While many get holidays like Christmas off of work, there are some people out there whose jobs require them to come to work on a day that is supposed to be spent with loved ones. Sometimes those jobs are necessary - like working in a hospital, nursing home, or recovery center - but most of the time, it wouldn't hurt to put things off for another day.
A Reddit thread recently asked people to share their worst experiences when they had to work over the during holidays. The people who shared their stories were about as cheerful as one might expect. All posts have been edited for clarity.
"I worked every single holiday for 2.5 years at my old job because my family lived in town (and my coworker's families did not) and I don't have many friends, so it didn't bother me.
Finally, I asked for one holiday off and got called into a meeting where I was told they were disappointed in me for asking when 'other people with real families and children "needed" the holiday off.' After pointing out I worked every holiday in the last 2.5 years, they got off my case.
Yet after that, I was written up for 'causing a disturbance' and 'not being a team player.' I wanted to report them, but it was a lousy college job I couldn't afford to lose at the time as I had to pay off college classes and I lived where I worked and had nowhere else to go."
"I worked in the call center of a huge bank. They did not pay any public holiday, they just gave you time-in-lieu, so if for example, you worked on Thanksgiving, you would be given time that you could use to take a different day off.
Not for Christmas though. Instead of being scheduled to work a full day, I was scheduled to work a half day and that 'counted' for you to have the other half of the shift off. So I worked on Christmas day for 4 hours, spoke to the worst customers I have ever had to deal with, and got absolutely nothing for it. They were the worst. I got there at 9 am and the team that started at 8 am had already had 2 calls that ended in tears. That normally only happened maybe once a week.
I had a guy complaining about monthly account fees that he just noticed.
I had a lady call up for an account balance and then say how horrible it was that they made us work on Christmas and miss out on family time. I was so over it by then that I told her that the only reason I had to work was because of people like her calling up to do what she could have done through an ATM or online banking. The few nice people apologized for calling and said things like 'Well at least you are getting double or triple time today...'
The company was utterly vile. They run their call centers like concentration camps. When I was finally free of them I threw out anything with their logo, and move all my accounts."
"A couple of years ago, I was working on Christmas Eve. We received a patient through the ER, and when I received the report on the patient, it didn't sound like anything was wrong with him and the nurse had a huge sigh and said, 'So, his dad dropped him off at his mother's skilled nursing facility.'
His dad couldn't take care of him anymore (the patient was in his 40s but autistic and needed a caregiver at all times), so he dropped him off where his mother was getting chemotherapy treatments for cancer, but the facility obviously couldn't take him, so they drove him to the closest ER.
The poor thing, he was so confused, hurt and lost. And he was so severely autistic he couldn't speak, and every time we tried to work with him, he would try to hit us and scream. It was the saddest thing I'd ever seen, and to think, his dad abandoned him on Christmas Eve."
"I used to work at a college library. We had a new boss who decided that we had to be open until 8 pm on Christmas Eve and then reopen at 8 am on Christmas Day for 'regular hours.' It was intersession, so there weren't any classes, and the campus was technically 'closed' until January 2. When the campus was closed, it meant that most offices were closed, the ones that were deemed essential ran on limited hours, food services were limited, the heat was reduced in unused buildings. He insisted the library being open was necessary for students who remained on campus (who were all athletes and were training).
So we all had to work in a building that the temp never went over 55 (because our library is just part of a larger complex and while they tried to keep the heat in the library, they turned it off in the rest of the complex, so that didn't work). No food service. No snow or ice removal. And no patrons. And best off? No dean or administration staff because he told them all it was ok to take off because it wouldn't be busy then.
We contacted our union and refused to work the following year."
"I had mono and was recovering from pneumonia. I woke up Christmas Eve feeling like absolute death, with a sore throat that felt like shards of glass. But I was working both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so I couldn't back out without being a moron, or so I was lead to believe by management.
I went to work in the ER and grabbed a mask. The doctor I was working with took one look at me and did a rapid strep and pulled some strings to do a culture; the rapid came back negative but he wrote me a script for penicillin anyways and told me to get some tea on my way to the hospital's apothecary. I finished the day out and saw my boss on the way out who asked if I was coming in the next day because he didn't want to cover it. He was a bit of a moron in the interaction and I nearly started to cry.
