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Merry Christmas to us! Celebrities on their traditions

Published 24/12/2015

Cracker day: Miss NI Leanne McDowell with her grandfather Richard Curry
Cracker day: Miss NI Leanne McDowell with her grandfather Richard Curry
Quality time: Claire McCollum at home with Samuel and Rosa
Light fantastic: Peter Corry with his fiance Fleur
Play time: stage star Dan Gordon
Stylish couple: Tracey Hall and husband Stefan Rodgers
Duty calls: actress Niamh Perry is in Luxembourg as she is starring in the international tour of Mamma Mia!

Turkey and trimmings, presents under the tree, mince pies at midnight. Each family has their own perfect Christmas tradition, no matter how big or small. Kerry McKittrick talks to local celebrities about how they'll be spending their Christmas Day

From the family Christmas dinner around the table to eating too many Quality Street while watching the big EastEnders or Doctor Who special ... everyone has their own festive rituals.

For those with young families Christmas Day is all about the children, with Santa's visit in the morning providing the main event.

For others, Christmas is a time to catch up with neighbours and close friends, rounding the day off with a brisk walk through the winter countryside.

Most of us have our own Christmas staples, from mum's unbeatable stuffing to the Queen's Speech or the annual game of charades in front of the fire, to rowing over who does the washing up.

Just about everyone will be kicking back with their loved ones tomorrow, having a great feast and a tipple, including the following well-known local names.

‘I run downstairs and open all my presents myself’

Leanne McDowell (19) is the current Miss Northern Ireland. She lives with her mum in Cookstown and has just returned from the Miss World contest in China. She says:

O n Christmas Day, I'll be at home in Cookstown - I'm an only child so it's just mum and I on Christmas morning. Each Christmas I run down and open all my presents by myself - mum has to wait upstairs until I'm finished and then she'll follow me round with a big black bag to collect all the wrapping paper.

Only after that will she will open all of her presents. Then we'll go round to my granny's house for Christmas lunch and that will be with the whole family of cousins, aunts and uncles.

My Christmas Eve tradition is getting into my new pyjamas and cosy socks to drink a hot chocolate and watch a Christmas movie on TV. Mum and I do that together every year. I'm looking forward to a bit of a break this Christmas - I've just come back from Miss World in China and the ACA model agency is now closed so I've got the chance to sleep after my long flight.

The ham is the best part of Christmas dinner and afterwards we all sit down and watch a Christmas DVD.

Everyone piles into my granny's small sitting room so we all cosy up to watch a film. Everyone has to wear the Christmas hats from the crackers - there will be trouble if anyone takes theirs off."

‘We always try to catch the Queen’s Speech’

Claire McCollum (40) is a freelance broadcaster and journalist. She lives in Belfast with husband Alastair Clarke and children Samuel (8) and Rosa (6). She says:

We take it in turns with the parents for Christmas - we went to Ali's parents last year so we're going to mine this year. My sister comes home from England every other year too so the whole family will be together this Christmas.

We wake up in our own house on Christmas morning, which I'm really looking forward to as we've only just moved in, so it will be our first Christmas in our new home. We'll investigate what Santa has brought first thing and then we'll join everyone else at mum and dad's around lunchtime. We have a very traditional Christmas dinner - I think my mum's stuffing is the best in the world while Ali thinks his mum's is the best.

After dinner we always try to make the Queen's Speech - I remember my granny and all my great aunts and uncles making sure they always caught it.

We play games with the kids - it's lovely with all of the cousins being here as they all entertain each other too. The adults tend to lie about and wait for the turkey sandwiches to come out while we watch Christmas telly.

I love everything about Christmas - the lights, the food, people getting together, family getting together and all the rest of it.

It's lovely to have a chance for a bit of a break around Christmas too."

‘My son will have a lovely lunch for us’

Peter Corry (50) is a singer and producer. He divides his time between London and Holywood with his fiance Fleur. He has three children from his first marriage - Joshua (22), Israel (18) and Molly Rose (16). He says:

I'm going over to my fiance's parents this year. Fleur's mum is from Mauritius and on Christmas Eve she makes a really hot and spicy meal which I love as she's a fantastic cook.

