This time of year is traditionally spent with family, friends and loved ones. But in some industries, staff are rostered on to work this festive period while the rest of us take a well-earned break. Zoe Hunter chats to the dedicated staff working this Christmas.
Renee van der Weijde has worked Christmas Day for the past four years.
But the manager of Wanderlust NZ on The Strand says she doesn't mind because she gets to bring people together and make sure no-one feels lonely at Christmas.
Originally from the Netherlands, van der Weijde moved to New Zealand four years ago.
"I'm used to a cold Christmas so a Christmas in summer doesn't feel like Christmas to me ... It takes away that homesickness.
"That's one of the reasons I don't mind it. Plus, we don't want anyone to feel lonely on Christmas."
For those spending Christmas away from home, it was difficult to know what to do or how to spend the festive day, she said.
Her job was to host the Christmas breakfast and international feast at the hostel and fun festive activities for the guests.
"We make sure everyone comes together. We just don't want people to feel homesick.
"When you create that fun environment and get people together they don't feel so lonely because we're all in it together.
"It brings different traditions into it."
This Christmas, she said, would be extra special for families knowing their loved ones were being cared for during the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.
Sarah Meadows, who co-owns Wanderlust NZ and Pacific Coast Lodge and Backpackers in the Mount, said a front-of-house team was rostered on for the morning and afternoon and there would be a couple of cleaners and a night warden.
Staff were tasked with their usual hostel duties as well as organising festive breakfasts and dinners and a secret Santa on Christmas Day, she said.
Meadows said it was important for hostels to stay open over the festive period as many people were travelling around the country at this time of year.
"This is our peak season."
This year the international market, which made up 75 per cent of the business, was not coming into the country any more, she said.
"We need to make every person coming through our doors count ... it is important to host both Kiwis and internationals that are still in the country and show them a great time on what can be a lonely day for some."
Meadows said they tried to make it fun for staff who were working over Christmas.
"Often they do not have their own family here in the country so the hostel and the guests become their family, and they get to eat a yummy dinner on shift.
"Some staff initially in the past have been sad not to spend Christmas with their families but come away after spending a hostel Christmas with new friends saying it was the best Christmas in their life."
Guests staying at both hostels will be treated to a Christmas feast on December 25.
Meadows said both hostels put on a Christmas breakfast and a secret Santa for between 30 and 50 guests.
"It's an opportunity to bring people together," she said. "To make a family home away from home and spread a little Christmas cheer."
The breakfast was followed by an international Christmas feast where everyone cooks something from their homeland to bring to the table.
"This gives them a chance to connect back home, remember loved ones and share stories of home with their new friends, and also showcase what is a traditional dish from their own home country. It is really an educational experience with lots of fun and laughter."
Meadows said normally guests at the Pacific Coast Lodge and Backpackers would go down to the beach and have a barbecue during the day.
"This is pretty novel as most guests are used to a white Christmas," she said.
St Peters in the City senior minister Simon McLeay has taken just one Christmas Day off in the 12 years he has been at the church.
McLeay said the number of staff working was reduced over Christmas time but the minister and music director usually worked on December 25.
Working on Christmas Day includes running a couple of church services, followed by a Christmas meal.
"It is a joyous day for us but sometimes busy fitting everything in with worship and family."
After the year it's been, St Peters in the City is excited to be able to host its annual free Christmas dinner this year.
St Peters offers a free dinner of ham and chicken to about 200 people every year - a tradition that has continued for 31 years.
"We welcome one and all to our Christmas meal," McLeay said.
"We love to lead people in worship and then to feed people on Christmas day. Often we feel the loneliest when everyone else is celebrating, that's why we like to include people in our celebration, after that we love to take a break."
A team of about 80 volunteers gather to help make the meal a success, which McLeay said was one of the "real perks" of working the festive season.
"The real perks are seeing people enjoying worship and the feast, it is often really busy but also a very special part of Christmas."
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said while many New Zealanders took a break over the holiday period, plenty of people worked to make Christmas and New Year enjoyable.
"Tourism operators and hospitality businesses in the Coastal Bay of Plenty play an important role in creating amazing memories to cherish and encourage holidaymakers to keep coming back to this much-loved holiday spot."
Dunne said the past 12 months had been one of the most challenging times for the region's tourism industry.
"We hope that the summer period will generate significant benefits for our economy and community."
Waipuna Hospice chief executive Richard Thurlow said his team had nearly a full roster on stat days over the Christmas period and full clinical services on non-stat days.
"We are a 24/7 365 [days a year] clinical service," he said.
"We continue to provide our community services (community nursing, social work, counselling, chaplaincy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy and our inpatient services.
"There is always an answer for our patients if they call Waipuna Hospice 24/7."
However, Thurlow said hospice shops will be closed to give staff and volunteers a well-earned rest after a stressful year and the Te Puna base would be running with a "trimmed-back" non-clinical team.
"Sadly, death and dying are no respecters of Christmas or any other public or religious holiday.
"It is important for our community to have access to as normal a service as is possible over the Christmas period."
But it was also important to be vigilant about staff and their wellbeing during the busy festive season, he said.
Thurlow said the upsides of working Christmas were the "lovely donations" of cakes and chocolates from families, but the downsides meant staff didn't get a break after what had been a stressful year post-Covid-19.
"I know that the Waipuna Hospice team find Christmas a difficult time of year due to the continued workload, but they also find it very rewarding and are motivated to serve our community at the most vulnerable time of their lives.
"We also thank our community for all their support, volunteering and donations, without which we would not be able to provide services over this period."
SPCA Bay of Plenty area manager Sue Kinsella said usually at least one staff member and a few volunteers were rostered on each day at the local shelters.
"Animals still need to be fed, medicated, socialised, they don't know what day it is."
The perks of working over Christmas, Kinsella said, were getting to spend quality time with the animals while the shelter was closed to the public.
Kinsella thanked the community for their support this year and said the team couldn't do the work they did without the support of their valued volunteers, foster families and contributors.
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said it had been a difficult year and some people would be wanting to head out to a cafe or restaurant.
"That's not possible unless there are great employees at work to deliver for customers."
Generally, those who worked on a public holiday would be entitled to be paid time and a half and receive a day in lieu, she said.
"Some people are happy to work on Christmas Day, while others prefer not to. Retailers will typically be working with their teams to give work to those who want it, and minimise the impacts on others."
Bay of Plenty District Health Board people and culture executive director Joseph Akari said between 620 and 650 staff were usually rostered on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day as well as 50 on-call staff.
Acting medical director Dr Joe Bourne said often during the Christmas period some planned medical care was reduced as patients weren't keen on having non-urgent surgeries during the holidays.
"This allows us to give some groups of staff a well-earned rest. This year, due to the increased workload caused by Covid, we are continuing with planned procedures throughout the summer. This will mean more staff having to work."
Bourne said the city's population swelled with holidaymakers, which increased the workload, particularly in emergency departments and accident healthcare during this time of year.
"Boxing Day is often one of the busiest days in the year.
"We will be putting on additional services over the Christmas period so that people can access the care they need. But we also need to be able to give our staff some down time as this year has been a challenging one and people need a break."
A police spokesman said there was no major reduction in staffing numbers over the festive season.
"With the extra people on the road and travelling over the holiday period, there are often a greater number of serious crashes to attend and it's important we're out there policing the roads to ensure the safety of everyone using them.
"This year people will be holidaying around New Zealand rather than overseas, which means there's the potential for there to be even more cars on the road."