All I want for Christmas: Celebrities share the cheer
Four of our favourite Northern Irish celebrities talk to Kerry McKittrick about how they'll spend the big festive day.
Model and TV presenter Katie Larmour (29) lives in Holywood, Co Down. After her recent split from fiance Harry Diamond she has recently started dating again. She says:
I've never once missed a Christmas Day with my family. I've never been told that I must be there, but I do get the impression that if I didn't go, I would be in big trouble. In any case, it's where I want to be so I'm always at Mum and Dad's house in Belfast.
For the first time in a few years I'm living on my own this Christmas, so instead of going to my parents at lunchtime I'll go over earlier ... though I will still quietly try to get away with not cooking anything.
Our family Christmas is ridiculously low-key. It's just my parents, my sister Jane, her husband Patrick, their children and me. Nor do we have any special Christmas Eve traditions. Now that Jane has two children, though, the dynamics have changed. The house is a little bit louder and a little bit more hectic and I'm not the youngest and the centre of attention any more.
Now it's all about the little ones, so the grown-ups don't even make a big deal out of the presents. We get more pleasure watching the kids opening their gifts. We do have a few rules, however - on Christmas morning not one present is allowed to be opened before everyone is sitting together and ready. Each person then takes it in turns to open their gifts.
Dad makes a big pot of porridge, which he does every day anyway, but we all try and get there in time to have some. We're not religious at all, so we don't go to any kind of church service.
Then we tuck into the traditional Christmas dinner before my grandmother makes us all watch the Queen's speech, although she forgot about it last year and I'm hoping the same happens this year!
We tend to spend the whole day relaxing - we don't have to go anywhere and people aren't likely to call in to us.
My nephew is now two and no matter what presents he'll get, I'm fairly sure he'll spend most of his time doing what he usually does when he visits mum and dad - playing with the old teddies from my bedroom. Consequently, we tend to find teddies turning up in random places for weeks afterwards. It's very sweet, except one year he put one teddy in the fire to warm him up ... which obviously wasn't such a good idea.
In the evenings we tend to sit around and eat or play with whatever presents we got that day. The worst aspect of Christmas for me is the tidy-up, and a lot of that falls to me - not least because I don't help much with the cooking
My favourite thing about Christmas is the tree that goes up in my parents' house. We don't use tinsel so it's not a complete mess, but having said that, there isn't much co-ordination to what we do with it! We usually start by putting on some lights then add a really mixed bag of decorations. In fact, the decorations are one of our little family traditions - every time someone in the family goes travelling - which is quite often - they bring back a Christmas decoration to be added to the collection, no matter what time of year they have made their trip in.
The tree is full of all these colourful and quirky baubles and and if you pointed to any particular one I could tell you what it is, where it came from and who brought it back. There are some wonderful ones there, like carved walnuts in the shape of babies in cribs that my sister and I brought back from Prague. And I've just added another new one - I've just returned from a month travelling around South America where I bought a decoration in the shape of an angel in Colombia.
Actress Bronagh Waugh (32) plays Sally-Ann Spector in the BBC2 drama The Fall, the second series of which has just ended. Originally from Coleraine, she now lives in London. She says:
My mother lives in England so I always spend Christmas Day with her. My two best friends are both only children whose mums are single, too, and their mums are friends with my mum so it tends to be a big girly Christmas. We also have friends who come over too, so there are usually about eight women altogether. Plus, Mum always throws her doors open to any waifs and strays and, being an actress, I have quite a few friends who might be a loose end so we tend to pick up a few more guests on the day itself.
Everyone tends to finish work on December 23 and then we'll volunteer at a local homeless shelter for a few hours. When we get to my mum's house on Christmas Eve we'll have dinner, which will be Thai food or home-made pizza. Mum does the proper Christmas dinner the next day. Mum always buys us a nice pair of pyjamas each and we open those on Christmas Eve so we have something nice and comfortable to wear over the next three days. For me, the best thing about Christmas is being able to relax with my phone off.
My Finnish friend Virva and her daughter Elli used to live with us and on Christmas morning she would go round, waking everyone up. We would wrap the living room door in wrapping paper the night before so she had to burst through it to get to her presents.
They moved out, so there aren't any children in the house at the moment. Instead, we wake up together and start the morning with a little Buck's Fizz before opening presents mid-morning.
Normally we don't buy Christmas presents for each other, instead we buy things for the house and the week of Christmas. One person might buy a game and then the next person might buy a box of wine and then someone else might bring a food hamper. It means each person only buys one present and we take it in turns to open one present. Not only does it save money, but is also saves everyone from having to run around buying lots of presents for everybody.
This year, however, will be a bit of a change. Because we have have accrued so many games and things this year we have decided to make our own Christmas presents because everyone who will be there is creative in some way. Mind you, it's just for this year and then we'll go back to our "house presents" next year.
