Sunday 18 March 2018

The life family album - Al Porter, Elaine Crowley, Cassie Stokes and more share their festive memories

Comedian Al Porter with his dad, Mick
Comedian Al Porter with his dad, Mick
Stefanie Preissner pictured with her nana, Eileen
Daniel O’Donnell pictured with his wife, Majella. Photo: Kip Carroll
Elaine Crowley pictured with her mum, Mary V. Photo: Kip Carroll
Roz Purcell pictured with her dog, Wilko. Photo: Kip Carroll
Rosanna Davison pictured with her dogs, Ted (left) and Leo
Teodora Sutra (right), with her sister, Margarita (left), and her mum, Zane
Celia Holman-Lee pictured with her grandchildren, from left, Henry (eight), Ryan (five) and Tommy (two) and Erika (five). Photo: Kip Carroll

Every December, we ask some of our favourite people to share their festive memories and traditions. This year, comedian Al Porter, TV presenters Elaine Crowley and Cassie Stokes, and many, many more, tell Elle Gordon how they will spend the holidays and what it is that they love about this time of year.

Al Porter

Comedian, pictured with his dad, Mick

It's been an absolute whirlwind. It's been busy; it's been crazy; it's been exciting; and, definitely, you could actually make a motion picture out of this one year. There have been so many ups and downs.

In 2015, I had this mad year of work. And then, in January this year, I couldn't even get out of bed, I was so exhausted. I collapsed before I even got to the doctor, and he had to come to my house. I had a bad chest infection, almost pneumonia, and I was a week in bed without being able to get up.

I was after really destroying my body that year, and I was thinking, 'Do I really want to do all that again?' One of my friends had gone to Australia. So I was thinking, 'Will I go to Australia?' You know, thinking all the normal things a 23-year-old thinks about. When am I going to get a boyfriend? Should I grow a beard? Should I get a tan? Should I take some of the money I've made and just go and see the world? All these things came into my head. I was so bored by the seventh day of being in bed that I got up, against doctor's orders, and I went into town and started doing new material in the International Comedy Club about being sick, and then, from that moment on, I have not stopped; what an incredible year.

We love Christmas. As I say, I am camp as Christmas, and if we didn't have a fairy on top of the tree, I wouldn't mind climbing up on top of it myself, like. Everyone is always so busy at home that it's amazing to get that time where we can all be together. I love decorating the tree, and I want everyone to have a tree. My bedroom will have a small tree; the back sitting room will have a tree; the front sitting room will have a tree. I can't get enough of the twinkles.

I love the dark evenings, because we all sit in. Now, if we had to spend longer than two days together, there'd probably be holy murder. But because I'm in panto every day, apart from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we know we have that limited time to have fun and play games. We play this game, 30 seconds, which is an Irish board game, but I make them play it because I'm actually one of the actors mentioned in it.

Then we'll play charades and we'll sing songs. I am spiritual, even though I'm not really religious, and, for me, gratitude is a big thing . . . it's kind of like karma. When good things come to you, you gotta give it. When I got the Ifta, I made sure my next night in Vicar Street went to Pieta House.

Christmas will just be my mam, my dad, me, my brother and sister. It'll be Dad cooking. Mam would be terrible - she uses the fire alarm as a timer, so there would be no point there. Unless the twinkling lights you see coming from my house are the blue lights of an ambulance as we're all taken away with food poisoning, there will be no dinner from Mam.

I'm very lazy at Christmas. You wouldn't get me to do anything, apart from have some wine and enjoy my dad's gorgeous cooking. I'd barely get out of pyjamas. I wear the old-school silky pyjamas with a little nightcap with a bobble on the end. It's nice, and we watch something like The Muppets and Mrs Brown's Boys, and we'll all love that.

But for me, Christmas is when my whole family come to the Olympia to see the panto. To see them all enjoying themselves up in the box and smiling and laughing . . . After the show we'll have a dinner, and they'll tell me what they did and didn't like.

That is special.

Stefanie Preissner

Playwright and screenwriter, pictured with her nana, Eileen

Stefanie Preissner pictured with her nana, Eileen

It has been a crazy year. At the start of the year, I had absolutely no idea whether [the TV drama] Can’t Cope Won’t Cope would or wouldn’t be happening. There were four of the episodes written, and then, in January, we got the green light, and two more had to be written. We started shooting in March, and then the show aired in September, and I’ve been in every publication and television and radio show. The response to the show has been great . . . you know, because you’re really nervous and you’ve seen it, and you’re waiting to present it to the world, like the start of The Lion King.

