An open sign at a restaurant. More businesses are open on Christmas Day.
An open sign at a restaurant. More businesses are open on Christmas Day. - 
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If you're not working today, thank President Ulysses S. Grant. He made Christmas a federal holiday in 1870. He also thus made anyone working on Christmas an object of sympathy. I felt awful for the barista at Starbucks this morning, though he told me it's not so bad. He's getting time-and-a-half pay, and his shift ended at 11 a.m.

A few big food service chains are getting flack opening on Christmas, though. McDonald's had a memo leaking, pushing franchises to open today. The company has no policy for extra holiday pay. Most major retailers, including Walmart, are closed.

Of course some industries work every holiday: hospitals, police, and airlines. George Hobica at Airfare Watchdog says the flight crews he knows don't mind.

"They actually enjoy working on the holidays," he says. "Don't want to be with their families to begin with." And he says they love the double-time pay.

There are some very high-paid workers clocking hours today: in the NBA. Christmas basketball has become a huge tradition, with five games this holiday. In its ads ESPN called them "gifts for you and yours to open throughout the day, from the NBA's workshop."

Those games mean full-staffed ticketing, concessions and parking, requiring a lot of workers.

The holidays are full of special events, in general, with so many people off work. Tim Bomba is a marathon and triathalon race announcer and enthusiast. He was out at the crack of dawn testing a course for a marathon that runs tomorrow.

"Just to make sure all of our sign markers are in place, that there's no unusual debris on the course," says Bomba.

He's one example of working on Christmas as a gift of serves. Here's another:In New Hope, Pa., Crickett Lancaster answered a last-minute plea, to fill in on the graveyard shift at a hotel. With no plans to visit family, or traditions to fulfill, she immediately said yes.

"I knew that I was going to get some good stories out of it," she said. Plus, it makes her feel good to know she's helping.

She says upon coming into work, three hotel employees said to her, "Oh my gosh, you saved Christmas, thank you so much!"

You saved Christmas! Not something that journalists like me working today are likely to hear.

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Follow Eve Troeh at @evetroeh