AUBURN — This year, Tulio DeAlmeida, the franchise owner of Aroma Joe’s coffee on Center Street, gave his baristas a Christmas gift.

DeAlmeida, his wife and his daughter staffed the store, giving his employees a chance to be with their families.

“Me and my wife are alone here,” DeAlmeida said. “I’m from Brazil and she’s from Lithuania, so we don’t have family to visit. To us, we know how important it is to spend a holiday with family.”

The location opened in February 2017 and, last year, DeAlmeida did the same for his employees, sending them home and manning the store with his family.

“We offered to do it again to help the community, and so employees could take the time off,” he said.

Last year, a winter storm whipped through the state on Christmas morning, putting a bit of a damper on business, but this year, DeAlmeida said, it was consistently busy.

“A few employees came in to get coffee. They were really happy they had the day off,” he said.

DeAlmeida opened at 7 a.m. and the cafe remained open until 2 p.m. As he cleaned up counters and took out trash preparing to close up, he said he was heading home for a traditional Lithuanian 12-dish Christmas supper prepared by his wife, Aiva. Their 11-year-old daughter, Sarina, was excited to finally open her presents after a long day of helping her parents, he said.

Danielle Armstong Angell, a single mother from Lewiston, said she asked to pick up a Christmas shift at the L.L. Bean call center on Lisbon Street.

“I feel great about it,” she said. “We’re getting paid time and a half, and L.L. Bean is a great company to work for. I have no negative feelings about working on Christmas at all.”

Angell said she and her child opened presents in the morning before she went to work, and they would have dinner when she got home.


Gerry Burpee Jr., owner of Albert and Burpee Funeral and Cremation Services on Pine Street in Lewiston, said it seems like he’s worked every Christmas of his life.

Burpee has been living in the home where the funeral parlor is located since he was 11. He took over ownership from his father in the mid-1990s. Burpee said, as with any holiday or weekend, he has to be able to answer the phone at any minute.

“There are often deaths at nursing homes, or weather-related deaths, like people shoveling too hard,” he said. “Winter is always a busier time for us.”

And Christmas is no different.

“There’s absolutely no difference from a regular workday, except I can’t call the state or city offices for things,” Burpee said. “I can’t get paperwork signed, but I still have to go and bring the body back, or if it’s an embalming, do that.”

This year, like most, Burpee said he planned to go to his sister-in-law’s home for a Christmas dinner. Burpee and his wife usually bring two vehicles to family functions because he often has to return to the office, and he keeps his cellphone in his pocket.

And it could ring at any time.

“I have a glib saying I’ve been saying for years: ‘Death not only doesn’t take a holiday, it doesn’t even take a long lunch,’ ” he said.

Burpee said he does a lot of work with Jewish people, and for many people of different faiths; Christmas is just another day. He said he sees a slight uptick in deaths in nursing homes.

“It’s a stressful time of year for some folks, and people have a lot more control over when they pass than most people realize,” he said. “The holiday doldrums, or depression, nostalgia for years past could be enough for somebody to just sort of give up and pass away in their sleep at the nursing home.”

On the flip side, Burpee said, widespread excitement can also result in death.

“The first time the Red Sox won the World Series a few years back, a lot of people had been waiting,” he said. “It was mentioned in every eulogy for a month: ‘The Red Sox won, so I can finally go to heaven!’ ”

Burpee said that although he has worked many Christmases, he always feels for families who have to say goodbye during the holidays.

“It’s not your own personal family, but to see other families have to go through this – it’s not like a death in the middle of March,” he said. “There’s a marker on the calendar every year, so every time it gets near the Christmas season, it brings it back for them.”

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