I had mono, pneumonia, and potentially strep. I called in for Christmas day, then had my tonsils removed January 8th for obstructing my airway. I left that job less than a year later because they couldn't get over why I would call in and make them cover my Christmas shift."
"Used to do odd jobs for a super wealthy family. It was an older couple who had 5 kids, fully grown with families of their own.
Sometimes the mother would ask me to help one of her kids out with various tasks. She asked me not to talk to her about it if it was involving this one daughter, and she rolled her eyes.
One day, a few weeks before December I got a request from said daughter, who I had done housekeeping for a few times, and was utterly rude and disrespectful to me and my time. She would be there every time I cleaned, as she was a stay at home mom of two school-aged kids and didn't trust me to be in her home alone (she actually told me that). She wouldn't look at me when she talked to me and called me 'the help' in front of other people as if I wasn't there. I also had to bring my own water as I wasn't allowed to dirty a glass. She would also go and dirty a room right after I'd finished cleaning it and get very upset it wasn't clean when I finished the house, telling me to clean it again. In short, she was a stuck up nightmare.
Her request was that I help with her New Years Party and help serve the guests food and drink, as I'd done it before for her mother. I said I wasn't available as I already had plans for the holidays, skiing/staying at a cabin about 8 hours from the area we lived in.
She went on to tell me that if I didn't do it she would find other help for all her needs (fine by me), and that she would tell her mother and siblings not to use my services. Even at 17, I was full in 'eff off, I dare you' mode with this lady. I gracefully declined and told her I was sorry she felt that way. I hung up and moved on with my life knowing full well if she did do those things I had plenty of other work I could take on to fill the time and money, plus I hated working for her.
No one had contacted me to cancel any upcoming work I had booked for them. So I went to her mother's several weeks later and did work, and went through the garage like instructed. The mother comes in and looks angry, I was worried that it might happen, and she says, 'Did my daughter threaten to fire you for our family if you didn't cancel your family ski trip, so you could serve at her horrible yearly New Years event?'
'Yes, and unfortunately I had to turn her down.'
You should have seen this lady's face. She was so mad. She slams the garage door as she hurried back inside. She comes out 45 minutes later, hands me my check, with an extra $150, and said, 'I bet you're happy you don't have to work for her anymore, but I don't want to hear about it,' clearly quite disappointed and embarrassed. And then tells me her son would love some extra help with some work later that week to fill the time slot her daughter used to take up and it would be an extra $5 an hour.
Went from being kind of nervous about burning a bridge to pretty stoked, making more money for a nicer person and getting rid of a nightmare boss. Happy Holidays indeed!"
"I use to work security at a building for the 3-11pm shift. One year for Christmas my family was doing a later dinner during when my shift was. BUT, I found out the 7am-3pm shift guard was going to miss his family's dinner because they were doing it early. We agreed to switch shifts for that day so we could both do dinner with our families. I worked his 7-3 shift, and then he never showed up. Called him repeatedly and he didn't answer so an hour into the next shift I called my boss. Pretty much was told tough luck there's nobody else that can come in today and we can't leave the building without coverage. So I ended up working 16 straight hours on Christmas, not seeing any of my family and eating Chinese food from one of the only places open that delivered."
"Worked graveyard shift one year at Waffle House. Some wasted lady came in and started complaining to a waitress, Michelle, that her pork chops were too done or undercooked or something. But instead of asking Michelle to fix the pork chops, this lady tried screaming in her face and arguing that she wanted the entire meal comped. Big mistake.
What this lady didn't know was that Michelle didn't take smack from anybody and she was a human tank. If you set her off, she would black out and go wild on everything in her path. Well, this lady threw her hot coffee on Michelle. After composing herself, Michelle grabbed a glass of water and threw it at the lady, then proceeded to jump on this lady and repeatedly punch her in the face until she begged for mercy from Michelle's wrath. One of the cooks had to physically restrain Michelle, and he took a few good hits to stop this from getting any worse than it was.
Michelle was fired the next day, which was a shame because she was a super nice lady when she wasn't in a blind rage."
