Meet the people off to work on Christmas Day

While most of us are opening presents, and settling down to enjoy the festivities together, many more will be putting in a busy day at work. And yet, as Áilín Quinlan discovered, Christmas is a very special day for them too.

Meet the people off to work on Christmas Day

Jacqueline Reilly

Shelbourne front of house manager

Christmas Day is a very important day at the Shelbourne Hotel. This is a beautiful place to work at Christmas, the decorations are wonderful and it’s all very festive so that the minute you walk in the door there’s a wow factor.

“For many people the Shelbourne Hotel IS their Christmas Day — we have a lot of guests who come back year after year with their families to enjoy Christmas Day at the hotel.

“Our decorations go up on November 23, but we actually start planning Christmas the previous January. One of the things we do that’s very popular is the construction of our Christmas Gingerbread House and the installation of our train set.

"The Gingerbread House is put together by our pastry chefs, while our engineers put up the train. The whole display takes up a lot of space. A huge amount of work goes into it and, in fact, every year it gets bigger and bigger. It’s enormously popular.

"On Christmas Day I arrive at the hotel by 8am and the first thing I do is to check in with the night team. Usually by Christmas morning the vast majority of our guests have already arrived.

"However, a small number may yet arrive and need to be checked in, while from about 7am our guests are coming down for our special Christmas breakfast. This finishes at about 10am to allow the restaurant staff to re-set for the big Christmas lunch.

"Santa comes to the hotel just after breakfast, so my staff and I ensure his sack of gifts is all ready for him and that he is in place in the front lobby in a nice big armchair next to the Christmas tree and the fire.

"This year we expect more than 50 children to meet Santa. My team and I will have already checked the ages of the children who range in age from babies to 12-year-olds, and ensured that Santa distributes the right kind of gifts.

"We also make sure there are plenty of batteries on hand in case they’re needed — little details like that must never be forgotten! Santa climbs back into his sleigh at about noon, at which time the guests are starting to arrive for Christmas lunch. We have a number of sittings, which, of course, must all be very carefully planned.

“Christmas lunch at the Shelbourne is very traditional — turkey, ham and all the trimmings.

“I’ll generally go for my lunch about 2pm or 3pm – I miss my family in Longford but I’ll be home to see them for a few days between Christmas and the New Year. The rest of the day is very much about being around for the guests and chatting to the children about what Santa brought them.”

Fr Gerard Galvin

PP of Muintir Bhaire, Sheep’s Head Peninsula

“Christmas Day starts for me on Christmas Eve, when I say mass by candlight at 6pm in the village of Ahakista on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula.

“This is a Children’s Mass; a family mass for children who wouldn’t be able to stay up til midnight for midnight mass as was traditional. Also, as I have found, that on the following day, Christmas morning, the reality is that they don’t want to be taken away from the goodies Santa brings so the timing of the Children’s Mass is practical for many young families.

“After the Children’s Mass, I say another candlelit mass at 8pm at our Mass Centre in Gorta Lassa.

“Gorta Lassa is also on the Sheep’s Head peninsula. Both masses are by candlelight to add a bit of atmosphere and also in memory of the Irish tradition of putting a candle in the window.

“This is very important. I like to bring the old traditions into my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day masses.

“On Christmas Day I have two masses.

“One is at 10am in the village of Durrus, the other at 11.30am in the village of Kilcrohane.

“I have been a priest for 38 years. The only year I didn’t say a public mass at Christmas was when I was on sabbatical.

“I consider the Christmas Day mass to be the most important mass of the year, because I have a lot of people there who may not be there for a long time again.

“I make an effort to be welcoming and to put across a positive message so that people feel welcome and at ease when they are not regular attendees.

“After mass I will spend some Christmas Day quality time with my brother and his family, or with my sister and her family.

“I’ll usually get over to them about 2.30pm and we have Christmas dinner, generally followed by a quick nap on the sofa, returning home later on!

“Sometimes I’m back on duty on St Stephen’s Day as there may be a funeral mass to attend to.”

Cecilia Mulligan

Support worker with the Dublin Simon Community

Cecilia is a support worker with the Simon Community emergency accommodation on the North Circular Road.

“On Christmas Day I will arrive at our premises on the North Circular Road at around 8am.

“We have 36 residents here, male and female aged between 21 and 73.

“After I arrive, first of all we have the handover process from the two night staff.

“This can take up to an hour depending on how the previous night went - this is an emergency hostel for homeless people so anyone who stays here would otherwise be rough sleeping.

