Twin joy as 'little fighters'light up Christmas festival
LITTLE Hussein and Hassan Benhaffaf -- aka the 'little fighters' -- were back in the spotlight yesterday to open the Cork Christmas Celebration festival on the Grand Parade.
Born conjoined on December 2 last year, and separated in April, they were accompanied by their proud parents Angie and Azzedine and older sisters Malika (6) and Iman (3).
And there was a warm welcome for the twins from the large crowd who braved the freezing conditions.
Mother Angie said that the twins had done amazingly well in a very short space of time.
"It's a miracle we have them with us. Last Christmas, as we faced into the birth, things looked so bleak," she said.
The twins underwent a gruelling16-hour operation to separate them at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in April.
At that stage, it was far from certain that they would even survive.
Now just eight months on the twins are fit and well and thriving since the separation.
"It was a million-to-one chance they'd survive. We are just so blessed to have all four kids with us for this Christmas," said Angie.
Earlier this month, the family received the Special Merit Award at the Maternity and Infant Awards in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel for the "courage and bravery" they displayed.
The family wished the crowd a Happy Christmas to cheers as they switched on the lights to officially declare the festival open. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the festival this year, recently named festival of the year at Chamber Ireland's Local Government Excellence Awards.
The focal point of the festival is the Bishop Lucey Park which has been transformed into a winter wonderland this year on a Rockin' Robin theme by events organiser Peter Kelly of Weddings by Franc.
The adjacent Grand Parade will be home to a Christmas market boasting more than 50 stalls with arts and crafts and artisan foods on offer, including roasted chestnuts.
New this year is the transformation of the old Beamish and Crawford Brewery building into a secret Santa village, complete with elves in the workshop and, of course, Santa himself.
The festival is organised by Cork City Council and supported by Bord Gais and runs every weekend until December 22. See www.christmasincork.ie for more details.