While many of us will be off on December 25th, some people will still have to clock in on Christmas day. Just because it’s a holiday or a day to relax for many, it doesn’t mean a halt to vital services provided by emergency workers, including law enforcement, fire fighters, emergency dispatchers, EMTs/paramedics and hospital staff (as well as some retailers, movie theatre employees, airport personnel, hotel staff and more).
Michele Johansen, in her Cozi.com article “50 Holiday Traditions,” makes this recommendation: “Deliver cookies and treats to your local fire station, police department, and even the staff at your local hospital. After all, they’ll be working through the holiday.” What a great idea!
To honor some of the criminal justice professionals that will be working Tuesday, I thought it would be neat to see if there are any traditions practiced by law enforcement officers on Christmas day or throughout the holiday season, as well as how some celebrate other holidays this time of year, like Chanukah and Kwanzaa.
- Apparently in Belgium, children are legally allowed to throw bananas at police cars on Christmas Eve; and in turn police officers are legally allowed to throw bananas at children on Christmas day!
- From 1984 to 1988 Officer Tony Lepore entertained drivers by dancing while directing traffic at an intersection in Providence, Rhode Island. After retiring, Officer Lepore was called back to resume his dancing duties. So from 1992 until present day, he brings Christmas spirit to the streets for 10 days during the holiday season. Here’s a clip of the famous dancing cop: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvdWZ6O4j0E
- Numerous police departments across the country continue the tradition of playing Santa. Just some examples include the Tarboro Police Department (North Carolina) offering the Shop With a Cop annual program to 10 youth who are selected based on those who would benefit from spending time with a law enforcement mentor; Yale, Oklahoma police officers and firefighters, accompanied by Santa, delivered gifts to 139 kids on Friday night as part of their yearly Cops for Tots program; and on December 15, the Chicago Police Department Memorial Foundation showed up at Macy’s in a motorcade to buy and then deliver gifts to 34 children of a “fallen or seriously injured police officer”.
- Police officer Michael Harrison is the author of the kids book Cop’s Night Before Christmas, which is based on his own experiences of working the Christmas eve shift for three decades. “For Harrison, who is single with no children, working Christmas Eve has become his holiday tradition-allowing fellow officers with young children to be home with their families,” wrote Renee Elder in an AmericanProfile article (December 14, 2011). Elder describes that checking his town’s (Conover, North Carolina) downtown to make sure businesses are locked up tight and to help retailers lock up safely, along with wrapping and delivering gifts to needy families as part of the Santa Cops charity he founded, are among Officer Harrison’s December 24th rituals.
- Police chaplains, officers and other service personnel came together in Port Hueneme, California’s City Hall on December 13th (the seventh night of Chanukah) for their second annual ecumenical holiday celebration. The event featured the lighting of a menorah and of a Christmas tree and performances by the Conejo Jewish Day School choir and Air National Guard Sergeant Daniel Plaster.
- There are nearly 20 Shomrim societies (fraternal/sororal and charitable organizations for people of the Jewish faith) across the country affiliated with police departments, fire departments, corrections departments, parole offices, U.S. Customs and other criminal justice organizations. The first was established in 1924 as part of the NYPD. Many of the Shomrim societies host events throughout the year including Chanukah parties or Menorah lighting ceremonies.
- In 2006, the African American Culture Alliance in Nashville, Tennessee hosted a Kwanzaa celebration. During the event, they paid tribute to Police Officer Danita Marsh and took up a collection for the wounded officer and her son. Officer Marsh had been shot in the back in the line of duty which resulted in becoming paralyzed. “Kwanzaa is a seven-day [December 26 – January 1] celebration of family, culture and community,” stated the NewsChannel5.com article “Community Honors Officer In Kwanzaa Celebration”. “…Observers light seven red, green and black candles in the kinara or candleholder each night of the 40-year-old observance”. This month, the African American Culture Alliance continues to host Kwanzaa and other events, including one called the “34th Tribute to Blacks in Battle in Nashville” which was held on December 15th.
Whether you are celebrating Christmas tomorrow or Kwanzaa the next, or whether you already celebrated Bodhi Day, Diwali, Birth of Baha’u’llah, Chanukkah, Ashura, Winter Solstice or Guru Nanak’s Birthday, CJSI wishes you a very happy holidays!