For most of us, Christmas Day is a time for family, friends and festivities. But more than a million people will be hard at work on 25th December, many of them saving lives, keeping our country safe and looking after the public.
It’s because of these people that the rest of us can enjoy Christmas safe in the knowledge we’re being protected by dedicated professionals – something we often take for granted.
Here’s our tribute to the heroes who work on Christmas Day, and a little insight into what the holiday is like for them.
Doctors and Nurses
Just like any other day, there are patients to care for and babies to be delivered on Christmas Day – and so lots of doctors and nurses will be hard at work. Some of them will have to work the night shift, meaning Christmas day will be spent asleep.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for a little Christmas cheer. Doctor Reena Aggarwal says that at Christmas, the labour ward feels “a bit more special. The hospital often makes a fuss of the Christmas newborns”.
Whether it’s the Christmas Eve night shift or Christmas morning on the beat, the police will be on duty and ready to respond to incidents or emergencies. Constable Rob Wilson says that Christmas is the only time of year the whole team has the opportunity to get together to enjoy a buffet – although they’ll probably be too busy to eat it.
So why plan a buffet that won’t get eaten? Because, says Wilson, “Christmas, to me, is about hope, optimism and people. Being a police officer at this time of year allows us to view it from a unique perspective…I will be a part of a frighteningly small group of incredible individuals aiming to keep our patch safe and to get everyone home to their loved ones.”
The risk of fire or accident doesn’t go away at Christmas, and so the fire service has to be ready to tackle any emergencies that arise. Firefighters like Barry McDowell of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service could be on call at the fire station or providing cover from home, ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
McDowell says: “You’re there knowing that on that specific day, if anything was to happen to anybody, should it be a house fire or road traffic collision, it takes a special person to be able to go and help that person in that dramatic situation, especially at Christmas time.”
The Ambulance Service
Christmas Day is business as usual for the ambulance service. As most of us put our feet up and tuck into our roast dinners, paramedics up and down the country will be working 12-hour shifts, providing a vital life-saving service.
Christmas is often a particularly busy time, with more incidents happening in people’s homes as they tend to stay in. Even so, there still might be time for some hurried festivities. Colin Jones, a paramedic from Lancashire, said: “We snuck the Christmas dinner in at about 2.30 or 3pm at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. We had 30 minutes to eat turkey with all the trimmings – pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, stuffing, carrots and sprouts with gravy.”
The British Armed Forces
Around 4,500 UK servicemen and women spent Christmas Day away from home last year on operations around the globe. Duty never stops for our brave armed forces, and at Christmas they’ll be hard at work securing our skies, patrolling our seas and keeping us safe.
Although it’s undoubtedly hard to be away from family and friends over the festive season, there is still camaraderie and Christmas spirit. Last year, HMS Ocean served its 700-strong crew a turkey dinner. Able Seaman Alexia Dooley said: “The atmosphere on board is very good – we’ve got Christmas decorations all around the mess and everyone is super-excited at having Christmas in Dubai.”
This Christmas, we’ll be raising a glass to the heroes who work year-round to keep us safe and well. Cheers!