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From delivering babies to serving roast dinners for 40 people, we celebrate the women who make the big day special in so many different ways
Sarah-Louise Laing, 30, is a community midwife from Edinburgh
‘On 25 December last year I was on call for 24 hours – the highlight was delivering a baby boy at 11.45pm! The mum had gone into labour at 6pm and kept saying, “I knew it would be a Christmas baby!” in between contractions. She even dressed him in a tiny elf outfit and Christmas pudding hat to take him home.
‘There’s nothing quite like delivering a baby, then stepping out to carols and a hospital ward decked with tinsel. There’s usually only a small team on, and we’ll swap gifts in the morning before slipping on our festive clothes – silly jumpers, Santa hats, comedy socks, the lot – and heading out for home visits. Our outfits make all the new parents smile, despite the exhaustion from being up all night feeding a newborn.’
Gillian Brady, 68, is retired and lives in Felpham, Sussex
‘Every year I head out on Christmas Eve armed with a set of clues that I’ve written for my annual festive treasure hunt. I hide them around the local park and along the beach, and always try to make them as fun – and obscure – as possible.
‘Then, on Christmas morning, whatever the weather, all my family (who range in age from four months to 68 years) and our adorable Labradoodle set off on a treasure hunt, Champagne in hand. We follow the clues, which eventually lead us to a treat back at my home – usually festive foods hidden around the house, which are found by solving a final riddle.
‘My five-year-old grandson Jacob can now work out lots of them himself, which is just wonderful. It usually takes us about two hours from start to finish and it’s a lovely way for us all to get out in the sea air on Christmas morning. It’s a very special family tradition that we always do – and, hopefully, always will.’
Kelly Enisz, 30, is a mum of two from Billingham, Teeside
‘I’m an army wife with the army mentality of “we’re all in it together”. So I have an open-house policy at Christmas – luckily, my husband Liam is just as into it as I am! I invite my widowed neighbour (her family live in Australia) and any single mums I know from school who might be struggling. There were 15 of us last year and we had a real laugh – although we did have a bit of a gifting fiasco, with my sister-in-law receiving a nose trimmer and my husband a sheer nightie! We also ran out of space in the oven and ended up having to barbecue the turkey in the garden. It had an unusual, charred look. Fortunately, it was still tasty – that, or my guests were too polite to say anything!’
Caroline Billington, 55, is the founder of charity Community Christmas, and lives in Newbury, Berkshire
‘Last year, I spent Christmas overseeing a decoration-making competition – and boy, did it get fierce! It was part of the annual Christmas lunch I organise for older people in the local area. I’m in charge of the day’s entertainment, and I’ve already planned a few surprises to keep our guests on their toes this year – well, we can’t have them falling asleep in their turkey!
‘We’ve had some lovely stories along the way; people coming to our lunches and reconnecting after more than 20 years, or even getting out of the house for the first time in weeks. In fact, one of my best friends is someone I met when helping out at the lunch back in 2008. It’s such a great way to get people together.’
Joanna Flowers, 37, is a gas engineer from Manchester
‘I feel like the Christmas Fairy when I work on Christmas Day. Last year, I had to dash to a lady’s house because she had water pouring through the ceiling and had been forced to turn it off at the mains. She needed to cook for 26 people and had no water for central heating, cooking… anything. I managed to fix the boiler, and felt great that I’d pretty much saved her Christmas. She insisted I leave with a box of chocolates! As yet I’ve never been invited to stay for dinner, but I don’t mind – I’m always keen to get home to see my own family when the shift is over.’
Claire Woodman, 32, is a nurse from Ipswich, Suffolk
‘It’s slightly surreal seeing a normally serious consultant carrying out a medical examination wearing a Santa hat! But that’s just part of what we do to try to make things feel more festive for everyone. One year, I was working on a large orthopaedic ward and the patients had all been there a while. They’d got to know each other really well, so when their families flooded in on Christmas Day, you couldn’t tell who belonged to who! There were kids running around, shrieks of laughter, presents being ripped open… it felt like one gigantic family Christmas. One patient was even putting her “bed neighbour’s” hair in curlers!’
Georgina Bendall-Crawley, 25, is a waitress at a pub in Northamptonshire
‘Believe it or not, working on 25 December is a genuine pleasure for me – even though my feet are on fire by the end of the day after being on them constantly from 9am until 7pm! I feed off the atmosphere – it’s easy to be happy and smiley when all your customers are, too.
‘One year, a family brought in crackers, which had make-your-own hats inside. They’d very sweetly included one for each waitress, too. After we’d pulled the crackers with the family, they made our hats for us while we worked – which we wore for the rest of the shift. Another family didn’t manage to finish their Champagne, so they left the bottle for us to enjoy at the end of the day. It’s not work – it’s too much fun!’
Sue Holland, 60, from Nottingham, is a PA at Boots Head Office and lead volunteer for Macmillan Cancer Care
‘I visit people who are terminally ill throughout the year, but it’s my Christmas visits that are the most special.
‘A few weeks before the big day, I put out a call at work for any lovely toiletries and make-up, and I put together hampers of donated biscuits and Christmas crackers, which I deliver along with bunches of flowers. Last year, I went to a nursing home to see a 69-year-old lady with ovarian cancer who had no family. The look of amazement and happiness on her face as she opened her gifts made me well up. That alone made it worth the small sacrifice of my time.’
Lorna Nathan, 44, is a planning director from London
‘After talking with a friend about how much kids love tearing all the Christmas paper off their presents, I decided I’d take it one step further. So every Christmas Eve before we go to bed, my husband and I arrange all the gifts, turn on the tree lights (making sure to leave out Santa’s half-eaten cookies and milk) and paper up the entrance to the living room. It never ceases to amaze me how excited my kids get when they come downstairs on Christmas morning, holding hands as they burst through the paper “door” to see if Santa has been!’
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Interviews Lauren Libbert Illustration Michael Kirkham