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Business as usual: When Christmas is a day of work

Firefighter Kellie Walsh works out with Lt. Kristen Wade (right) at the Sugar Grove Fire Department on Christmas Day.
Firefighter Kellie Walsh works out with Lt. Kristen Wade (right) at the Sugar Grove Fire Department on Christmas Day.

For many, Christmas Day means opening presents with family, eating too much food and watching “A Christmas Story” over and over.

But for people like Jan Sigona, the holiday simply is business as usual. As a nurse in the intensive care unit at Delnor Hospital in Geneva, she knows that illness and accidents don’t take a day off just because it’s Christmas.

This year, her shift started at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve and ended at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, but Sigona said her work schedule doesn’t disrupt her holiday celebration much because her shift ended in time to attend church on Christmas morning.

Though it’s another day at work, she said the holiday has a different feeling than most work days.

“Even if you’re at work, it’s always special,” she said. “It’s a very special day, but you’ve got to take care of all the work that needs to be done.”

Sigona said whenever she works on Christmas, she tries to spend time with patients who don’t have family or can’t be with family.

She said she likes to take a moment to watch part of a Christmas special or listen to some Christmas music with patients who might have to spend the holiday alone.

Police and firefighters don’t take the day off, either.

Lt. Kristen Wade with the Sugar Grove Fire Department said she and her husband, a St. Charles firefighter, both worked on Christmas this year, which made the shift a little more bearable.

“It’s not that bad,” she said. “I actually don’t mind.”

Wade said people sometimes stop by with cards or a plate of cookies and treats to say “thank you” to firefighters for spending their holiday at work.

“The community understands that we’re away from our families, and that’s a sacrifice,” she said.

Sigona said she has had similar experiences while working on Christmas. She noted that the hospital’s cafeteria often provides staff, patients and their families with a holiday meal on Christmas Day, and on occasion, relatives of patients bring in some extra goodies.

“There are some very thoughtful people out there,” she said.

And when families visit from out of town, Eric Pierce understands that they need a place to stay. He’s the front office manager at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles and has worked on Christmas Day for the last three years, including this year.

Pierce said he voluntarily works on Christmas Day so his coworkers who have children can stay home and celebrate with their families.

“I think most people are cognizant of people working and they’re appreciative,” Pierce said. “They know those people likely gave up time with their family. But it’s part of the job.”

For some families, heading to the movie theater is a Christmas Day tradition, which means theater personnel punch the clock, too.

Don Baker, manager at the Charlestowne 18 Theatre in St. Charles, said he chooses to work Christmas Day because he prefers to have New Year’s Eve off instead.

He said his day doesn’t start until about 3:30 p.m. on Christmas, which he said gives him ample time to celebrate the holiday with his family.

He said 28 people were scheduled to work Tuesday.

He said it can be a busy day at the theater, and that some of the most popular movies on Christmas Day tend to be the ones that have been open for a while.

“Everything else is pretty much closed,” he said. “A lot of people just don’t have anywhere to go, and it’s a family tradition.”

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