The Monday night it went out, I turned off my phone. I woke up the next morning and Twitter had gone crazy. I didn’t know if they liked it or hated it still. In the midst of it all, my feature film got commissioned by the Irish Film Board.

The things that remain constant for me have been really important, like visiting my grandmother, being in my house with my housemates, and keeping as much of normality as possible.

Now, I need to keep working. I don’t want 2016 to be the best year when it’s 2020. I have to keep going.

Home for Christmas has always been my grandmother’s house in Castleknock. That’s always been where I spent my Christmas with my mam, Bernie; my grandfather, Sean; and my nana, Eileen. My grandfather Sean died on Christmas Eve 2011, so it’s kind of a fraught time. I love Christmas, and my mum gets really into it, and Santa is still a thing.

On Christmas morning, I’ll get up with my mam. Depending on how my nana is feeling — she’s 89 now — she will get up, and we all exchange presents. Then we’ll have breakfast. I don’t eat sugar, so I don’t do the whole chocolate thing. I don’t even see that any more, but Christmas is still about real food time for me. Turkey is my favourite meat, so I have been known to go into a food coma after the amount of turkey I have. It’s definitely an indulgent time, in terms of portion size rather than content. My nana is still very much of the prawn cocktail era; she still thinks that’s the utmost in opulence, so we’ll have that, and then the turkey will be cooked. It’s probably a turkey that’s meant for six people, but there’s only three of us. Then it will go into turkey vol-au-vents and turkey sandwiches.

This year, I am going to visit some friends in the States in the week after Christmas. My grandfather was buried on St Stephen’s Day, and we used to have a Mass around then to remember him, but my nana decided this year that we would push it out until January, so I’m going to take a holiday for the first time in a while.

I love Christmas, but I do struggle with everything being closed and not have anything to do. I want to be working. I want to be sending out emails and getting my deadlines in. We have a new baby in the family this year, so that brings the magic back a bit, and there is a resurgence in all that Christmas was and can be.

Rosanna Davison

Author, blogger and model, pictured with  her dogs, Ted (left) and Leo

Rosanna Davison pictured with her dogs, Ted (left) and Leo

It’s only when you stop and take a breath and think back on the year, that you realise how busy it’s been. I released another book this year. I’ve been touring the country doing my workshop. I’ve done a lot of events, and cookery demos. I’ve had a lot of support, and I would say the book launch, back in September, was the highlight of the year.

Christmas will be a time that I can relax. Definitely. My God, I’m counting down the days until I can switch my head off for a bit. I love Christmas. It’s a time really for everyone to relax, and not have to send emails and be at your computer all the time. You know it is silly season, so you can just have bit more fun.

I enjoy all the food; all the nice drinks; all the nice desserts. I’ll probably make some of my own recipes as well — chocolate cheesecake or the banoffi pie, to bring on Christmas Day. I’ll still probably go for a walk, get out after the meal and have a bit of fresh air.

The best thing about Christmas, for me, is the atmosphere and sense of fun and relaxation, and the laugh that you have with your family. I’m very lucky — my family and I are all very close. We’re all going over to relatives this year, so I just think it’s that feeling of being together at the table and being able to enjoy each others’ company.

I love to give presents, but I get kind of embarrassed to be given presents, because I have so much in my life. I never know what to ask for, so I’m a disaster to buy for. I prefer experiences over material things, so I’d much rather organise a week away for me and [my husband] Wes, rather than give him a gadget. Every year we try and book each other flights to go on a city break, rather than give each other things. We definitely like that side of it.

My ultimate Christmas memory was a Fisher-Price kitchen that Santa got me. I was obsessed with it, and it probably sparked my interest in cooking from a young age. I have so many happy memories over the years. They all involve the family being together, grandparents who have moved on, and other relatives who have moved on, so my favourite memories are from when we were all together and everyone was alive and healthy.

Roz Purcell

Author, blogger and model, pictured with her dog, Wilko

Roz Purcell pictured with her dog, Wilko. Photo: Kip Carroll

It’s been a memorable year. It was probably the most up-and-down year, but also the most fun, which I know might sound strange. My sister Rachel’s diagnosis with cancer at the start of the year really shocked our whole family. But it’s kind of come full circle, in that it’s the new normal, and she’s inspired our whole family. I suppose it puts everything into perspective. I am definitely not as stressed a person as I used to be. I’m really enjoying each moment, and I take the majority of opportunities that come to me.