"I was dispatch at a security company, and my boss at the time instructed me to let all our guys know that they wouldn't be getting holiday pay (illegal) because they were seasonal workers (all full-time employees) and our contracts didn't pay any extra for holidays. I got a call from a client complaining about how we had charged double time and a half for holidays, and discovered that particular site was paying approximately 3 times the wage our guard was receiving. Part of my job was relaying messages to my boss, so I got the lovely task of trying to explain to my wasted boss, in Mexico, that a client was unhappy with how we were charging him extra for holiday pay, and then I had to also relay to him that some guards were complaining about how we weren't getting any holiday pay. My boss condescendingly reminded of how our sites don't pay extra for holidays and to let the guards know that, right after I told him about how we'd charged $120/hour instead of the approximately $42/hour that the site had expected, to pay a guy $13/hour to sit there and miss Christmas...My boss was a greedy prick."
"I'm a newspaper reporter, so working holidays is quite frequent for me. But the worst happened in 2015 when I worked Christmas Day. Holidays are usually slow, and I was planning on covering a special event where a local service group gave Christmas gifts to the local nursing homes.
I came into work a little early and heard commotion on the police scanner. After about 10 minutes, I figured out that there was an accident and I quickly ran over to the location. I grabbed a camera and a notepad and went out to see what happened. I learned that a family of five (mom, dad, and three kids, all under the age of 7) was coming into town for Christmas. A young woman, driving in the opposite direction, crossed the center line, and collided with the family's SUV.
I arrived after everyone had been taken to the hospital, but it was sheer carnage. The SUV was mangled, and the car didn't look much better. The next day, we learned that the 6-year-old died from injuries she sustained in the crash. By a miracle, the couple's two other children, including an infant, survived. An investigation was launched, but the worst the prosecutor could charge her with were traffic offenses, none of which carried any jail time. They found no evidence she was on her phone, she hadn't been drinking or been on any substances, and she didn't cross the line intentionally. To be charged with vehicular homicide, she would have done something reckless, which they could find no evidence of. She claimed she didn't remember what happened just before the crash. If she was lying, there's no way to prove it. About six months later, she got arrested for stealing felony-level cash from her employer. Someone I talked to in the prosecutor's office said she was kind of a spoiled brat and was feigning emotion.
But I'll never forget that accident; I stood on that highway, as snow flurries came down, looking on as investigators tried to figure out what happened. It's easily one of the saddest accidents I've ever covered."
"My dad was a veterinarian and owned an animal hospital. He would give all his employees Christmas off every year, but of course, the animals (boarders and sick animals) still needed care. The hospital was always full as a lot of people go out of town and board their pets over Christmas. So, every Christmas morning from when I was 9 until I was 18, I had to go with him Christmas morning at 6 am.
Working the kennel involved literally moving every single animal (cats, dogs, and the occasional bird) out of their kennel and cleaning each kennel and cat box. There were three wards, each housed about 25 animals. The dogs were moved outside to run around and cats were shifted around as each space was cleaned. So I'd be there cleaning dog poop and cat boxes (about 75 animals worth) for hours at dawn on Christmas morning for years. This was in New England, so after the kennels were cleaned the outdoor area where the dogs were placed had to be hosed down after they were moved back inside - meaning I was fighting to squeegee water out before it froze after cleaning for a few hours. I then fed all the animals, mopped the floors, and went home. Took about five hours to do. Then we went back around 5 pm and did it again so every pet was fed and had their meds and got exercise before night.
I was pretty unhappy about it. Also, I wasn't paid.
But I did become used to it, and now in adulthood, I look back fondly because it was quality time with the old man, seeing him in the environment he was spending the majority of his waking hours in. It was good for work ethic I think. He would always say 'we'll work till the work is done' because with that sort of work it isn't hourly tasks, you can't leave because time is up, you leave when the job is done and every pet is taken care of. I've carried that with me my whole life and it's served me well."
"I was working at the movie theater the year Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. The very first showing was sold out and had to be cancelled because of a projector error.
I literally had hundreds of people yelling at me on Christmas morning, and one man was screaming that I should be ashamed of myself for ruining his son's Christmas.
I've never had a worse holiday experience, and I've worked every holiday for the past five years."
