For years, I worked either Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. I was emotionally plucked from the shared cheer, the debate at the dinner table to wander into a busy newsroom on the west side of Manhattan as the young pup on the TV totem poll.
A small group of us would produce all that incredible content we enjoy on Christmas morning. Did we have fun? We tried. Were we jovial? Yes, in an army sort of way. The truth is we felt outcast, estranged from a great machine of love, magic and mass consumerism. We covered for the latecomer whose child hadn't opened her last gift. We sent off the straggler who could make the last train early for the end of Christmas meal.
No matter how beautiful the turkey dinner at the studio, it did not compare with home or a true family experience. We would watch hundreds of hours of Christmas news feeds churn into the studio from the Vatican, King's College Chapel, the White House, Jerusalem yet there we sat in a metallic container and inexpensive office chairs running tape.
Consequently, I have been the guest at someone else's table. I have been the young twenty-something who received a special gift from a neighbor or even a doorman who shared my fate while others dashed for stockings or church or each other. I have enjoyed a Church service, half a Christmas lunch and left in time for the 3 pm shift. It is already strange to enjoy the holiday at someone else's home, it is worse to see their pity at your departure. It's nothing compared to being homeless or unwell or all those other horrible plights but it's still a hard experience.
In a city voted top of the list for its Christmas attractions, working the holidays in NYC felt like a heart-splitting experience. Always obsessed with the celebration and fanfare of the season, I was like a gambler who was shut out of Vegas. I remember walking past the magical windows of Tiffany's. I would stop and peer into a fairy world of snow and sparkly gems watching wide eyed children and their families in rapture as I proceeded on course to the bracing winds of the Hudson River, Hell's Kitchen and the darkness of the studio.
So today I encourage you to plan some extra love for the men and women you know will be working on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Surprise them with a treat or write them a lovely card to be opened on Christmas Eve. Let them know you're thinking of them. Some of the most memorable gifts during that TV Christmas period were as small as a holiday Starbucks and it was the surprise element that made the most impact.