“Around 9am we’re generally greeting people as they get up, and from around 10am we do a Health and Safety Check, which involves visiting all the residents’ rooms, and, since it’s Christmas Day, distributing donated gifts to the residents.

“Some people can feel isolated and depressed at being separated from their families and loved ones on Christmas Day so we’ll be making a special effort to help them feel included and welcome, and encourage them to attend our Christmas dinner which takes place at 2.30pm.

“Some people do get low. We’re all aware that an emergency hostel is not the ideal place to be on Christmas Day but we want people to feel as much as possible that they’re included in any activity that’s going on.

“All of this can take up to about 11.30pm, after which myself and my co-worker Corinne will be setting up the dining room and decorating the tables for the Christmas dinner.

“Our residents can have a full breakfast up to about noon, so hopefully some of the breakfast diners will muck in with the decorating.

“After this we’ll have some board games out and the radio will be playing Christmas music and we’ll encourage people to have a laugh – Corinne and I can be a bit silly and we’ll hopefully rope our chef, Fran into the fun if we can winkle him out of the kitchen, so it’ll be fun and games until dinner.

“We usually have a nice soup followed by the traditional meal of turkey and ham, with plum pudding for dessert.

“Corinne and I will have Christmas dinner with the residents, and pull a few crackers.

“It’s hard to predict how the day will be, given that it is an emergency hostel, but we’ll do our best to provide a happy Christmas atmosphere.

“I like working with the Simon Community on Christmas Day – it’s a good fun shift to do if it goes well.

“Also, if you have people who are feeling very down, you may be able to make a difference to him on Christmas day, which is good.”

Eamon Corrigan

Corrigan’s Pharmacy

Eamon Corrigan is a pharmacist at Corrigan’s Pharmacy on the Malahide Road in Dublin.

This is a shop renowned for its 365-days-a-year opening — and pharmacist Eamon Corrigan has worked most Christmas days over the past 10 years.

“There’s always a pharmacist on duty here on Christmas Day.

“We stay open until 10pm on Christmas Eve and re-open again on Christmas Day, remaining available to our customers until about 3pm.

“On Christmas Day I generally come in at about 10am and open up the shop.

“We’re always very busy for the first few hours, generally filling prescriptions for children.

“Quite often it’s antibiotic prescriptions for ear infections, throat infections and chest infections.”

“You also have people calling who have forgotten to buy batteries in advance for Christmas toys — or even baby food. We’d often be asked for Calpol for children on Christmas morning, and customers will come from as far away as North Kildare, Wicklow and Meath, because we’re one of only a few pharmacies that would be open in the Dublin area on Christmas Day.

“People are willing to travel quite long distances to get what they need, especially when there is a child involved.

“People are delighted to find us open on Christmas Day — in fact Christmas Day is the day when you get a real thank-you for just being open!

“I generally work away throughout the day, leaving at about 2.30pm or 3pm for my own home nearby, where I have Christmas dinner with my wife Mella, my two-year-old son Liam and our baby son Tim who is seven months old.”

Will Faulkner

Midlands 103

Based in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where he works both as a radio presenter and station manager at Midlands 103, and as Group Programme Director of Tindle Radio, award-winning DJ Will Faulkner is based in Offaly but also oversees the programming of two stations in the Channel Islands, one each on Guernsey and Jersey.

This Christmas Day, however, he won’t be stirring outside the midlands.

“I’ll be up early on Christmas morning. My three-year-old daughter Izabel will wake up early and if she doesn’t 18-month-old Will Junior will and she won’t sleep through that. One way or another we’ll all be up by about 6.15am and down the stairs to see what Santy brought.

“My wife Alix wraps absolutely everything so we will have lots of unwrapping to do.”

After that, he says, it’s off to Midland 103 for Will’s programme, Midlands Today, which won Ireland’s Current Affairs Programme of the Year at the PPI Radio Awards last October, beating RTÉ, BBC, and Today FM to win the accolade.

“This year on Midlands 103 it looks like we’ll have two live shows with some pre-recorded specials and seasonal programmes; it won’t be the usual schedule and we tend to draw lots for the two live programmes.

“This year I’ll present one of the live shows which airs from 9am to 12pm on Christmas Day which will include music requests and chat.

“I’ll try to make it back to my house in Clonbullogue — about half an hour from the station — for about 12.45pm so as to pull my weight with the dinner which we will be serving around 3pm.

“My parents are coming from Newbridge, Co Kildare, for dinner.

“The rest of the day is basically about keeping the mess manageable, making sure that the kids don’t set the place on fire with their new toys, and playing referee when one child prefers the other’s toys.

“I’ll be off most of the week after Christmas Day which is great.”

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