Executive Sous Chef Shawn Smith, left, Pamela Wegrzyn, food and beverage service manager, and Darryl Fujita, executive chef, hang out in the kitchen at the Halekulani Hotel. The trio will be working to keep hotel guests happily fed today.

Working on the
holiday not so bad

For some it means midnight
Christmas dinners, for some
it's a tradition in itself

For many Hawaii residents, Christmas Day is just another work day.

In the case of fire, police and other emergency personnel, schedules are drawn up months in advance, so the task is no surprise.

"There are years you may work Christmas and years you may not. It's not based on seniority, said Captain Emmit Kane, spokesman for the Honolulu Fire Department. " We all know our schedules year round."

But even those who are working often find time to celebrate the holidays with their co-workers and families.

"Some guys will have families over to the station to share the meal and be together. Other families may go to the in-laws and celebrate together later. Of course if the alarm goes off the guys who are working may have to leave for a while," Kane said.

Terry Thompson, supervising police radio dispatcher and a 21-year employee of the Honolulu Police Department, said Christmas is usually a busy day at work. Still, co-workers try to find time to do a gift exchange and share a meal.

"During the holiday season, the need for employees is greater, so everyone tends to work the holiday or some part of it," she said.

Christmas day may start off quietly, but that can change dramatically as the day moves on.

"It can be property theft, domestic violence and there's also more traffic," she said.

Thompson said she usually celebrates Christmas with her co-workers first and then later with her family after her shift ends at 6:15 p.m.

"My dad was a police officer -- he retired a few years ago -- so my family is pretty much adjusted. They realize if I work that day, we'll celebrate after," she said.

For some folks, working on Christmas Day has become a tradition in itself. It's something they volunteer for every year.

Pamela Wegrzyn, food and beverage services manager at the Halekulani Hotel, has worked every Christmas for 16 years.

With her immediate family living on the East Coast, it's something she says she enjoys doing.

"It's such a festive time. Everyone at the Halekulani is in that frame of mind and we're an extended family. There are so many guests who come back year after year," she said.

But working during Christmas can produce some unusual traditions in families.

Mila Nabua works behind the counter at Liliha Bakery. This is her third year working over Christmas.

Because she finishes work at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve, her family gets together to celebrate at midnight.

"There are eight people, so we have dinner and give gifts that night," she said.

Nabua was scheduled to return to work today, from noon till 6 p.m.

City Lifeguards are kept busy on Christmas Day with children trying out new water toys.

About 100 will be on duty today, said Jim Howe, who heads up the division.

"A lot of families give ocean sports equipment gifts so we notice that by about 10:30 a.m. on Christmas day they start arriving. Everyone wants to try out their new gifts," he said.

Christmas is a pretty happy day at the beach, said Makapuu lifeguard Noah Spencer, who finishes work around 6 p.m. and will go home to celebrate Christmas with his family.

"The kids come down with their new boogie boards, new fins, new wet suits, they can't wait to try them out. It's a wonderful day. It seems like everyone is in the Christmas spirit."


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