The family has become a lot closer, and now Rachel is on the road to recovery, and things are getting so much better. We got Wilko this year as well. I don’t remember what my life was like before him. He is so good; he has just slotted into the family.

Rachel and I are going to Asia this year for Christmas. We are going to Hong Kong, Thailand and somewhere else; we haven’t fully decided. It will be a nice long holiday. We go away every Christmas; it is our thing. We had said this year we would stay in Ireland, but then as the months went on, we just thought, ‘Well, you only live once’. We’re leaving two weeks before Christmas, and we’re back New Year’s. We’re so used to going away at Christmas time. I remember there was another Christmas Day that we ended up having dinner with a random Italian family. It’s our normal.

I will definitely indulge when we’re away. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Stephen’s Day, I will eat whatever I want. Like you would at home. I think it’s in our mentality. We are trained to think, ‘I will eat everything at Christmas’. Barry’s teabags come with me everywhere, and a selection box. But I will still continue to train. I get quite antsy when I don’t train. I have already looked up places I can train in Hong Kong. There’s a really amazing place — we went there last year — that has Muay Thai boxing, so I will just train as normal.

You have so many Christmases in your life, so I like to do something a bit different. I’m sure once I settle down and have a family, I’ll be at home for most Christmases. It’s just nice when I’m young to go off and experience different things, and how people celebrate Christmas, and its different meals, all over the world.

Elaine Crowley

TV presenter, pictured with her mum, Mary V

Elaine Crowley pictured with her mum, Mary V. Photo: Kip Carroll

2016 has been the craziest year that I have encountered in my adult life. I think I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to just sit down and chill out, and now it’s nearly Christmas. My mission is to take the positive out of everything and flip anything negative on its head.

Celebrity Operation Transformation was good to do, but it was only a month. You’re not going to change your habits of a lifetime in a month. I’m pretty much where I was when I left it. It was great to learn to cook and get a routine into my life. I’m going to keeping challenging myself — no pain, no gain with Elaine . . .

A big pitfall of this year was that I have a back problem that I didn’t know about properly. 2017 is the year I turn 40, so it’s a big year ahead. I am going to try and get into a bikini without my thighs chafing. Despite my back, I’m going to do it.

I get more and more excited about Christmas every year. I have an annual Brussels sprouts war with my brother John. Mam used to always make the Christmas dinner, but she’s more of the supervisory element of it now. My brother Liam’s a chef, so he does the heavy turkey kind of work. I will be the slave of Christmas, with John pretending to help, but getting in the way and trying to make me cry over sprouts.

There will be 15 with us this Christmas — some of the brothers, some of the sisters, my nieces and nephews, in Mary V’s house. There are so many of us that we are beyond presents at this stage. We kind of do a Kris Kringle; I think presents are really more for the kids. You know what I really like? It’ll sound boring and old-fashioned, but cuddly pyjamas. It’s not very sexy and glamorous, but, out of a TV studio, my life isn’t.

At Christmas, I watch crap on television, and play Trivial Pursuit and enjoy all the nice things that happen. The family drive me absolutely bonkers, but I wouldn’t be without them. There will be war, but every family has war at Christmas. It’s lovely for a while, and then every family nips and snipes at each other; that’s what it’s all about. But god, I adore my family and friends. It’s such a fantastic time of year to be around them all. I love Christmas — apart from the Brussels sprouts wars.

Teodora Sutra

Model (right), with her sister, Margarita (left), and her mum, Zane

Teodora Sutra (right), with her sister, Margarita (left), and her mum, Zane

2016 was an amazing year for me. I took as many weekends away from work as I could: Iceland, Tenerife, Prague and California. So many little holidays. I really feel fulfilled this year. I tried to think of myself and what I actually wanted to do, and just did it. I’m focusing on spending money on experiences rather than material things.

I love Christmas. I think it’s the one time of year where you just spend it with your family and the people really close to you; the people that mean the most to you.

I don’t enjoy the extreme build-up to Christmas, the commercial side of it. That side of Christmas bothers me a little bit. In my family, we never really worry about presents — we get each other little things. But a card that someone’s made for me — I remember those things for life.

