Saturday 20 October 2018

The LIFE family album

Wesley Quirke and Rosanna Davison
Wesley Quirke and Rosanna Davison

It’s that time of year again when the great and the good line out for LIFE’s Christmas family album and tell us how they and their loved ones will be spending the festive season

Kathleen Watkins and Gay Byrne

Kathleen: We're spending Christmas with the family -- everyone is coming together for the day.

It's the children's day, there will be three little grandchildren in Dublin and one down the country.

Gift-wise, because of the downturn, I have been buying Irish-made things -- not only Christmas presents, but things for my apartment. There's no end of good Irish stuff available.

I'm even having hobby horses made in Leitrim for my grandchildren; they're handpainted with their names on them. I know everyone is entitled to buy what they want, but I think people should spare a thought for the potters and the weavers -- all those people who are working in a small area.

There's a debate on at the moment whether it will be the usual turkey and ham, or something else on the menu. There have been various suggestions. I may not be cooking for the first time ever this year. Suzy, my daughter, is a Ballymaloe cook. Gay even said: 'I love a good homemade shepherd's pie', so I found a recipe with a spicy parsnip mash for the top of it. We don't always have to have the turkey and ham. Also, my son-in-law loves my trifle. He has asked me to make that rather than the plum pudding. So there may be changes to the menu this year, just for the crack.

I was a huge fan of Christmas all of my life but then I went off it for a number of years. But now, with the grandchildren, I'm back into it hugely.

gay: I was always working at Christmas. On the Late Late Show and the radio programme we had special programmes coming up to Christmas. Christmas was always an additional burden. Now, with the grandchildren, it's wonderful to see the wonder in their little faces. When you see Cian putting his nose down to the plate and examining the last crumb that Santa left -- all of that is such fun.

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Adele King and daughters Chloe and Naomi Agnew

Adele: We'll all be home for Christmas, just about.

Chloe: I am over in the States doing promotions for Celtic Woman for our tour next year. And I am recording with an Italian tenor -- I have been asked to guest on his album.

Adele: I love Christmas.

Naomi: Christmas is a big deal in our house.

Adele: Mom is in charge of dinner, mainly, but I have to say they are both very good cooks. So, in fairness, it's a three-way effort. We share the jobs at the table. Cleaning up, maybe not that bit. Mother usually gets landed with that part.

We are very traditional in terms of food. We'll have turkey, ham, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes and parsnips.

Naomi: She is an amazing cook. She is amazing at cakes and sugar craft. She's pretty talented.

Adele: Cooking for your family is something people take for granted and it turns into a chore. It shouldn't.

We are scaling back this Christmas. We are not buying loads of extraneous stuff just for the sake of it. We said we'd get sense, and only buy things that we like.

Chloe: We keep our stockings until Stephen's Day, so we've something to look forward to.

Adele: As the girls have got older, the stockings have got considerably more expensive. My girls don't do cheap make-up; they only like Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and the likes.

What we have done for the past few years, which is always a great pleasure, is we have a select few people over on Christmas morning, including my sister-in-law Brenda, who I like, and my three beautiful nieces, one of whom is my godchild. The girls are brilliant, they do gorgeous canapes -- shrimp with dips. I've done some amazing shortbread, covered with Santas and Snowmen, on sticks -- so they are lollipop biscuits.

Cecelia and Bertie Ahern

CeCelia: Christmas Day will either be in my house or my sister's house, we haven't decided which one yet. We're fighting over who's going to cook. If we go to my sister's, then it's all the family and the Byrne's -- Nicky's family.

Bertie: We usually reverse it then, so whoever is on for Christmas Day is off Stephen's Day.

Last year, I did all the cleaning up. Rules are, everyone has to do a bit of work.

I always enjoy Christmas Day, we have good fun. I can enjoy this Christmas, particularly the run up to it. Every Christmas Eve, we go into town for a nice meal. We doddle around the place, Henry Street, Grafton Street. We get the celery on Moore Street.

CeCelia: It's really nice. Everyone is in such a happy mood.

Bertie: The grandchildren will be 20 months exactly at Christmas, so they'll notice everything -- the fun and the excitement.

CeCelia: They'll probably spend more time playing with the paper rather than the presents.

Bertie: Yeah, we had a great photograph taken a few weeks ago, where they had all the toys in front of them, including some lovely toys, and the two of them were in a cardboard box, that's all they were interested in.

