Service 101: Restaurant Christmas

It’s just days before December 25th and I’m not even close to having my holiday shopping done. In all honesty, I haven’t really started. A stack of holiday cards lay on the dining room table awaiting a final stamp before I send them off. There are no presents under the tree. I don’t have a holiday menu picked out. Not one Christmas cookie has emerged from my oven.

My heart is full of cheer but I just can’t get myself to catch up to all the holiday festivity making. It’s not that I don’t believe in celebrating. I do. It’s just that I’m not like other people. I celebrate a different kind of holiday. I wait until January 25th for a little holiday I like to call Restaurant Christmas.

Restaurant Christmas happens on (or around) January 25th and looks a lot like your typical Christmas celebration. Restaurant Christmas is about celebrating love, joy and hope. But one big difference is there’s a lot less traffic. Also, airline tickets back home are less expensive, gifts are on sale, vacation is easier to come by, and my family and loved ones are less stressed because they don’t have four different parties to go to and numerous commitments to fulfill on the very same day.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I refer to Restaurant Christmas, it’s because Restaurant Christmas isn’t celebrated by many. As a matter of fact, Restaurant Christmas isn’t really known by many people at all because it’s something I invented several years back.

Restaurant Christmas came to be because I needed a way to get through the holidays with my job in the service industry intact. It’s a self-made holiday which gives me the ability to work every holiday season at my restaurant job with a smile on my face.

My first Restaurant Christmas began one January 25th almost a decade ago when I recognized that only a few restaurant employees can take a vacation during the holiday season. In the world of restaurants, most employees—especially the managers—are required to work through the holidays because Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are some of the busiest days of the year. So rather than leave a career I loved because of missing out on spending time with my distant family, I decided to create my own kind of celebration.

Thus, Restaurant Christmas was born.

Restaurant Christmas helps me maintain professionalism in the face of great holiday hardships and still have holiday cheer. To work a service job through the holidays—a time of year when most customers are incredibly stressed out, rude, and downright cranky—requires a special kind of fortitude. Because the truth of the matter is, you have to have a deep well of patience and kindness for the customers that walk through your doors during the holidays.

Holiday consumers are the very same people who will trample each other to get to the sale rack. They are the people you get trapped behind in the parking garage who can’t find their way despite all the signage posted everywhere. They are the same holiday people who decorate their cars with lights and reindeer antlers and drive with road rage.

The people who walk into my restaurant are the same people who think the lines at the store were put there just to piss them off. They are the very same people who wear Santa Claus hats through their meal, talk about holiday cheer, and then take pleasure in offering up their frustrations and anxiety to people like me and my staff, because we serve them. To be a humble restaurant worker, you are often perceived as a servant class and are therefore worthy of scorn, unbridled frustration, and something I like to refer to as “cathartic cruelty*.”

Ah, but then there’s Restaurant Christmas. That January 25th holiday goal post keeps my heart open, a smile on my face, and helps me maintain calm and patience. My one-month-late holiday keeps me from getting mean and angry about working during the holidays and helps bring me an unusual state of calm. Without those extra thirty days, I’d probably burst into tears whenever a mean, jingle-bell wearing customer barked at me. If I didn’t have Restaurant Christmas to look forward to after working Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Years, I’d probably be bitter and unhappy to refill your water glass for the umpteenth time.

So if you’re having a hard time getting into the spirit of the holidays, don’t fret. Everyone has their own timing for such things. Find your way into a spirit of giving in your own way with your own timing. And if you need your own kind of holiday to get you through this season, feel free to make one up. Who is to say you can’t celebrate love and joy on any other day of the year?

So if you see me slipping my Christmas cards in the mail tomorrow, try not to judge. Just know that I’m actually ahead of schedule. With Restaurant Christmas in more than a month, I’ve plenty of time to get into the spirit of things.

Merry Restaurant Christmas!

Merry Restaurant Christmas!

*Being mean for mean sake might feel good for the person unleashing their anger, but it certainly doesn’t feel good receiving it.

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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. December 23

    Since I just found out about restaurant Christmas, can I celebrate both holidays this year? 🙂 We are keeping things very low-key this year. We just want to relax and enjoy the season. Merry restaurant Christmas to you!

  2. December 23

    You may regret posting this if we all decide it’s a wonderful idea to push Christmas to January 25th.

    All the best in the New Year,


    • Food Woolf
      December 23

      Excellent point. But I wouldn’t mind a few more joiners on this thing. 🙂 Happy Holidays Joan!

  3. i love the idea of restaurant christmas. your post takes me back to the time when i worked retail, and after college i worked as an ecommerce manager for a handbag company. the holidays were always so busy and frantic. i wish i had created “retail christmas.”

    love this post brooke. happy holidays!

  4. I’ve been reading your blog since Gaby introduced us at BlogHer Food but somehow I’ve never caught your service 101 posts – these are awesome. Happy holidays!

  5. December 25

    merry Christmas! i totally agree with you. this Christmas is almost like a name sake one.everyone is so busy that they don’t even remember to enjoy. i hope i can enjoy restaurant Christmas too.

  6. […] one thing from winter to-do list, which is to get the hell out of dodge. It’s sort of like Restaurant Christmas, except we don’t run a restaurant. We just need a break from winter, from the stresses of the […]

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