So, in our family, we just get together and spend our time together. Myself and my brother live in Dublin, and my Mum and my sister live in Wexford, so we don’t see each other that often. Christmas is our time together. We make a nice dinner — well, actually, we just have food all day long . . . all week long. And have that time together — whether we’re watching movies, or doing some art together, or

just doing absolutely nothing. It’s so homely.

One of my favourite things about Christmas is when it’s cold outside and we are all cosy inside, and not having to go to work. We spend most of the day in our pyjamas, but then, for Christmas dinner, we would get a little bit dressed up, and have loads of dishes.

In Latvia, where I’m from, we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, so on the 24th, in the evening, that’s when we have the Christmas dinner. It’s not much different, but we do have a tradition. When we were younger, on Christmas Eve, we’d have our gifts under the tree, and then we’d each have to sing a Christmas song to get our presents. So we’d have to sing a song and then we’d get our gift, and we still do. Christmas Day for us, it’s just lounging, relaxing, eating and more eating.

Alison Canavan

Author and wellness guru, pictured with and her son, James (six)

Alison Canavan pictured with and her son, James (six)

It’s been a huge year, both personally and professionally. 2016 is the year it all came together for me. I’m really loving what I do, and absolutely passionate about what I do for a living. It’s just incredible.

My book came out this year, which is amazing. I’m still studying nutrition, but so many crazy things have happened to me along the way, and from a wellness perspective, I really feel I have hit another level. It’s the year that I’ve come out and said I’m sober in LIFE magazine, so it’s been a crazy, emotional year; a great year for personal growth. Really, for me, this year proved that anything is possible. I really feel I have set the groundwork for 2017 to be awesome.

After my LIFE article about my sobriety came out in August, it was a very emotional few weeks. I really tried to answer people’s emails and letters, and I was really humbled by the stories that I was reading. I actually didn’t realise the extent of the drink problem and the pain and suffering that is happening in our country. There is light and life at the end of the tunnel, and writing the piece was a huge turning point for me. I’m delighted I did it, and I feel like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

It’s been a great year — my sister just had a baby; a little boy. Everyone in my family is doing really well at the moment. We lost my grandfather recently, which was very sad; he’d been sick for a while. But I’m very lucky — we’ve had our ups and downs, like all families, but at the moment everyone is healthy and happy and doing really well. I’m just looking forward to Christmas spent with my family. For me the simple things give me the most pleasure, they really do — sitting down watching tv, spending quality time with my son, James.

Santa is bringing everything to do with soccer. James is six, so he’s the perfect age for Christmas. I’m just excited to spend time with him, and going to see Santa and just having fun. I’m looking forward to sitting by the fire. I love winter. I absolutely love it, playing board games, reading books — they are the kinds of things that make me tick these days.

We’ll all chip in for the cooking on Christmas Day. Kate, my younger sister is a great cook, so we will share it. Really, for me, when it comes to enjoying Christmas, it’s about not throwing caution to the wind and throwing all my good habits out the window. It’s about good lifestyle habits and changes. You can get away with relaxing a little bit at Christmas if you’re still keeping your wellness on track, and your lifestyle habits on track.

I look forward to the Christmas dinner and the dessert, and sitting on the couch and snuggling up. But I’ll make sure to get up and I’ll get out for a walk. I want to be mindful about recharging for the New Year, and hit the ground running for 2017.

Aisling O’Loughlin

TV presenter and blogger, pictured with her husband, Nic, and their sons Louis (three), Joseph (seven months) and Patrick (five)

Aisling O'Loughlin pictured with Nick MacInnes, and their sons Louis (three), Joseph (seven months) and Patrick (five)

It’s been a pretty incredible year. I was pregnant for most of it, and then baby Joseph turned up on May 10, and he’s just been an incredible baby. I got pregnant after Nic had been through the chemo, having survived cancer. He wasn’t even supposed to be able to make babies.

When they made the changes on Xpose, I had my kids around me and my little baby, and I was able to look after them, and they’re healthy, so you count your blessings. You just go, ‘Well, you know, life goes on, everything’s cool . . .’ I spent nearly ten years on the show but, at the same time, I was more than ready for a change. I wanted to get stuck into something with a little more depth, and ultimately I’ve done that myself with my new website.

Over Christmas, I’m not going to be doing anything but kicking back with my family and enjoying. I usually go home to Shannon in Co Clare to my parents, but this year I’m thinking I might be a grown-up. I haven’t quite grown up yet, even though I’m 38. I might leave my parents alone and do Christmas at home in Bray. It’ll be just myself, Nic and the three boys, and then we’ll go visit my parents the next day.