It will be nice because right up to Christmas, I would have been very busy, working right up to the 23rd, sometimes the 24th, so this year it will be a bit quieter in the run up to it.

CeCelia: We do turkey, ham and spiced beef. Mam always did that when we were kids so we kind of carried it on . . . celery, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes and all the other trimmings.

Bertie: We like a traditional meal.

Lorraine Keane

We're heading away to France for Christmas, over to my partner Peter's parents in Monaco. We do that every second year. I'm from a big family, I'm one of seven and all of my siblings live in Dublin, within a few miles radius of each other. It's very important that I have a year-on, year-off arrangement. So we swap it around each year.

Two years ago, on Christmas morning, we had breakfast outside on the balcony. The weather is usually sunny, dry and mild. You wake up, grab your bowl of fruit and your cup of coffee, sit outside and look at the views of Monaco.

It's great being able to get outside with the children and not feel housebound, which we do, unfortunately, a lot of the time, in this country. It's nice to be able to go for a walk. There are no queues in the shops, no traffic. It's just a lot easier to get around. For me, it's a way of escaping the madness, really. Life is so busy when I'm here, once I go away I can turn off the phone, forget about everything and just spend time with Peter and the girls and his family.

Like any other traditional Christmas, we cook the big turkey and ham, do a bit of wine tasting and just hang out -- sitting around, letting the children play with their Santy presents. We go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which means the children go to bed late, so we're lucky that usually they don't wake until 8 or 9am. The Midnight Mass they do in France is amazing, they do the nativity, it's all in French. I have a tiny bit of French, Peter has a little bit more, but our daughter Emelia translates for us. She understands everything. It's really nicely done, all the local children perform it.

What's on my wish list? Normally, what I like is a break away somewhere. It's how I switch off and relax. I end up buying Peter something I can enjoy myself. The present that gives back, to me! The presents we give each other are between each other. I also get him a surprise for under the tree and he better get me one too!

Rosanna Davison

We go to Mauritius as a family every year. Sometimes, we go for Christmas Day, other times we go just after and always stay for the New Year. Last year we went for Christmas and we're going again this year. Wes will be joining us as well, so I am really looking forward to that.

It's nice to take the pressure off everybody, because sometimes Christmas can be a bit stressful -- you know, cooking for family, friends, relatives, trying to make it as memorable as possible. So it's nice to go somewhere where someone will do the cooking for you.

It's very westernised, the food is catered towards a western clientele, so it will be a traditional meal. I'm a vegetarian, so I'll probably have whatever vegetables are on offer. Last year, they had this amazing Lebanese mezze spread.

We'd be up early enough -- about 9am. Probably then go for a swim to wake us all up. Then we'd have a buffet breakfast. Weather-wise, it should be in the low 30s. We spend most of the day on the beach. I suppose the benefit is that you don't stuff your face over the Christmas because you'll be wearing a bikini. The day will be spent swimming, water-skiing, sunbathing and present-swapping.

We have all talked about presents among the family and we've decided to cut down a huge amount. Even Mum said she'd be giving us chickens for Third World families, but I wouldn't mind a new pair of sunglasses!

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Lisa Fitzpatrick

A typical Christmas day for us is getting up at 5am as I can't wait to see if Santa has arrived, so I wake up Sophie and Dalton and ask them to jump on Daddy so we can all go downstairs together. Paul and I have very fond memories of Christmas, as Paul proposed to me Christmas morning eight years ago.

We first check if Santa ate the cookies and drank his milk. We then take turns with presents: I can't bear to see kids grabbing toys, picking them up and flinging them back down, so we play with each toy as we open it.

The children are very lucky and Santa usually brings them one big toy and two small toys. The kids always buy me pyjamas, which I love as they buy them from their own money, and guess what they get their dad? Socks!

We normally have Paul's family over for breakfast and I get cooking: I always set the table for breakfast the night before and I cook the works. Paul's sister arrives with kidney and liver.

We swap roles and Paul becomes the chef for dinner. Our kids adore having their nana over, but not as much as me. I love having my mum anywhere near me, especially on such a special day. Mind you, Paul says I act spoiled when my mum is around, but my mum taught me how to love, as every day of my life mum has hugged me and told me she loves me and I do the same with Paul and our kids. Well, not always with Paul, we have our moments.

On Christmas Day, friends usually come and go, pop in and out for food and a drink. I love the feeling of eating all around me on Christmas Day and then having turkey sandwiches and a cup of tea in the evening. Love it!

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