millions of people spend at least part of the holiday at work — doctors, firefighters, police officers, reporters, waiters, cashiers, gas-station attendants, concession-stand operators, professional athletes.
The reasons people work on Thanksgiving are as varied as the jobs themselves: to make a little extra money, to satisfy the demands of an overbearing boss, to keep the community safe. For some, Thanksgiving duty is a hardship, or at least an inconvenience. At many workplaces, however, employees have forged holiday traditions out of a shared obligation, organizing office dinners and pie-making contests or inviting family members to visit.
“It doesn’t seem like I’m spending time away from my family,” said Olivia Marshall, a nurse who spent Thanksgiving working in the cancer unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It’s like I’m with another part of my family.”
Massachusetts General Hospital
On Thursday, staff members in the cancer unit at Mass General held a Thanksgiving potluck with green-bean casserole and pumpkin cake. Ms. Marshall, 24, brought pumpkin whoopie pies, a favorite of her colleagues.
She planned to celebrate a second Thanksgiving on Friday with her parents.
Fire Station 4
Dan Storley, 55, has spent about half a dozen Thanksgivings working in the firehouse, and he has missed eating with his family, especially as his parents have gotten older.
A few years ago, Mr. Storley brought his wife to the firehouse for Thanksgiving dinner. Then a report came through of a blaze at a nearby construction project. “The minute we sat down to dinner, there was a fire,” he said, “and all the family had to sit there by themselves.”
This year, Mr. Storley went to work alone. And it was a busy evening: A call came in at 4:45 p.m., just as the turkey was about to be carved.
In a decade at Old Navy, Kyle Albers has always worked on Thanksgiving, a crucial day for retailers preparing for the holiday shopping rush. These days, the closest he gets to his family’s gathering in St. Louis is a video call.
But Mr. Albers, 36, does his best to create holiday cheer at work. For the last two years, he has managed a store where employees compete in a pie-making contest and play board games in the break room.
“From a business standpoint, it’s about being there for the customers and maximizing those days,” Mr. Albers said. But the ultimate goal of the Thanksgiving festivities, he said, is to make employees “really feel like they’re a part of something bigger than just punching into work.”
Since 1966, the Dallas Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving almost every year (the holiday streak was broken twice in the 1970s), a tradition that continued with a disappointing 26-15 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills on Thursday. (“Cowboys Carved Up By Bills,” read the headline on the team’s website.)
It was a challenging day for the Dallas quarterback, Dak Prescott, who threw an interception and was sacked four times. But he and the rest of the Cowboys were not the only ones on call at AT&T Stadium on Thursday: Behind the scenes, thousands of game-day staff members worked throughout the holiday, running control booths and selling concessions, among other responsibilities. They also ate a Thanksgiving meal at the stadium, dining on turkey, ham, cornbread casserole and cranberry sauce.
Joseph Hernandez, a concessions supervisor at AT&T Stadium, has been spending Thanksgiving with the Cowboys since 2004, when he and his father started going to the annual game, munching on turkey sandwiches in the parking lot before kickoff.
Now, Mr. Hernandez, 39, helps oversee a team of concessions workers responsible for feeding tens of thousands of fans, some of whom prefer nachos or hamburgers to traditional Thanksgiving fare. Over the years, he said, he has learned that the holiday means different things to different people. “Not everyone enjoys it the same,” he said.
South Vineland, N.J.
Riggins Oil gas station
For Fred Miller, there’s no downside to working on Thanksgiving. His bosses buy the crew dinner (this year it was Domino’s Pizza) and he is paid time-and-a-half for the shift.
“I’m willing to sacrifice for that,” Mr. Miller said.
When he got off work on Thursday, Mr. Miller, 43, headed to his sister’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. He expected to arrive just as the family was sitting down to eat.
The Southern California News Group
Thanksgiving in the newsroom was a cheerful affair, with a dinner spread from the restaurant chain Marie Callender’s featuring turkey, mashed potatoes, cornbread and stuffing.
Joey Santos, a senior designer who spent Thanksgiving laying out the news group’s largest paper, The Orange County Register, said he had grown to enjoy spending the evening with “a lot of people you would never in a million years think you would have a holiday with.”
As for missing his family’s Thanksgiving gathering, Mr. Santos, 44, takes a philosophical approach.
“The cherished moments of my life have to be chosen by me — they can’t be chosen by the calendar,” he said. “I’ve always viewed the holidays as just another day, really. The important days are the days that I say are important.”