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All we want for Christmas: What's on our star wish list?

By Una Brankin

Published 19/12/2015

Rebecca (right) and Tiffany will be having a traditional day
Rebecca (right) and Tiffany will be having a traditional day
Kevin McAleer
Rita Fitzgerald
Dr Leah Totton
Country music legend Susan McCann

From traditional get-togethers to a Polish twist on proceedings, we ask a host of celebrities about what is on their wish list from Santa Claus this season and their best and worst presents ever.

Former Miss Ireland Rebecca Maguire (23) is training to become a pharmacist, having graduated from Queen's University Belfast in the summer. The part-time CMPR model is spending Christmas at home in Andersonstown with her mother Charlotte (41), a bank clerk, dad Declan, who has a tiling business, and her brother Mitchell (12).

I come from a family of chefs so our dinner is always incredible. My two aunts and dad work as the dream team and serve up everything you could imagine. Dad used to be a head chef and my aunt Karen is a pastry chef, so the dessert is always extra special. My dad does a lot of the cooking while mum and I drink wine.

When it comes to perfect roast potatoes at Christmas it has to be goose fat, it just tastes nicer. I don't often eat any kind of fats in my diet, apart from oily fish and omega 3-rich foods, so I'm very excited about my potatoes at Christmas. I'm not sure who does the washing-up - not me anyway!

We don't attend any church services; for us, Christmas is all about family. This year we will be going to my aunt and uncle's house for a huge get-together. My uncle is Jim Magilton, the former Northern Ireland football manager. He and my aunt have just moved into a beautiful new home which we will christen it properly on Christmas Day. Last year we went to Galgorm Manor and stayed in one of the log cabins and visited the spa. Their fab new Spa Village was booked out this year so we will go on Boxing Day for some treatments.

I love to be pampered, yet as a child I was such a tomboy. I was obsessed with dinosaurs and can remember getting a room full of dinosaur toys one year and I was delighted.

I'm really looking forward to Christmas as my dad was unwell recently, so it really makes you appreciate all your loved ones and cherish the time together. Thankfully he's better now, so he can't wait for the day either.

It will be nice to get some time off. I am busy with CMPR (Cathy Martin Public Relations) Models and am currently completing my pre-reg year at Woodbourne Pharmacy in west Belfast. I also work closely with the Miss Ireland competition - it really all started for me winning Miss Ireland in 2013. I have gained great friends, like Tiffany Brien (former Miss Northern Ireland). She and I travelled to Miss World together and we enjoyed doing this shoot for Weekend in the beautiful Bedford House.

The best Christmas present I have ever received was a car from my parents. The worst is a cliché, but probably socks. I like to shop and I'm always picking up gifts for my family and friends, and end up with far too much by Christmas.

We always spend Christmas Eve at home. All the family have been coming to our house in recent years and dad makes dinner.

Rebecca's Christmas favourites

Song: Anything by Michael Buble

Hymn: I'm not sure I know any

Movie: It has to be Elf

Food: Turkey

Tipple: Wine

Tradition: Drinking wine

Former Miss Northern Ireland and champion sailor Tiffany Brien (25) works as a valuer in her father's estate agency, Simon Brien Residential in Belfast. One of Cathy Martin's most popular commercial models at CMPR, Tiffany's often in demand for product launches and events. She is taking a day off from her widely read blog to spend Christmas with her parents Simon and Juanita, sister Jessica (24) and brother Jack (19).

We're going to my auntie Mel's this year - 30 of us. She's dad's sister. All the mums do the cooking while I clear up and wash the dishes. My sister Jessica, who works for a record company in London, is coming home and my brother Jack will be there too.

On Christmas morning dad still gets us to line up - even at the ages of 25, 24 and 19 - outside the living room door before we can go in to get Santa's presents. He has them all piled up and the fire lit; he's a big kid. To him, we're still his wee babies and he thinks he still has to be Santa. I think my best present ever was a Tickle Me Elmo (Sesame Street puppet toy). Terrible, I know, but I loved it.

We don't go to church; family time is more important to us at Christmas. Our best ever Christmas was on a chartered boat in the Caribbean, just the four of us. We had Christmas dinner on the beach on an island. It was incredible ... and hot.

I've been very busy this year so it will be great to relax for a while. The property market has taken off and I spent six months selling in Dubai this year. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. I went out knowing no one, to sleep on a friend of a friend's sofa, and do a job which was 100% commission, so an income wasn't guaranteed. It wasn't easy, but I'm so glad I did it. It was brilliant experience.

As for presents, I'm a real last-minute shopper. I haven't got anything yet so I'll be running round town frantically on Christmas Eve. I enjoy doing commercial and PR shoots for CMPR at this time of year (such as this one) and presenting jobs too. It will be good craic to catch up with everyone at the CMPR Christmas party - it's one of the highlights of the year.

