Workplace Culture

Working on Christmas: A Ha’Penny Will Do

December 19, 2019

Working on Christmas can be hard for some people. Here are some ways you can show your employees you appreciate the sacrifice they make for you.

Photo of two pennies with a Christmas scene.

At the beginning of the Christmas season every year, an old song pops into my head:  “Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat… if you haven’t got a penny a ha’ penny will do.”  However, few topics are as difficult for me to flesh out on paper as Christmas.   Perhaps it’s because I’m unsure of how others perceive the holiday, so I’m trying to be sensitive.  Or, maybe it’s because there is so much to say that I don’t even know where to begin.  Still, it could be I feel bad about the people who are working on Christmas, and not home with their families.  Whatever the reason, writing about Christmas is a challenge for me. 

Nevertheless, I think it’s important to discuss the holiday as it relates to work, because, after all, many people will be working on Christmas.  Thus, it only seems right that we remember them.  So, since I don’t have a full two-cents or even a penny of composed thoughts to offer you, consider this my ha’penny about working on Christmas as we enter into the season of giving, and of love. 

The Christmas Gift

Photo of two hands presenting a wrapped Christmas gift.
Photo by Marco Verch | Source | CC by

I’m not going to dive into a history or theology lesson, but I will say that Christmas started with a gift.  Sure, there are plenty of people who say Christmas isn’t about gifts, but that’s actually exactly what the season is about. 

You see, regardless of religion or culture, the spirit of Christmas is the stirring in peoples’ hearts to give to others.  Now, where we have gone astray is conforming to the philosophy of outdoing others.  The tradition has morphed into giving outside our means in order to impress someone or to shower people with everything they ask for.  While intentions often start out good, they are often misplaced somewhere along the way.

However, if you look around your workplace at the people who are working on Christmas, you will see the opposite of misplaced intentions.  Conversely, you will see selflessness.  After all, those employees are making a sacrifice by working when we are not, and allowing us to spend time with those we cherish most.

So, if you have it in your heart, consider giving a little something to those who spend Christmas at work.  This could also be something you give your managers permission to do. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate.  Rather, it can be a small token of your appreciation.  For example, you could buy them lunch, or send them home with a pie to share with the family.

Gifts Aren’t Always Material

Now, anyone who has seen the old black and white film It’s a Wonderful Life probably recognizes the epiphany that George Bailey has at the end of the movie.  While it may seem like his spirits lift when his acquaintances replace the thousands of dollars his business partner lost, he is actually marveling at something else.  George Bailey is in awe of the fact that his friends and family generously replaced the money out of their own pockets because of their love and adoration for him.  George never needed the money in order to recognize their feelings for him.  He already realized their appreciation for him through the interactions he had with them on a daily basis.

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Now, George Bailey’s character was remarkable, and being like him might seem impossible.  Nevertheless, we can all show our appreciation to others in little ways.  Consequently, our own spirits will lift as we hand out these little non-material gifts.

A Genuine Smile

Did you know that studies show that we find people more attractive when they are smiling?  Well, perhaps that’s why I can’t get enough of Will Farrell in the movie Elf.  “I just like to smile.  Smiling’s my favorite,” he says. 

Image of a genuine smiley face.

Besides making people more attractive, smiling also releases endorphins.  Furthermore, the benefits are twofold because both the giver and the receiver of a smile get a little boost.  So, when you smile at someone, it is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Now, it would probably be a little strange if you suddenly show up at an employee’s cubicle, grinning from ear to ear.  However, when you seen an employee who is working on Christmas, consider smiling at the person and saying hello.  Also, it would be an added bonus to say the person’s name!

A Sincere Thank You

While it might seem like an automatic response to express gratitude when someone does something for you, not everyone participates in the exchange.  So, try to pay attention to your role in the transaction.  When someone does something for you, thank the person with a sincere thanks.  Furthermore, if you thank them specifically for what they have done for you, there will be no question about your sincerity.  In fact, you can practice this on the people who are working on Christmas. 

Extend Grace

Now, people have all kinds of interesting interpretations of the idea of grace.  Some people think about a dancer’s graceful movements.  Others automatically think about their credit cards and the lovely grace period that comes with them.  Well, they aren’t too far off, because extending grace does have a lot to do with giving something undeserved or unearned. 

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You can extend grace to someone simply by considering your reaction and your words to them.  For example, if an employee is working on Christmas and he has a bad attitude, extend him grace.  Empathize with him by acknowledging that you know it isn’t ideal to work on the holiday, but that you appreciate him being there.  Don’t react to him with a defensive attitude or match his tone.  Doing so will only stir up more anger.

Image of two silhouettes, with one asking forgiveness.


Something that goes along with grace is the act of forgiveness.  In other words, letting things go.  Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that you forget something that someone has done to you, but it does mean that you don’t continue to penalize the person for it.

So, if you are working on Christmas with someone with whom you’ve had discourse, considering taking that opportunity to bury the hatchet.  Don’t try to rehash what went wrong.  Instead, apologize for your role, and then ask forgiveness.  This might be just the thing that encourages your enemy to also apologize, and ask your forgiveness in return.  Just be sure to go into the conversation expecting nothing in return.  However, if you end the day on a note of forgiveness, then you will have gained more than you can imagine from working on Christmas.

Working on Christmas Forever

In summary, if you also happen to be working on Christmas, consider walking around the workplace to seek out others who are working.  There is nothing like a smile and face-to-face interaction to lift someone’s lonely spirit.  Furthermore, if you have it in your heart to give a small token of appreciation to those in the workplace for the holiday, it will probably be well-received.

While writing about the topic of Christmas is a challenge for me, I hope it always will be.  In other words, I don’t want to become complacent or comfortable with the subject.   I want to continue to feel a little discomfort, believing that nothing I can say will sufficiently sum up the topic of Christmas.  So, like you and your holiday employees, know I will also be working on Christmas. 

Blessings to you and your family this Christmas season!

Photo of a man working on Christmas with his computer and a gift sitting in front of him.

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