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Advice for Working Holidays | How to Handle Working on a Holiday

Updated on July 25, 2013

By Natasha Hoover


Working on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and other National Holidays

This year, you drew the short straw and you're stuck working a Major Holiday. Maybe it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, or some other holiday you'd rather spend anywhere but work. Whichever holiday you're working, you may feel angry, bitter, or jealous that you'll be showing up at the usual time while 'everyone else' has off.

If it's any consolation, you're in plentiful company. Each year, millions of people from gas station clerks to doctors have to work major holidays. I have personally worked every holiday at least once. Whether this is your first time working a holiday, or the 20th year in a row you've volunteered for the job, this advice can help you make the most of your holiday at work.


Have you ever worked a major holiday?

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Do I get Overtime on Federal/Bank Holidays?

I know lots of people who love volunteering to work holidays so they can either receive holiday pay or 'bank' the holiday as an extra vacation day. This holiday pay is usually the same as overtime pay, or 'time and a half.' This means if you normally make $10 an hour, holiday pay would be $15 an hour, or half of your normal rate on top of your regular hourly wage. For some, the chance to make a little extra money and avoid the chaos of home is the perfect reason to work holidays.

Sadly, you cannot assume your job will give you extra money for working a holiday, even a national holiday. The Fair Labor Standards Act governs wages, overtime, and other work practices in the United States, but it does not mandate additional pay on any holiday. Even most state and Federal employees don't have to receive additional pay for working holidays. If you want to work a holiday for some extra cash, make sure to check with your employer ahead of time to find out what, if any, additional compensation will be offered.

Does your workplace offer a holiday meal?
Does your workplace offer a holiday meal? | Source

Does Work Offer a Holiday Meal?

Many employers offer a free holiday meal to folks who have to work Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. Fourth of July picnics, or even Easter brunches might be offered by your place of work, too. If you're scheduled to work a holiday, ask your boss:

  • If there will be a holiday meal will be provided.
  • If there will be a during the work-day meal, find out whether it's potluck or provided by the business
  • If you can bring family members. Some employers allow you to bring guests to a work-sponsored meal. If this is the case, take advantage of the opportunity! You can transform a holiday at work into a chance to avoid cooking and dishes!

At my current workplace, Thanksgiving dinner is talked about all year. The manager's wife is a wonderful lady and a fantastic cook who really takes care of us!


This book isn't specifically about working on a holiday, but it does have all sorts of fantastic advice for dealing with potentially the awkward family and coworker situations that tend to happen at holiday gatherings

Make your own Holiday

One of my favorite ways to deal with working on a holiday is by celebrating on my own day. When I was in elementary school, my mother had to work Christmas. I created a sign and taped it in the window asking Santa to please come a day early so we could celebrate together. We had Christmas on Christmas Eve morning that year, and it was fantastic. I remember sitting in church on Christmas Eve feeling so special because I was wearing a brand new, Christmas present sweater while the rest of the kids were still eagerly waiting to unwrap their presents.

If you, or loved ones, work on the actual holiday, just find another time that week when you can be together and share a meal. The holiday police won't come arrest you - I'm sure of it.

Someone is really happy your store was open so they could last minute buy this champagne!
Someone is really happy your store was open so they could last minute buy this champagne! | Source

Keep Smiling

Working on holidays can be difficult. You might prefer to be at home and, if you have a customer service job, you may end up talking to a lot of very stressed out people. However, you may also end up really making someone's day by being the only place to get gas or the last spot that still has whipping cream. If you work in government or healthcare, try to remember that other folks are able to have a good time because of the safety and services you provide.

In my experience, a lot of people are actually very thankful for your presence at work, and many of them are quite sympathetic. If all else fails, you can at least enjoy hearing grandmotherly ladies doting over you for a minute.


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    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Hawaii

      All's well that ends well, right? That does sound like an amusing, if somewhat theoretically dangerous, evening. I might have lobbied for Tim Horton's, just because it might be one of my favorite places ever. I guess it isn't really Christmas Eve Dinner type material, though, but I still like it!

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 

      6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      I was working for a cable/phone company based in the US. We were the tech support/ customer service/ collections people on the phones in Ontario. They gave the staff in the US the holidays off but we were the ones answering all the calls instead. We did get paid double time and on Xmas Eve the company we worked for bought everyone Swiss Chalet. (A favourite Canadian chain restaurant).

      Anyway, as I was catching the bus to work I made a stop at the liquor store. I wanted to buy something for New Years Eve and my bus went right past the store and my shift started with enough time for me to make the stop off. While I was there I picked up a couple of sample sized bottles just for fun.

      At work I found a seat beside two of my work friends and get started. There weren't a lot of calls so we had a fairly easy night. (We were night shift). At work there we had a room full of vending machines. One of the best things was the hot chocolate. So, when my friend took her first break I asked her to bring me a hot chocolate. When she came back with one for herself too I cracked open the first sample sized bottle. (The other friend got a hot chocolate too). So we shared up the bottle that way. Then another of them the same way awhile later.

      It wasn't so much alcohol that we were anything but tipsy at best. It was knowing we were doing something bad and dangerous that would not be approved of. We were laughing about it all night. Quietly. It was silly, because if they had caught us we would have been in trouble. But, it really made working the holiday shift a lot more fun and the time went by very quickly with all the laughing and joking we were doing.