Tiffany's Christmas Favourites

Song: Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree

Hymn: Away in a Manger - reminds me of primary school

Movie: Elf - hilarious

Tipple: Buck's Fizz in the morning; Baileys in the evening

Food: Chocolate croissants every time

Tradition: Waiting outside the living room before we get our Santa pressies

Comedian Kevin McAleer (59) plays the mayor in A Christmas Star, the locally made Cinemagic film narrated by Liam Neeson, airing on UTV tomorrow (Sunday December 20) at 3.15pm. The droll father-of-three lives in the countryside of Co. Tyrone, just outside Omagh, with his wife Valerie Whitworth, a self-employed artist and a vocal instructor for community choirs. Naturally, he has a very witty take on Christmas

When the kids were young, we had this great system of leaving everything until Christmas Eve, and we would all head off in the car to Belfast and do the entire spend in one frantic day. That was great fun, and it really cut down drastically on the amount of planning and preparation time. My wife has Polish in-laws and it's traditional to stuff your face on Christmas Eve, so we have been roped into that too. It is also considered the height of bad manners not to drink lots of proper Polish vodka by lunchtime.

I'm strictly a pagan tree-hugger, although I draw the line at Christmas trees. So I don't go in for religious services or biblical stuff. I like Simon Munnery's line: 'You can read the bible and dismiss it if you like, or you can dismiss it without reading it to save time.'

We have a big Christmas dinner which slowly comes together about 4pm, so we are all nice and hungry by then. My wife is a great cook and she has passed on her skills to our three kids, Florence, Louis and Josiah, who are now in their twenties. They have come back from their travels with exotic additions to the menu. So I'm an innocent victim caught in the crossfire of their combined gourmet creations on Christmas day. They do some mean cocktails too.

We're all vegetarians in our household, so neither goose nor beef fat crosses our lips. We roast our potatoes solely in organic extra virgin olive oil locally sourced in Asda and hand-picked by comedians.

The washing up is my specialty, and I do a very good one. Somehow I can't muster much interest in cooking, only eating, so I'm happy to do a nice big, noisy, drunken wash-up around midnight to balance the books. Of course, I couldn't do it without my state-of-the-art 2001 Zanussi DWS-935.

This year we are staying put and the three kids are flying in to join us. So we're having a leisurely day at home and a wee cocktail or two, all building up to the big dinner - definitely one of the highlights of the year. A walk down the bog road with our pups Rothko and Joni, too, weather permitting. All very predictable; all very wonderful.

I remember one year getting a tricycle with turf propped under the front wheel to keep it in place. That was pretty special. There was no wrapping paper in those days.

And we had a great Christmas in Australia about 15 ago, another big extended family do, way down on the south coast. It was getting towards the end of the month's stay and I always get wildly excited about coming home, so there was that added to the buzz of Christmas. I remember the tinsel on the trees in town shining in the sunlight - that was a new angle. Happy days.

Kevin's Christmas favourites

Song: Christmas in Cape Town (Randy Newman)

Hymn: Amazing Grace

Movie: Eraserhead

Food: Brussels sprouts

Tipple: Cocktails with no name

Joke: Did you hear about the man who stole the Advent Calendar? He got 25 days.

Rita Fitzgerald (45) is one of the glamorous faces of UTV, combining roles as a correspondent for Good Morning Britain with continuity announcing and organising the annual Text Santa appeal broadcast, which raises awareness of the good work done by charities at this time of year. Rita spends Christmas with her daughter, Ellie (5) and her architect husband John and his family in Lambeg, outside Lisburn.

I have only ever been away for Christmas once, many years ago - Christmas Eve on a beach in Sydney. Being in Australia was wonderful, but I prefer Christmas in a cold climate - all wrapped up and cosy beside the fire listening to Christmas music. I enjoy spending holidays at this time of year with family and friends, with a modest amount of over-indulgence.

My favourite memory of Christmas Day was when I was a child; we used to line up outside the living room door - youngest to oldest - and run in together to find our little pile of presents. That would happen any time from 6am, so getting all the siblings out of bed and lined up was always a giggle. Now, granted on a much smaller scale, we have the same tradition; there is nothing quite like the look on a little one's face when Santa has been.

We are very lucky in that every year we have Christmas lunch with John's family and enjoy a sumptuous meal with all the trimmings, followed by songs at the piano. It's always a lovely day. We then spend Boxing Day with my family on the shores of Camlough lake, with lunch for 35 people, including siblings' partners and children. It's noisy, a little chaotic and lots of fun. The food is always wonderful, considering the numbers. Ellie has lots of cousins around her age so it's wonderful for her to let loose.

I think a pre-dinner glass of bubbles is always good, followed by a traditional turkey and ham meal with all the trimmings please and lots of it too. And it's a day to get enthusiastic about Brussels sprouts. Every year, I cook Christmas pudding and that always goes down a treat. I use my mum's recipe with a little extra stout. My best present would have to be an Italian designer ring that John got for me years ago. It has a smoked quartz stone and I love it. My worst present ... well, somehow I ended up with two bottles of the same perfume from family members one year - the smell of which gives me a headache.

