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.
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
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