Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

A happy Christmas to us! From Paddy Barnes to Faye Tozer - how the stars spend the holidays

Precious time off from panto, opening pressies and seeing loved ones... how four famous faces will spend the big day

By Kerry McKittrick

For some families Christmas is about the arrival of Santa and lots of shiny new toys. For others it's about tucking into a huge feast and collapsing around the TV to watch the Queen's speech, while others make this time of year all about catching up with the friends and family they haven't seen for months.

Likewise, every family has their own Christmas traditions - dad might insist on cooking breakfast wearing his Santa hat while mum will use her secret recipe to create the finest turkey gravy. Brothers and sisters will hide the Brussels sprouts, share the selection boxes and do anything to get out of the washing up.

As the big day approaches, we talk to four celebrities about their own special family Christmas traditions.

'I just like to switch off and eat rubbish'

Andrea Begley (27) was the 2013 winner of the hit TV show The Voice and comes from Pomeroy, Co Tyrone. She is currently bringing her latest album, The Message, on tour around Northern Ireland. She says:

I'll be home and finished work by Christmas Eve this year - I'm usually off by then as most events take place before or after Christmas.

I go home to the family with mum, dad and my two sisters. When my grandparents were alive we would have gone to their house with my cousins, but now it's just the immediate family.

It's the same routine each Christmas Eve and I like that. I usually have to try and get presents organised.

It involves remembering what I've bought for each person and getting someone to help wrap a present that isn't meant for them. There's a fair bit of juggling involved and I always seem to leave it to Christmas Eve for some reason.

Next, we go to midnight Mass and I sing in the local choir there. After that we might visit a couple of relatives before coming home to tea and shortbread.

In the morning we still all go down the stairs together - I don't think you grow out of that no matter what age you are.

We'll have a fry and mill about and play with our presents and delve into the chocolate.

We stick on the TV and start watching films while my poor mother is stuck in the kitchen cooking dinner.

We have turkey and ham and stuffing and everything you're supposed to eat at Christmas.

In the evenings again we'll sometimes call round to a couple of cousins close by and we might go for a walk in the forest.

It depends on how everyone's feeling though. Other times you just want to veg out and do absolutely nothing because you've eaten so much.

Christmas Day is reserved for family or being glued to the TV so we don't go to the pub until Boxing Day. I've also bought the Frozen DVD as I haven't managed to watch it yet.

It's all about a nice, relaxed family Christmas for us.

I just like to switch off and eat plenty of rubbish."

'The festive season is all about the children'

Faye Tozer (39) is a singer/songwriter and actress, best known for being a member of pop quintet Steps. She is appearing as Scheherazade in the Grand Opera House's production of Aladdin until January 18. She is married to Michael and lives in the north east of England with their son Benjamin (5). She says:

This is the fourth time I've done panto, but other times I've been doing some kind of theatre so most years I spend Christmas away from home.

I work on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and there's just no way you can get home and back in such a short space of time. You know that you'll be spending Christmas away from home anyway because it's what you sign up for at the beginning of the contract.

Working over Christmas makes it feel more festive. There are lots of Christmas songs and people rocking their Christmas jumpers. Sometimes if we do have Christmas at home I find it's missing a little bit of sparkle. When you're working it's quite a big build-up and you make so many people happy.

So if I can't get home then everyone comes to me, wherever I am. My mum, dad and sister arrived the Friday before Christmas and my husband, son and mother-in-law arrive today after Benjamin finishes school. They're all very good and understand that I have only one day off. I make sure everyone has somewhere to stay and that there's plenty to do and they organise the food.

After the show finishes on Christmas Eve, I'll have one drink with the cast then go home to my family. Because my little boy is only five he still believes in Santa Claus so there's a big tradition of setting up for Santa. We have a Santa key so he can get in through the double doors as there's no chimney and we'll create footprints from the doors to the presents.

Benjamin gets up at silly o'clock in the morning and he gets so excited to see that Santa has been. Christmas morning really is all about the children. It's my sister and I who get up with Benjamin so the others can have a bit of a lie-in. He's not allowed to open all of his presents until everyone is up and then he plays the part of the elf and hands everyone else their gifts.

Next, we have breakfast with some nice Christmas songs on the radio and we might have a little bucks fizz, too. We have lunch in the late afternoon, but we don't have turkey. After years of dealing with it, we all eventually admitted it's not our favourite meat so we now experiment. One year we had duck and this year we'll be having gammon, I think. That will be followed by a Christmas pudding from Marks & Spencer and a Yule log. After lunch we watch the Queen's speech.