One thing I don’t like about Christmas Day is my poor Mum gets lumped with doing all the work. I try and help, but I’m not much use in the kitchen, and she likes to do it herself. I hate that feeling of one person doing all this work on a day that should be a holiday. I like the idea of not too many people around, or at least ‘all hands on deck’.

For me, I love the run-up to Christmas. For the month of December, I’m in the Christmas mood. It’s all very exciting, especially for the boys. Why not make the magic and indulge them, and see them scream and squeal? It’s a lovely time. When you’re a kid, you properly believe in magic, and then we grow up and we get a bit too cynical, but there’s something to it; there’s something so lovely in believing in magic.

I remember looking out the window waiting for Santy Claus, and it was the best feeling in the world. I definitely want to impart that and share that with my own kids, and create the magic moments for their Christmas.

Yomiko Chen-Conway

Restaurateur and model, pictured with her husband, Iain Conway, and their daughter, Lili-Sue (eight months)

Yomiko Chen-Conway pictured with her husband, Iain Conway, and their daughter, Lili-Sue (eight months). Photo: Kip Carroll

So many good things have happened to me this year. We had baby Lili-Sue in April, and our new restaurant opened around the same time. My two babies were born this year; a very happy time.

We’re also just finishing our new house; we’re getting that ready just in time for Christmas. It’s an old Edwardian house that we have completely renovated. It’s the first Christmas with a baby, so it’s all changed now; it’s a different celebration. Christmas this year is all about Lili-Sue, and whatever family members can come to the house and celebrate with us.

We will be both bringing back the Christmases from our youths, with Santa Claus and Christmas trees, and kicking off traditions that have been staying silent for the last few years. We have all our restaurants, so Christmas is usually a very hectic time. It just never stops; all of them are extremely busy. It’s just been work, work, work. The last few years, we just needed that time, the two days of Christmas, to spend time together. This year is definitely a family event.

We’re planning a big Christmas dinner, roast pork and roast turkey. Iain will be in the kitchen and cook for the family and then we have the place decked out with as many Christmas decorations as we can do, and we will get ready for Santa. We don’t have a Santa in China and Japan.

I am never organised for Christmas. It is always last-minute, as we are always so busy.

It’s going to be a big change for me as well because I’m an only child, so to have all the family around is just totally different. That’s going to be my Christmas present: to open the doors and see everything there and ready for us. We are looking forward to enjoying it night and day in the days after Christmas.

Daniel O’Donnell

Singer, pictured with his wife, Majella

Daniel O’Donnell pictured with his wife, Majella. Photo: Kip Carroll

Daniel: Up until this year, Christmas has always been the same for me. Since Majella and I got married, my Christmas has been her Christmas, always in Donegal. We’re very lucky. The only year I wasn’t in Donegal was the year of the bad snow; I couldn’t get home on the roads. But this year is going to be very different, because we’ve decided to go to Tenerife for the first time ever.

So Siobhan and Gavin, her husband; and Olivia, our wee granddaughter, and Michael and his girlfriend, we’re all going to Tenerife. Siobhan is our daughter and Michael’s our son — well, they are my stepdaughter and stepson, but I forget about the ‘step’ bit. They are our daughter and our son. We just want to experience going away for Christmas before Olivia gets to the stage of Santa and all that, and it’s easy to go this year.

It’ll be warm there, so I’m not sure how the turkey will taste in the sun. Majella does all the cooking. We will decorate the house a little bit, I imagine. I’ve never been away for Christmas. I tend to think you need to be in the snow, or the cold and the bad weather, so you have that warm feeling, and the decorations look better. But maybe if we decorate the house in a warm climate too it would be the same thing. But I don’t know. Majella’s shaking her head at me from the kitchen, saying it won’t be the same thing. Oliva’s only just a year, since August. It’s great altogether.

It’s so hard to talk about traditions in Tenerife, but in Ireland we always went to Mass on Christmas Eve, and I would sing with the choir, and then I would go to my sister’s house. She always made soup, and we would have that after Mass. This year, obviously, it’s different, but no doubt I will go to the Mass in Tenerife. They do a lovely service there; I have gone at Easter. Even though I don’t understand the language, the atmosphere, and the way they portray everything is beautiful.