When it comes to present buying I tend to both buy in-advance and do the last-minute thing. I always get a fair bit done and out of the way early, but there is always a last-minute flurry of activity. Ultimately, I just love walking around town and taking in all the ambiance and before I know it, I'm sharing a hot toddy with a friend.

Rita's Christmas favourites

Song: Happy by Pharrell Williams

Hymn: Silent Night

Movie: It's A Wonderful Life

Food: Turkey and ham

Tipple: Champagne

Tradition: A kiss under the mistletoe with John

Dr Leah Totton (27) and her sister Jodie (23) are coming home to Londonderry's Waterside from the London apartment they share to spend Christmas with their parents Lorraine and Trevor and their younger brother Dale (18). The stunning Apprentice 2013 winner will launch her second clinic, near London, and her own branded eye cream in the New Year.

I get really excited about Christmas, I look forward to it all year. It really is my favourite time of year; I can't wait to get some time off at home. I'm coming home on the day before Christmas Eve until January 2.

I don't take a holiday during the year, so I can save it all up for Christmas, although I did come up last weekend for my granddad Derek's 80th birthday party. I wouldn't have missed that for the world.

On Christmas Eve I go out and catch up with all my friends in our local pub. I'm a Christian, but I don't attend a service at Christmas - the rest of the family do, though. Mum and dad are both one of families of six, so there are a lot of us to cater for. On Christmas Day, 28 of us go to my granddad Derek and granny Helen's. It's quite a small house, so it's a bit crammed.

I help out a bit - I'm a bit of a whizz in the kitchen. I'm not bad at baking and doing the turkey, and I'm quite good at potatoes. I use beef fat for the roasties; there's more flavour to it than goose, I think. My 78-year-old granny really pushes the boat out. I'm really lucky, knowing I can wake up and see all my cousins and aunts and uncles all around me that day.

As a child of about five or six, I remember getting a doll's house I really wanted, one Christmas. I loved it - I played with it until I was 11, or even older. I still like playing with the kids and whatever presents they get.

We play games all afternoon after dinner.

Then, I always spend Boxing Day with my best friend Zoe in her house. She has a baby, Amelia, who's my god-daughter, so it will be extra lovely this year. She got engaged last Boxing Day, so that was really special, too.

I'm not fussed on New Year's Eve, so I'll probably stay in and have another nice dinner.

It has been so busy this year, getting the eye product ready to launch in the spring and the new clinic organised, so I just want to spend as much time as possible relaxing with my family and friends when I'm off.

I've been perfecting the eye cream for a long time - Sir Alan Sugar has been very patient with me. It will be great to have it available online, especially for my clients from here who fly over for treatments. And one day, I really hope to open a clinic at home.

Dr Leah's Christmas favourites

Song: Fairytale of New York, The Pogues

Hymn: Oh Holy Night

Movie: Love Actually

Food: The entire Christmas dinner

Tipple: Mulled wine

Tradition: Playing festive games with my family on Christmas Day

Country music legend Susan McCann (66) will be launching a DVD of her life story in 2016 to celebrate 40 years in show business. As one of the stars of the acclaimed Ireland's Showbands - Do You Come Here Often? the Big Tom's Still The King singer from Forkhill, where she lives with husband Dennis, will play Belfast's Waterfront Hall from December 28-30 and other major venues in the New Year. Susan and Dennis have two grown-up children Linda and Brendan.

It used to be a tradition that I'd spend Christmas Eve at home with my husband [and manager] Dennis and our two children Linda and Brendan. When they were younger, they sang on the chorus of some of my early songs, including Santa and the Kids, and back then I would have had a show to go to on Christmas Day. So, as a family, we had Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve. Now, the family come and we spend Christmas Day together in Newry. I just love it when the grandkids arrive.

Christmas Day starts with midday Mass, which I attend every year. I do all of the cooking and it's always the traditional Christmas dinner - turkey and ham and mince pies. For the gravy? It's got to be goose fat.

As I do all the cooking, Dennis does all the washing up. My daughter Linda and her husband Brian, my son Brendan and his wife Ciara, and all of the grandkids come to me for Christmas dinner.

I love Christmas and spending time with my family, especially the grandchildren - it's great; all of the excitement leading up to Christmas Day and the children waiting for Santa to arrive.

I remember, many years ago, my Aunt Kate giving me a yellow plastic duck with a little red beak - that was the best present I received as a child.

I'm a real last-minute Christmas shopper and I leave the cards to the last minute, too - I've just been down the town to buy them. I get invited to a few Christmas parties, including one held by Newry Chamber of Commerce in aid of underprivileged children in the area. It raised £77,000 and it was a fantastic party and everyone had great fun.

Susan's Christmas favourites

Song: When a Child is Born

Hymn: Silent Night

Movie: Sound of Music

Food: Traditional Christmas dinner

Tipple: A wee Baileys

Tradition: Spending time with family and friends over the season

Belfast Telegraph

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