By Elise Oras
For many people, the Christmas season truly is the most wonderful time of the year. From the twinkle of lights and sparkle of tinsel, to exchanging gifts and spending time with loved ones, it's easy to get caught up in the magic.
But, the magic of Christmas does not just happen on its own. Many hours of labor and hard work go in to creating the spirit of the season. Which workers are contributing the most and how much do they earn? PayScale.com has created a list of five jobs that make Christmas magical and what they pay.
1. Baker/Pastry Chef - $11.30 per hour
From Swiss-German stollen and Italian panettone, baked goods play a big role in the joy of the holidays. Cookies for Santa, anyone?
Bakers wake up early in the morning to prepare pastries, breads, cookies and cakes for busy partygoers and kids. Bakers are also responsible for creating new delicacies, mastering classic recipes, as well as handling a tight production schedule.
"My favorite thing about working as a pastry chef during the holidays is the camaraderie in the kitchen," says pastry chef, Erica McEliece of Seattle, Wash. "Everyone is working long hours, the stress is palpable, more business keeps coming in the door, the desserts have to be perfect, and you have to love it or you'll go insane."
2. Dancer - $15.50 per hour
When thinking of holiday dance performances, the Nutcracker Ballet and the Rockettes' Radio City Christmas Spectacular may come to mind for most people. But, from big city parades to small-town theater productions, there are many more opportunities to catch a dance performance during the holiday season. Dancers work long hours but for dedicated performers like Marissa Quimby of Seattle, Wash., it is all worth it. "Dancing can be a very difficult job sometimes. The act of being generous and giving something meaningful to your audience can be the saving grace," said Quimby.
3. Santa Claus - $12.00 per hour
Santa Claus's bowl-full-of-jelly belly is one of the most recognized symbols of the Christmas season. He brings joy to children and plenty of hope that they'll get everything on their wish list. Actors who play Santa must remain in character and "jolly" at all times, and be patient with upset or shy children and demanding parents. In addition, Santa is well trained on how to deal with difficult requests, making sure never to promise something to a child that cannot be delivered.
"Seeing the look in the children's eyes, the look of the wonder of Christmas, might be the greatest reward of being a Santa," says Dave Mickelson, VP & General Manager of Arthur & Associates Holiday Photography, which has been offering professional photos with Santa longer than any other company in the nation. Mickelson also added, "Many Santas are retirees and work as a Santa because they truly love children."
4. Package Delivery Driver - $14.00 per hour
Whether a gift comes from the local toy shop or the North Pole, chances are it has been handled a few times by package delivery person. Packages can be heavy and delivery drivers need to be able to lift, load and unload heavy objects. Drivers must have a clean driving record.
In addition, package delivery rates soar during the holiday season and hours may unconventional, but the extra deliveries are worth it to package delivery drivers like Mike Anderson of Detroit, Mich. "My package deliveries probably double in December, and I'm lifting more weight than normal, but it is fun knowing that you play a small role in the gift giving process," says Anderson.
5. Toy Store Manager - $18.00 per hour
As Santa can tell you, most children ask for toys when perched upon his lap. A toy store manager helps make it possible for the child to receive just what they want. Toy store managers lead a team of sales associates, pay attention to sales quotas and handle loss prevention issues. During the holiday season, stores are open longer and schedules (and customers) can be more demanding, but accommodating customers can also be rewarding.
"It's always nice to be able to help someone, whether it's staying open later for someone to finish up their shopping or to help someone get that hard to find toy," says Brandon Mambelli, a former toy store manager in Portland, ME.
Source: Salary data provided by PayScale.com. All salaries listed are median, hourly salaries for experience workers with 5-8 years of experience. Bonuses are not included.