Then Fleur's dad will make the traditional Christmas lunch the next day. I'll head back to Northern Ireland first thing on Boxing Day to see my children - I believe my son is turning into a very good cook and has a lovely lunch planned for us, so I'm looking forward to that. The Music Box Christmas show is all done and dusted by the time Christmas comes along so Fleur and I are both able to get a bit of a break around the holidays - we both work on the show.

My favourite part about Christmas is always the music - I start listening to it halfway through the year when I'm planning the Music Box and I never get tired of it."

'The neighbours come for a drink in the morning'

Dan Gordon (49) is an actor and playwright. He lives in Belfast with his wife Kathy and their three daughters, Sarah (25), Hannah (22) and Martha (16). He is currently appearing in Christmas Eve Can Kill You at the Lyric Theatre. He says:

We're off Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It's been a really busy year so our Christmas tree only got put up a couple of days ago despite the fact it's been in the living room for two weeks. Sarah has been working in the lighting department for Game of Thrones, Martha is doing her A-Levels and Hannah is spending a year in Australia as an au pair.

This will be our first year without her for Christmas but we Skype and WhatsApp with her so much you would hardly know she was gone. We've a lovely little community where we live, so on Christmas morning all the neighbours come round for a drink before their Christmas dinner, there's usually about 20 of us.

My wife Kathy's parents - Len and Irene - join us for Christmas dinner. We have a traditional Christmas lunch which Kathy's cooks.

After our dinner Sarah and Martha organise games and some neighbours will come down and visit.

It turned into a Victorian Christmas last year because the girls and some of the neighbours play musical instruments.

We had a piano, clarinet, a flute, a cello and a set of bongos appeared from somewhere.

We don't watch telly as much as we did because we've seen all the films before."

  • Dan Gordon is appearing in Christmas Eve Can Kill You at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast until January 17, 2016. Visit https://lyrictheatre.co.uk/event/christmas-eve-can-kill-you/ for ticket and information

'We like to kick back and relax after our dinner'

Tracey Hall (48) is the director of Style Academy Model Agency and lives in Hillsborough with her husband Stefan. She says:

This is my second Christmas since I got married and we'll be spending it with my family again. I'm always used to spending Christmas waking up with my family in my parents' house.

This year we'll be at my sister Sue's house from Christmas Eve until Boxing night. Their house has been newly renovated so it's a great size and and as she has children, Christmas really is about the kids. We had hoped to have it in our new house but it's not ready yet, so next year will be the first year where it will be just the two of us.

I usually go to church for a candlelit service at midnight on Christmas Eve, although it does leave you exhausted when Sue's kids get you up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning.

The children open their presents first while we watch, then we all do ours. After that we'll probably have a glass of Bucks Fizz.

Last year we felt guilty because Sue seemed to do all the cooking. This year she's doing the turkey and ham while I prepare the rest of the vegetables and the desserts. Our parents are sorting out the drink.

After the traditional dinner everyone just kicks back and relaxes. There will always be a few games after dinner - we try not to turn the TV on at all. Sometimes we'll go for a walk in Hillsborough Forest Park."

'This is the first Christmas I won't spend with family'

Niamh Perry (25) is a  singer/actress who is  from Bangor, Co Down and now lives in London. She says:

I'm currently playing Sophie in the international tour of Mamma Mia! which runs until the end of February.

I'm in Luxembourg at the moment and it means that for the first time in my life I won't be able to spend Christmas with my family.

I have a show on Christmas Day but we are off on Christmas Eve so the company are all heading out for a big meal, so I might have a bit of a sore head on Christmas Day.

It does help that the whole Mamma Mia! family - there are 58 of us - will be here so I won't be on my own. We also have a party after the Christmas Day show. My family will be coming over on December 27 so we'll have a late Christmas and exchange presents.

It's going to be a quiet Christmas for them in Bangor too.

Normally we head to Ballynahinch to my auntie's house, but they are going to take it easy this year and it will just be my parents and sister."

Belfast Telegraph

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