      It was the best Christmas working shift I ever had.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      I realized I will accidentally have New Year's off this year because it's one of my normal days off. It will be the first time I've had New Year's Eve off since I started working!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I worked for many (21 years) in a grocery store and worked almost every holiday. This will e my 2nd Christmas eve off in my adult life. I am very appreciative to all the great people I have waited on and who have crossed paths with during the Holidays. I hope I made their holidays nice too :) You wrote a great piece here!!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      It certainly helped that the weather was fantastic on Thanksgiving. I'm lucky enough to have off Cristmas and Christmas Eve this year - I can't wait!

      You're right - one must simply make the most of it. If you what to be miserable, you will be. But if you want to enjoy yourself, you can.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Natasha, I have worked a holiday or two, but always found it positive. You just have to make the most of it. Love your attitude on this and your advice!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      I actually really enjoyed working retail around Christmas and I agree - it can be a good way to get in the mood, when approached correctly.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • hisandhers profile image


      7 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      I usually work on Christmas Eve and I have to say- I love it! There's a lot of hustle and bustle, everyone is in a good mood and it makes the build up to when the store closes and I can go to my family's place for dinner even more special.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Holiday pay sure is nice - when you can get it! =)

      Thanks for stopping by, commenting, and voting.

    • Londonlady profile image

      Laura Writes 

      7 years ago

      This is a really good hub. The holiday-rate always helps when you have to think about working a holiday. It's always a drag but hey, somebody has to do it! Many thanks and voted up up up!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      It was so fantastic to return home from work to so many great comments. Thank you, everyone.

      That sounds like a great solution, Theresa. I'm sure your adult son's friends are jealous of your laid-back arrangements! Growing up, we would try to bring the grandparents together at our house to simplify things. Thank you for sharing my hub - I really appreciate it.

      Thank you, NornsMercy, I'll make the best of my day at work and a delicious meal with coworkers.

      Yep, you're right, peachpurple. Working on holidays is pretty mandatory for most service-oriented jobs. I can empathize!

    • peachpurple profile image


      7 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I worked on public holidays too but no overtime or double pay. Compulsory for sales and service line. Sigh!

    • NornsMercy profile image


      7 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      I know I'M grateful for employees working on holidays! I always joke around and invite them to escape with me in my car...

      Great hub and Happy Thanksgiving! :)

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great Hub Natasha. :) Working on Holidays is tough and sometimes my grown children have to. But years ago we faced a very different problem when my sons first got married -- suddenly there were two sets of in laws to celebrate the Holidays with!!

      I know lots of young couples try to celebrate with both families (if they both live locally) on the same day, whether it is Thanksgiving or Christmas. Personally, I think that is exhausting and crazy-making and absolute misery once you have small children.

      Early on, I made some suggestions, and we collaboratively worked out a schedule that makes us all pretty happy. First, I thought about what is most meaningful to me and that is Christmas Eve Dinner. It is a Polish Catholic tradition, the children watch for the first star, dinner, carols, and on Christmas Day after presents are opened, a simple brunch with plenty of leftovers for the rest of the day, in other words, no real cooking. :)

      So I asked for and claimed Christmas Eve and that meant all three of my sons and their families could spend Christmas Day with the other side of the family. Of course, it only made sense for me to be flexible about Thanksgiving. Mt sons go to their in laws on Thursday and then we all celebrate at my house the following Saturday. This has been working well for almost 15 years. :) Sharing. ~~Theresa

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Positively (pun intended) interesting and helpful to everyone for we never know what a day may bring! Without directly saying it, you point out that it's more important to have the spirit of a holiday in our hearts and minds every day than it is to have it on a single day. :)

      My favorite Thanksgiving quote is, "Thanksgiving is One Day, Thanks Living is all Year Long." :)

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      We don't really have enough staff at my current job to effectively rotate holidays, but I do incidentally get Monday holidays off because it's currently one of my normal days off, so that's something! I think you're right, cryptid, working holidays gives you an appreciation for those who have to work while others play.

      Randomcreative - having someone stop to take the time to thank you for working on a holiday can really improve your day! Unexpected kindness is always surprising and pleasant.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      You're right that many people are grateful for employees who do work major holidays. I know a number of doctors and nurses who frequently talk about how sweet their patients are to the staff on holidays. It is really tough to be away from family and friends on those days, but it helps to be in a nice work environment. Thanks for all of the great tips.

    • cryptid profile image

      Luther Urswick 

      7 years ago from USA

      For years I worked a job where I had to work major holidays. It rotated, so you didn't have to do every one, but it still wasn't fun when you were working Thanksgiving. I know how you feel Natasha. For the rest of my life I'll have an appreciation for the people who have to work when the rest of us are having a good time.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Well, I'm working tomorrow (Thanksgiving) with no extra pay! Lucky me. At least I'll get a tasty meal! =)

      It is nice to know I'm not the only one - thanks for stopping by, billybuc and Pavlo.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      I do not like if my shift is on holidays. The only good news is higher payments I have due to this work :) Great hub!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      For years I have worked the major holidays (when I wasn't a teacher) and I am so happy I work for myself now....although the double-time pay was nice. :) Happy Thanksgiving Natasha!


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