After my mum cooks the big Christmas dinner, we all sit down to eat together. And when we've finished our meal we usually settle down to watch some favourite Christmas movies - Elf and Love Actually are firm favourites. Once those are over, we'll watch whatever my mum has circled in the TV guide.
Naturally, I miss my dad and my sister at Christmas; they both live in Canada. Thanks to Skype, however, I do get to talk to them. Just after Christmas, I'll come back to Northern Ireland to see other family and friends - and, of course, I make a point of heading out for a drink at the Duke Of York pub in Belfast.
Singer songwriter Janet Devlin (20) first came to the public's attention when she finished in fifth place on The X Factor in 2011. Originally from Gortin in Co Tyrone, she now lives in London. She says:
This year I've be touring a lot, but thankfully I get home the day before Christmas Eve as I have a gig in Omagh. To be honest, by the time I reach my parents' house for Christmas all I want to do is take my make-up off, put on a onesie and sit by the fire.
On Christmas Eve, the whole family goes to Mass together and then the boys - I have three older brothers - head to the pub for a hot whiskey. I'll go with them while mum goes home to cook things ... alas, I can't cook unless it involves a microwave.
I always end up staying up quite late on Christmas Eve, which means me and my brothers are all still in our beds until lunchtime on Christmas Day - in fact, someone usually has to come and wake me up. Once I'm up though, it's straight down the stairs so we can all open our presents together - I don't think that feeling of excitement on Christmas morning goes away, no matter what age you are.
Because there are so many of us in our house we do a Secret Santa and normally I'm the one who organises it as I'm usually home around December 20. But as I'm going to be later back this year, the rest of the family are having to organise that without me.
After we've unwrapped our pressies, we'll try to sneak into the kitchen and grab whatever we can to eat before mum notices because we've all slept through breakfast!
I've had to make a real effort to try and stay in shape recently. Being on tour has meant it's all too easy just to eat junk food - that always seems the simplest option when you're on the road. As a result, the first thing I do when I get back home is ask mum for some proper food.
At Christmas dinner, it's usually just Mum, Dad, my brothers and me, though sometimes my nan joins us - there's normally a tussle between relatives about who gets to have Granny on the big day, but I'm hoping that it's us this year. Everything about our meal is traditional, so we'll sit down to turkey, ham, stuffing ... the works.
After dinner everyone pitches in to tidy up. And it's Christmas Day for our dogs too, who always get an extra special dinner of all the scrapings from the plates. Thankfully, we have a dishwasher so the tidy-up doesn't take too long - just the time involved in loading that and pressing the button. After dinner, everyone tends to do their own thing - the older ones might fall asleep, while my brothers and I will probably watch a movie and have a glass of wine. In the evening, we might go and visit some cousins - luckily, everyone lives close by.
Christmas has become more important as I've got older. Friends have gone away to university and I've left the country so it's the only time when everyone is at home at the same time and you can make plans together. Meeting up is really special.
My least favourite thing about Christmas is the pressure. I'm really bad at gift giving and worry that people will think I don't care about them because I might have bought them something which they might not like. I put pressure on myself about the stupid parts of Christmas but I think it shows I care - in a weird way.
Actress Caroline Curran (30) is starring in Slimmer for Christmas at the Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey, until January 3. In the New Year she will be reviving her role as Maggie Muff in Dirty Dancin' in Le Shebeen at the MAC, Belfast, from January 13-25. She lives in Belfast with her fiance Christopher. She says:
For the past few years I've been doing Christmas shows at the Theatre At The Mill, so I haven't been able to get much time off around Christmas. This year, however, I am getting Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, so I'm very excited. Despite the fact I tend to have to work over the festive period, I do have a routine that I try to stick to each Christmas Eve when I go round to my friend Claire Murphy's house and help her set out the presents for her four children. We might even have a glass of wine while we're at it! I've been going round to her house on Christmas Eve for the last 25 years, as she lives just around the corner.
After that I go home to my mum's house for Christmas - for me, it's all based around family. On Christmas Day, my brother brings his kids over to get their presents and to see their Granny and Granda - we wait for them to arrive before we open our presents, too. After they've gone, we always crack open a bottle of champagne and then Chris and I take it in turns about when it comes to whose family we eat with - this year it is his turn to come to our house for Christmas dinner. Afterwards we just sit and relax for a while and then Chris and I will probably nip round to see his family at some point. One of the things I love about Christmas with our families is that it's all very easygoing.
I also don't usually drink that much on Christmas Day. I'll have wine with lunch but after that I stick to the soft drinks because I'm usually working on Boxing Day ... it might be different this year, however, as I have the day off!
My least favourite thing is likely to be the hangover I suspect I'll end up with on Boxing Day!
- For tickets for Slimmer for Christmas, go to theatreatthemill.com. For tickets for Dirty Dancin' at Le Shebeen, go to themaclive.com