Unwrapping colleagues’ Christmas traditions

For many of us, Christmas is all about eating too much turkey and Christmas pudding, singing Jingle Bells at some point during the festivities and pulling on a cracker or two, only to be disappointed with the ‘dad joke’ inside.

But for others, there won’t be a hint of a roast potato or mince pie as they have other Christmas traditions due to their heritage or culture. We’ve been speaking to a few colleagues who make up our diverse public service to find out what Christmas looks like for them. Here’s how Prison Governor, Susie Richardson, celebrates…

To each and every one of us, different celebrations and traditions make Christmas special.

To Susie, it wouldn’t be Christmas without her family, the church, the prison staff, and prisoners, “staff and the prisoners are a part of my Christmas, as well as my family and the church,” she said.

Susie’s Christmas consists of “lots of music, carol singing, concerts, and Anglican traditions.”

In the Anglican religion, Christmas celebrations will begin early in December (Advent), where Susie and her family will decorate St Marks Church with their church family. This includes a large nativity set, homemade Christingles, and worship music, “something that is really important for me when getting ready for Christmas,” Susie added.

On days leading up to the festive period, the church congregation will have an all-age nativity play, music concert, and a special service together to bring in Christmas Day, which brings a sense of community to Susie and her church family.

The lead-up to Christmas in the Prison is also something that Susie enjoys taking part in, with the staff all working together to make it “as positive for her staff, as it is for the prisoners,”

The staff at the Prison will go above and beyond to encompass the Christmas spirit as it can be a very difficult time for prisoners being away from their families at this time of the year.

“Prisoners will prepare videos of themselves telling a Christmas story with festive backgrounds to send to their children to play on Christmas Eve, and with fewer off-wing activities at this time, to give vocational staff and teachers some time with their families, prison officers plan lots of games and tournaments on the wings to mark the season. The women will create decorations to decorate their own unit and make it as festive as they can.

“A few days before Christmas we also do a special family visit, so prisoners’ families and children can come and visit, I will also bring my family along too. Then on Christmas Day, the prisoners will have a Christmas meal, which a number of them will help to cook.

“At La Moye, we are getting much better at recognising and celebrating diversity, one of the benefits of a really diverse staff group is that some celebrate Christmas on the 24th and some on the 25th and so we hope the staff who celebrate Christmas will have an opportunity to find a suitable time to spend off duty and with their families”.

On Christmas Day, since arriving in Jersey, Susie has alternated with Artur Soliwoda, Deputy Governor, to oversee the night/day shift swap at the prison. When asked how this makes her family feel, she replied: “I grew up in a service family and so have my children, so we are all used to someone serving over Christmas.

“I will sometimes bring my family with me too,” she added.

As seen in the picture, on Christmas 2021, Susie bought her family over to welcome the day staff and thank the night staff as they went off duty. Former Minister for Justice and Home Affairs, Deputy Gregory Guida also came along for the tour and bought gifts for all the staff.

Many people put their service before family at Christmas time, a sacrifice which their family also have to make. This is something done by all the prison staff, as do Emergency and Blue Light Services.

Susie added: “We often think of blue light service and hospital staff on duty at Christmas, but I hope Islanders will also think about prison service staff on duty and their families celebrating without them and that if their loved ones are in Prison, they know they are being well looked after over Christmas.”

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