Majella: We’re spending Christmas in Tenerife this year. We’re doing it just to do it. I’ve done it before, Daniel hasn’t. And it’s not the same, I have to say. We’ll do it this year, but I’m looking forward to being home for next year. It’s just something different, I suppose; just to experience it. My mum will be out there as well for a wee while. It’s kind of more for that, really. And the kids are looking forward to it, more than anything, really.

I do all the cooking. Most of the year I don’t cook at all because Daniel is away a lot. I just cook for myself, so it doesn’t bother me what I eat. But what I find is, getting the timing of everything right can be a little bit stressful. But it’ll be grand, I’ll enjoy it. We have the dinner about three o’clock.

The last few years we’ve started to open the presents the night before, on Christmas Eve, after midnight. That’s just because of my two, ‘C’mon, c’mon, let’s open the presents now’. We opened one, that’s where it started, and I think last year we opened them all the night before. And then they could sleep on the next day.

Siobhan will be 29 in December; Michael’s 26. It’s not like they’re kids.

Aoibhin Garrihy

Actress, pictured with her husband, John, and their dogs, Rubie (wearing antlers) and Reggie

Aoibhin Garrihy pictured with her husband, John, and their dogs, Rubie (wearing antlers) and Reggie. Photo: Kip Carroll

What a wonderful year 2016 turned out to be. Two career highlights — playing the famous Sorcha in Ross O’Carroll-Kelly’s Breaking Dad at the Gaiety Theatre and UCH; and playing Gwendolen Fairfax in the Gate Theatre’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest in Charleston, South Carolina.

But, of course, tying the knot in September trumped the lot. John, my family and I had a magical day in Doolin and Spanish Point, Co Clare, with our extended family and friends and, it sounds cliched, but it was the best day of my life! The day itself went in the blink of an eye, but I also loved every minute of the planning and lead-up. John and I had an extremely hands-on approach to the wedding. We had a very clear idea of how we wanted the day to play out, and for us, it was as much about the people and the place as it was about us. We spent our honeymoon in Myanmar, which was amazing, and the perfect end to a hectic few months!

Christmas, for me, is all about quality family time. We spend it in Doolin every year, and love every minute of it. The lead-up is always a hectic time, so getting to relax, cosy up in front of the fire and catch up in the peaceful surrounds of the countryside is perfection.

It’s my first Christmas as a ‘Mrs’, and so John and I will divide our time between the two families. They are both in Clare, so logistically it will be fine, although we may eat twice, because both moms put on an incredible spread, so it’s hard to say no to either

John has three nieces — Amelia, Zoe and Ava — and one nephew — Callum — and they really make Christmas extra-special every year. We will also have Christmas Mass in Doolin church, the church we got married in, so I am looking forward to reliving all the happy memories of the last few months.

Celia Holman-Lee

Businesswoman and model, pictured with her grandchildren, from left, Henry (eight), Ryan (five) and Tommy (two) and Erika (five)

Celia Holman-Lee pictured with her grandchildren, from left, Henry (eight), Ryan (five) and Tommy (two) and Erika (five). Photo: Kip Carroll

2016 has been one of the better years. It has been a good year in the sense that business has been very good. My health wasn’t great, but I got over it, and I’m in great spirits now. I spent three weeks at home in my house, which is kind of unheard of for me.

I’m a Christmas nut, a complete Christmas nut. When I was a child, I used to adore it, and I love it more so now than ever with the four grandchildren. We start with Henry, beautiful Henry, my little villain; Ryan, he’s a dote; Erica our princess, and our dote, Tommy.

Hopefully, for Christmas, the family will all be with me. Since I can remember, growing up as child, my mother was always with me. Since I had my children, they have been with me. I never went away, I never wanted to. Then the husbands came along, and then the four grandchildren. I would never leave my home at Christmas.

It’ll be the six adults and the four grandchildren. St Stephen’s Day, we’ll probably go racing and meet friends. We meet friends on Christmas Eve as well, but Christmas Day we keep just for us.

It’s not that I’m going to eat lots of everything, it’s that I’m going to eat bits of everything. I’ll eat a few potatoes, I’ll eat the turkey, the ham. I’ll have desserts and chocolates. I’m not going to say, ‘You can’t have that’.

I never ever, ever sit around my house in my pyjamas. I might get up for a few moments and get myself together, and it’s straight into the glad rags. We will all dress up, everybody is in their best.

On Christmas Day, my husband Ger and I will have a glass of something nice, and then will start getting the dinner ready. We just potter around and listen to the radio, and wait for them all to come.