"I worked at a restaurant in college that would be open on some holidays, like Christmas Eve and Easter. They would close fairly early, and I should have been able to go home and do something for the holiday, but the owners would then have their large families come in and have me serve them.
Since it was their family, there were no tips involved to make it worthwhile. The place went out of business, so they got theirs in the end!"
"I don't drive and so I have to rely upon public transport. I was forced to work both Christmas and Boxing Day. I said I couldn't get to the main office, so, could I work from the local small office instead?
'Christmas Day only.' Alright, I said, thinking the trains would run Sunday service on Boxing Day.
They didn't. I worked from the remote office both Christmas and Boxing Day. I was called into a meeting on the 27th expressly forbidding me from ever working from home or a remote office ever again.
There were at least three or four other people they could have put on who actually lived close to the main office, and yet they chose me, one of only two people they knew relied on public transport, then told me off like a disobedient child for being unable to get to work.
I don't work there anymore. Not worth it.
This is the same company who tried to have me work until midnight once a week, despite knowing I wouldn't be able to get home as the last train was at half-past ten at night. When I tried to explain this, their wording was 'Your problems aren't our problems. It's not our concern how you get to and from work.'"
"I used to be one of those seating hostesses in a Japanese restaurant, which was authentic down to being open on Christmas Day. I worked a double on Christmas because my family emphasized celebrating on Christmas Eve at the time (though I still worked the morning that day too).
The double wasn't the bad part though; it was the day after. I clocked in one minute late for my shift the next morning, and the rule was that if you are late, no tips. Usually, if you were within five minutes and asked the manager he might adjust your time card, but I didn't know you had to do it on the same day. I felt so unappreciated that they wouldn't forgive one minute, especially after I had done a double the night before and worked pretty much every day leading up and through Christmas.
That worked out well."
"I used to work at Starbucks, and they're open every single day of the year, which meant that I had to work on Christmas.
One year, a buddy of mine was visiting for the holidays from the Navy and came in on Christmas, instantly saw me, and asked, 'What are you doing working on Christmas?' To which I replied, 'What are you doing coming to Starbucks on Christmas?'
Towards the end of my shift, some guy was giving me a hard time about the whole first come first serve thing, and his order was like eight drinks down the line. He went on to tell me how he was late for a Christmas party and was getting pretty angry. I tried not to lose my cool but ended up saying to him something along the lines of, 'Look, man, I've been here since 9 am missing the entire day with my family, so you're going to have to wait like everyone else.' He gave dirty looks to me and everyone else whenever I handed out someone else's drink."
"I worked at a call center in 2008 right after graduating from college. I had a degree in management information services at that point, and the majority of my coworkers were GED level educated. Not high school completion, GED test out. The call center was a tier 1 tech support line for a major company. The way this company treated its call center employees haunts me to this day. Zero respect, you needed to get managerial supervision to make a pot of coffee. We weren't even allowed to be away from our phone line to use the restroom except with expressed permission from a supervisor.
There was only one year in my entire life where I wasn't able to be with my family on Christmas and that was the year this place demanded I work a double on the 24th into a single shift on the 25th.
On the 24th, about four hours into my first shift, I got a call from a job I had interviewed for two months prior. They called to let me know I'd be starting on the first of January if I wanted the role.
I walked out on my shifts, had a wonderful Christmas eve with local friends, and donated some food and time at a local kitchen the next day.
It ended up being one of my favorite Christmases, but at the start, my soul was basically crushed to a pulp."
"I used to work at McDonald's. Every year, they usually scheduled me to work on Holidays, especially Christmas. I hated it. Instead of spending time with my family, they made me work overtime for little pay.
I also worked with someone who hated me. One year, I happened to have Christmas off. The girl I hated asked me, over Facebook, if I could take her shift for Christmas. I actually didn't have anything going on during those hours so I said sure, whatever, I could use more money.
Then she unsurprisingly treated me like trash in the days leading up to Christmas. Being young and dumb at the time, I simply didn't cover her shift. I later straight up lied to my boss and said that I didn't know what she was talking about.
Oh God, the message I received over Facebook was glorious, unprofessional and very poorly written. I reveled in that message for hours after.
I ended up quitting a month later."