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The meaning of seven Christmases


Working on Christmas Day at hospital provides insight into the complex reasons why patients are there

For Christmas, my auntie has always made an amazing dinner, full of crustacean goodies on the barbecue, roast pork crackling with a tympanic crunch, turkey with my favourite stuffing, a nostalgic smell percolating the air, and pavlova with sweet berries. The home always felt like Christmas — a beautiful tree lights up the corner with thoughtful gifts, a Swarovski cabinet glistens with crystal figurines, the swimming pool and trampoline in the backyard bring back memories of backyard cricket and childhood games with my siblings and cousins. For me, Christmas has always been about love, family and happy memories.

Over the past 7 years, the meaning of Christmas to me has been shaped by my working on Christmas Day. Don’t ask me how this consecutive rostering occurred — it’s not possible, I’ve been told by administration. One year, a radio station bestowed on me an award comprising a cruise and a hotel voucher for being the “most shafted at Christmas”. I have a feeling my auntie may not recognise me the next time we meet, but I am hopeful I will see her again one day.

The sad thing is that while Christmas may be a celebration for most, to a small cohort of vulnerable people, it emphasises life’s deficiencies. It is common during Christmas for older people to be “dumped” at a hospital…