When I get up that morning, my husband and I will exchange presents under the tree, just the two of us. Santy. I’m a bit old for Santy, but anyway, feck it. I don’t open any presents until Christmas morning. I love to look at them when they’re under the tree . . . the child in me, I suppose. I love it.

Lauren Bejaoui

Social influencer, centre, pictured with, from left, her sister, Amy; her nan, Elizabeth; her mum, Carol; and her sister, Nejia

Lauren Bejaoui, centre, pictured with, from left, her sister, Amy; her nan, Elizabeth; her mum, Carol; and her sister, Nejia

2016 absolutely flew by. It’s been a good year in terms of my career, and a good year in terms of what direction I want to go. I did some pretty exciting collaborations with companies.

I’ve had my Instagram for a couple of years, but 2016 is the first year that I feel I’ve used it as an adult. One of the highlights for 2016 was in February — I got to go to London with Canon for the day. Another big moment for me was my LIFE Magazine cover in August.

Every year, for Christmas, everyone comes over my mam’s house, and she and my aunty would cook a big dinner. That’s what I look forward to the most. My family, we’re all so busy; we all have quite demanding jobs. We don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like to. To have one day where everyone has to get together, it is just really, really nice. There will be about 16 of us on the day.

I wouldn’t help with cooking, but no one is allowed to touch the Christmas tree but me and my sister Amy. My mam assembles the tree, and we decorate it. I definitely indulge around Christmas time, but I wouldn’t have a sweet tooth, and tend to stuff myself on my main meal. One thing that we all kill each other for in the house is my mam’s stuffing. She makes like the best home-made stuffing.

The only people who get up on Christmas morning are my mam and my two sisters. My dad wouldn’t get up until later, and the rest of the family don’t come over until the evening. We are all still children, and we love getting up early in the morning and giving all the presents. We will do that for ages and then all of us will have a big fry and put Christmas movies on.

I always put The Grinch on, because that’s my favourite. For Christmas Eve, we always buy each other matching pyjamas. I would love to stay in those, but usually I get dressed. I would just go comfy/casual. I’m usually so stuffed that I wouldn’t usually want to be worrying about what I’m wearing.

Cassie Stokes

TV presenter (far left), pictured with her sister, Alex

Cassie Stokes (far left), pictured with her sister, Alex

2016 has been a 180-degree turn in my life, which is amazing. I was in London this time last year and didn’t have any plans to come home, and then I got that tweet. It was from Xpose [asking if she’d be interested in covering Karen Koster’s maternity leave; Cassie has since been made permanent] and here I am living

in Ireland, and I couldn’t be more thankful. When you make those wishes on January 1, there’s no way you think that it’s actually going to happen. This year has been a dream come true, but a very unexpected one. I get to live close to my family. I get to see my grandma every single day.

Over Christmas, I plan on laughing a lot and am going to be surrounded by my friends and my family. Christmas Day, my sister and I get up and we have matching pyjamas, which is super cool. We will probably do onesies. Then we have breakfast in my grandma’s house, which is next door to my mum’s. It’s funny, because we see each other all the time, and yet, when we see each other on Christmas Day it’s just that extra bit special.

We have a huge family — my mum has a family of 10, which is amazing. So, we will be going to dinner at my aunt’s house, which is just up the road from our family home in Dundrum, and there’s usually about 25 to 30 of us. I am very blessed with my family; we all get on, and we spend so much time together. We all do our part on the day for the dinner, and we just drink wine and we laugh. We’re lucky we get on. I can’t stop gushing, but I really have a great family.

We have four little babies that came along in the last year as well, so it’s really amazing. On Stephen’s Day, myself and my sister will drive out to my dad’s house and spend time with him.

One of my favourite traditions is on Christmas Eve — myself and my sister go into town and we spend the whole day together. We meet up with my dad.

He loves going for a Chinese at, like,12 o’clock so it’s, like, the earliest-bird ever, and then we will go for coffee. Then  my mum comes into town and we will go for a meal with her; and then we meet the rest of my family in the pub. Then my sister and I will go meet up with our friends. So, it’s just a day jam-packed full of loved ones.

You just see everyone you know in town, and everyone’s happy. I have never missed a year. I tried to do one year in Canada, and then, about December 15, I was like: ‘No, I can’t miss it. I have to be home for Christmas. I love it so much’.

Photography by Kip Carroll. Styling by Liadan Hynes 

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