There are quite a few people from the panto cast also staying close by. One of them is actually in the same building that I'm staying in, so we might nip round there for a drink and then we'll go for a walk. We might find either a nice pub to have a drink in if there's anything open or a nice choral service would be lovely to go to.

On Boxing Day it's our family tradition for dad to take us on an expedition - off on an adventure somewhere or off for a big walk. I think this year they're planning on going to the Giant's Causeway, but it's back to work for me so I probably won't go.

Generally Christmas is all about Benjamin now - it matters so much to him. My favourite thing is having my family around me. It is hard to go back to work the following day but I get quality time at home when it's all over as I have six weeks off before my next project. The nature of the industry is that we're always busy when everyone else is on holiday anyway.

'It's a dervish of wrapping paper and plastic'

Ralph McLean (44) is a TV and radio presenter and lives in Ballymoney with his wife and fellow broadcaster Kerry and their children Tara (7) and Dan (6). He says:

We have a very traditional Christmas in our house. We do the classic things like the food for Santa and his reindeer. Santa likes a bottle of beer these days and the kids go to bed early, even though they don't sleep because they're too excited.

The real fun starts on Christmas morning. I go down first to check that Santa has been and then the kids charge down into the living room to open the presents they get if they've been good. Then there's a dervish of wrapping paper, plastic and batteries.

Kerry and I open our presents a bit later as it really is all about the kids on Christmas morning. I think it makes adults into big kids, too.

The family starts to call round in the morning. We do lunch by ourselves but we get a few people popping in for a drink and to say hello.

Lunch will be turkey and ham and the trimmings - then we go round to Kerry's mum's on Christmas night. There will be games and Sean, Kerry's sister's wee boy, is very into magic at the moment so there will probably be some kind of magic show. Eventually the kids will crash and we'll get the chance to watch something we want to.

On Boxing Day, we go down to see my mum and my sister - her husband and my niece will be there, too, so we can catch up. For me, the priority at Christmas is seeing family and getting the time to catch up with people you haven't seen much during the year.

The best thing about Christmas is getting the chance to sit around and do absolutely nothing as I'm so busy the rest of the year.

Give me a box of Celebrations and a glass of mulled wine and I'm happy."

'The worst thing is not having a turkey dinner'

Olympic boxer Paddy Barnes (27) lives in Belfast with his fiancee Mari and their daughter Eireann (seven months). He says:

At Christmas we don't have that many traditions. Christmas Eve is just us sitting in the house, getting excited about Christmas and watching the TV.

The next day we get up and open all the presents. Eireann doesn't quite get it all yet, you could give her a packet of biscuits and she would think it was brilliant.

Mari and I swap presents and then she goes off to her mum's house and I go to mine. There will be my parents, my three brothers and my nieces and we have turkey and ham and the usual food. I can't eat loads over Christmas because all the championships are in January. I do eat a bit on Christmas Day but I can't drink because of the matches coming up.

After lunch I then go over to Mari's family. They always have a bit of a party with the nieces and nephews. Then we go back to my mum's house so they can see Eireann on Christmas Day. After that we watch TV for a bit and then head on home.

On Boxing Day, I'm up and training and I do a bit extra to make up for the day before, then I'm going off to watch the Cliftonville versus Crusaders match.

After that it's back to my mother's house for another meal - Boxing Day is her birthday so we all gather again for another party.

My favourite thing about Christmas is the spirit of the holiday and seeing all the kids enjoy themselves.

It's always been about the kids at Christmas and they're very excited about it all year.

The worst thing though is not being able to eat a big turkey dinner when everyone else can!"

Cracking time to fill your stocking

Christmas crackers were made famous by a sweet-maker in mid-19th century London. He started selling sweets wrapped in twists of colourful paper and then added toys or riddles. Eventually the traditional crack was added when the cracker was pulled apart, and so the Christmas cracker was born

Before the turkey was introduced to the UK, geese, boars' heads or even peacocks were traditionally eaten. Turkeys were introduced from America in 1526 when William Strickland imported six birds and sold them for tuppence each. It's thought Henry VIII was the first person to eat a turkey on Christmas Day. Now in the UK we eat around 10 million of them each year

Stockings are hung at fireplaces for Santa to fill with presents. This tradition comes from the legend that three poor sisters had left their stockings drying at the fireplace when they went to bed. Knowing how poor they were St Nicholas threw bags of gold coins down the fireplace which landed in the stockings. This is also why we're so fond of chocolate coins at Christmas

The original mince pies were made with rabbit, pigeon, hare or pheasant and were very different from the ones we eat today. The tradition is that we should eat a mince pie on the 12 days of Christmas - beginning on Christmas Eve - this will bring you good luck for the next 12 months

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph