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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

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In Holiday Guide

Hospital workers are just one of the groups who work on Christmas.

From firefighters to photographers, plenty stuck working Christmas


The closest most people get to working on Christmas day is laboring to cram another piece of ham in their maw.

But while we're busy wondering how many cups of egg nog it will take before crazy Uncle Eddy gets punchy there are tons of people out there stuck working.

From servers at Chinese restaurants, to movie projectionists and nurses, there are plenty of folks who clock in Dec. 25 who aren't driving a sled pulled by reindeer.

Police officers and firefighters certainly don't take a break. In fact, the combination of so many people crammed into close quarters can make for a busy day for them.

In between responding to their usual call load, those in public safety try and make the best of it and bring a little bit of Christmas into their stations.

"We try to make it as festive as we can understanding that we still have to dedicate our resources to the citizens," said Lt. Alex Ramirez, of the Milwaukee Police Department, "If we are working each of us will bring in a dish here and we will celebrate Christmas as officers."

Like the police department firefighters also try and prepare a festive Christmas meal. If possible, family members will stream into the firehouse throughout the day, while firefighters work their 24-hour shift.

"I have spent a few Christmases at work over the years when my kids were younger," said Milwaukee Fire Department Capt. Steven Riegg, "A lot of times what happens is they will at least come visit you in the firehouse and maybe bring you some cookies and just try to see you on that day."

Firefighters usually head to the grocery store Christmas Eve to stock up on food for the holiday.

"The gamble is always when you are cooking in the firehouse you might not be able to eat right when you want depending on the calls. The turkey could be in the oven and you get a call and you have to shut down the oven and go," Riegg said.

People who work in hospitals are also frequently required to work on Christmas. Marissa Lear Fortin, a nurse in Columbia St. Mary's burn unit, said there is a certain aura in hospitals on Christmas day.

"There is just something kind of special about being there over Christmas," said Fortin. "It sounds kind of weird but it's just a happy day to work because I think people are more appreciative over a holiday and I think we are just more conscious of trying to make it bright and cheery and a little bit better."

Hospital workers usually take part in a holiday potluck in between their normal workload.

"We still have to do our every day routine as far as taking care of everybody, but it seems like there is more of a holiday spirit," Fortin said.

People looking for a post-Christmas cocktail don't have to look far in Milwaukee, where most bars open up at night.

Bartender Jason Burczyk said he doesn't mind working the holiday, when people tend to tip more generously. He tries to see his family earlier in the day if possible.

"Working Christmas doesn't really bum me out, because at this point in life you come to realize that holidays are what you make them," said Burczyk, "As long as I get to have lunch with my mom and dad it could be a Thursday, it could be a Friday, it could be any day of the year, as long as I keep up to date with them, holidays are just an excuse to get to see them one more time."

Darren Hauck, a freelance photographer, often has his Christmas interrupted with assignments.

"Most the ones I have had to do are stupid financial holiday related stuff. Like what's going on, what are people doing, Christmas day shopping," said Hauck. "It comes down to trying to get the job done as fast as humanly possible so you can get the hell out of there and not have to deal with some stupid B.S."

Many times, an assignment will pop up Christmas Eve. But ultimately Hauck said, he always finds a way to squeeze in some family time.

"It doesn't matter so much because in the morning we get together, have some breakfast and after that it's just kind of over with," Hauck said.

In the end, being stuck working on Christmas is made much more tolerable by the cheery attitude most people adopt on the holiday.

"There is always a different aura about it when it's on Christmas day," Lt. Ramirez said.

Talkbacks

starhon18 | Dec. 6, 2010 at 3:33 p.m. (report)

What a cheery disposition Mr. Hauck has!

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