Maria Wong has worked several holiday shifts in the five-and-a-half years she has worked at the restaurant.

"Lots of families come here for their celebration, for Christmas," she said, speaking to CBC in an interview at the bustling restaurant during a Christmas Eve lunch rush.

To mark Dec. 25 as a holiday, Wong said the servers all swap out the long-sleeve red shirts they wear daily for a festive green alternative.

She said she likes working Christmas because she gets to be around a lot of happy people.

She said she'll take a few days off after Christmas to spend time with her family.

Paige Parsons/CBC Edmonton
Paige Parsons/CBC Edmonton

The firefighter

Edmonton Fire Rescue Fire Captain Cory Whitlock is another veteran of the Christmas shift.

Based out of Station 1 in downtown Edmonton, the 15-year firefighter said coming into work on a holiday work is just part of the job.

"Just like every day that you would spend at work, you are there to help people. If they need help, we'll show up and give them a hand," he said.

He said his team already hosted a family Christmas party, where colleagues and partners and kids got to celebrate together.

The paramedic

Traditions with coworkers is a special part of paramedic Lisa Smith's job at this time of year as well.

She and her work partner play a lot of Christmas music and do a gift exchange.

"When you're working with these people for 48 hours a week, they do become your second family," she said. "You kind of create your own holiday celebrations with your work family."

Smith is off on Christmas Day, but volunteered to work noon until midnight on Christmas Eve.

She said early Tuesday that she didn't know who she was going to be partnered with for the evening, but she's sure they'll have fun and be busy.

"We don't get a lot of downtime," she said.

Paige Parsons/CBC Edmonton
Paige Parsons/CBC Edmonton

The police officer

Downtown division Const. Brad Noskey will be on patrol in the city's core on Dec. 25.

It's the first time he's had to work the Christmas shift, but he expects it to mostly be similar to most of his work days.

"As I drive around, there are going to be individuals out there who unfortunately don't have anyone to spend Christmas with. There are services in the downtown area they can access, so hopefully we'll be able to point them in the right direction," he said.

At the very least, he's planning to wish them a merry Christmas.

He said he'll celebrate with his family on a different day.

"I don't think anyone wants to be away from their family, I certainly don't. I'd much rather be with my family. But they understand that I can't, that I have a job to do," he said. "Edmonton needs that job regardless of the day, unfortunately."

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