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Dear Santa


A letter to Father Christmas was part of all our childhood festive experiences, but what would you ask for now as an adult? Writer and dad-of-one Lee Henry talks to local personalities about their Yuletide wishes ... as well as revealing his own.

‘I crave things that can’t be bought — time, sun and sleep’

Sports reporter Denise Watson (45) lives in Lisburn with her husband, David, and her daughters, Samantha (12) and Elizabeth (8). She says:

I always loved writing letters to Santa. I started at Brownies and as a pupil at Harmony Hill Primary in Lambeg. There were two teachers who always got us excited, Mr Walsh in P6 and Mr Scully in P7. They were both into sport and encouraged us to ask Santa for things like footballs or bikes.

I got a lovely, rust-coloured Chopper-like bike one year. I've such happy memories of racing it near the green around the corner from our house. I also got a Girl's World one year - a disembodied head that you put make-up on - which was an awful disappointment. When I tell my daughters about it, they laugh.

My youngest girl, Beth, has just written her letter to Santa at Girls' Brigade and is so excited. She has a magical Elf on the Shelf called Tinsel who moves around the house every night.

The girls also laugh when I tell them that Santa used to put an orange and an apple plus some walnuts in my stocking. Imagine their faces if they got a piece of fruit this year.

Christmas is a time to be with the family. My grandad, Maurice, who we called Pappy, always came and stayed with us. He loved pulling crackers and my mum's cooking, so I think of him every year.

What would I ask for now? Not material things. I love Jo Malone perfume and beauty vouchers, but I crave what can't be bought: time and peace to read my books, sunny weather and sleep. I love my job on the U105 Breakfast Show with Maurice Jay, but I rarely get more than five hours' sleep a night. So a lie-in would be my top present.

I would ask Santa for a government in place here to get much-needed funding into sport and community projects.

I also want a more inclusive and positive environment for my daughters to grow up in and be proud of.

We all have different beliefs, but the one main aim needs to be to progress.

As a parent, I'd ask Santa to help our younger generation appreciate the value of money and learn that you have to work hard to reap rewards.

I'm delighted that my girls ask for gifts relating to their sports. Racquet bags, clothing and shoes are expensive, but we know that they will be well used and appreciated.

Also, I try to teach the girls to be kind and respectful to other kids, and I'm proud of how compassionate they are at this time of year. They do think of children who are less fortunate. That's so important."

‘I’d sacrifice the Bond car and Dalek to help children in Syria’

Tony Macaulay (53) is an author best-known for his memoirs of growing up in the Troubles. He lives in Portstewart with his wife, Lesley. They have two daughters, Beth (23) and Hope (21). He says:

I remember, as a child, writing to Santa to ask him to bring me a Magic Roundabout, complete with a Florence and a Dougal, a James Bond Corgi car and a remote-control Dalek. I must have been a good boy because Santa fulfilled my requests, even though he forgot to put batteries in my Magic Roundabout and my Dalek's sucker fell off on Boxing Day.

If I were to write a letter to Santa today, I'd probably still ask him for a Dalek and a James Bond car, only full-size this time. I know this would keep his elves very busy indeed, but I would promise him I've been more nice than naughty in the past 45 years since our last correspondence.

However, there is one additional request I would make in my Santa letter today, and I'd sacrifice my Aston Martin and maybe even my life-size Dalek if Santa could deliver on this.

According to UNICEF, this winter more than eight million Syrian children are in danger because their displaced families don't have basic shelter. They have already fled the horror of war in Syria but they are still at risk of dying from the cold. 

Christmas is a time when we bring joy to our children through gifts.

So this Christmas I would write to Santa to ask him to bring the gift of eight million blankets to the children of Syria.

Of course, over the years, I’ve heard some people my age say they no longer believe in Santa. They may be right or they may be wrong.

So, perhaps I need to simply believe in myself.

I can contact UNICEF and make a contribution to send a few blankets as my gift to some of the children in this world who have suffered the most this year.

In fact I’ve just texted my donation. No elves required.”

'I would ask for Donald Trump to feel loved... maybe then he wouldn't be such a scared bully'

Comedian and actress Nuala  McKeever (53) lives in Belfast. She is starring in Ireland's first arena panto, The Spectacular Aladdin, at the SSE Arena. She says:

If I could go back and ask Santa for something different in my childhood, I would ask to join a dancing and singing group. We did theatre at school at St Dominic's on the Falls Road. I was in The Mikado and I loved it. I played the flute in the school music group, but I would have loved to have learned how to really sing properly. I might have been discovered, done shows in Hollywood and been cast in La La Land. 

I'm not the best singer in the world. It's like a lot of things, I'm good, but I'm not amazing. I won a plaque for ballroom dancing when I was about 12. I danced the male part. That might have been the start of some confusion in my life. So maybe I would ask Santa if I could go back and dance the female part with a tall male partner.

Every Christmas at home, we all sing and dance. My brother, John, plays guitar and we all join in. It's lovely. I always tell myself that I need to practise and do something really festive, but I never do.

We always fall back on The Beatles and Rolling Stones, that kind of thing.

Maybe Santa Claus could help us to bring out the McKeevers' Christmas Medley CD. 

I love that we still do that here in Ireland. It really brings everyone together on Christmas Day. There's that tradition of people entertaining each other.

You don't have to be brilliant - singing and dancing is just a great way to express yourself and you can also get a work-out at the same time. 

I'm in rehearsals for panto at the minute with a lot of professional dancers and it's just amazing the things they can do. I stand back and wonder what might have been. Why didn't I start training when I was 13? It's tough going. I hope I still have a singing voice left come Christmas because we've got three shows on Boxing Day.

I'd ask Santa to look after my voice. I would also ask Santa to impress upon us all the fact that we're all interconnected. What we do to the Earth, to plants and animals and the land, affects us all. I'd like for us to extend our circle of compassion to encompass nature.

Unfortunately, the likes of Donald Trump are doing what they can to destroy the environment, so I would ask Santa that Trump feels loved. Maybe then he wouldn't be such a scared bully. When people feel safe and loved, they don't feel the need to go around hurting others and generally being a negative influence. I think we've all got a touch of the Trumps in us.

We're all afraid and we do questionable things.

It's just that he happens to do it in an extremely worrying way from a position of immense power. 

I'd like for us all to be happy with what we have too. I'm not having a consumerist Christmas this year and it's a relief. I'm not going out and buying a load of rubbish. It doesn't make me happy, at the end of the day.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, you should try to be the change you want to see in the world. Do what you can do where you are and speak up for goodness everywhere."

'I'd tell him to help people in need'

It's the first year that we've written a letter to Santa with our son Patrick, who is four - the first year that he has been old enough to get excited about the concept of Christmas and frightened by the possibility of making the naughty list - and we took great pleasure in the process.

Thankfully the 'wee man' isn't old enough to request ridiculously expensive computer consoles just yet (that time will inevitably come), so we got away with asking for a house with locks and keys (he's obsessed!). Right now, Patrick has simple tastes and we couldn't be happier.

As my wife Mairead (32), sealed the envelope and took Patrick off to the Guildhall in our home town of Derry to post his letter into the festive post box, however, I started thinking of what I might ask Santa for myself, now, today, as a fully-functioning, responsible, bill-paying 36-year-old adult with the benefit of hindsight.

Would I go back in time and amend previous letters? The idea of retroactive requests is appealing; especially considering the fact there exist of me photographs in full Michael Jackson mode, replete with black trilby, short trousers and a single sparkly white glove on my right hand.

Part of me would be sensible: 'Dear Santa, can you please ensure that my family stay happy and healthy this coming year?' Part of me would be selfish: 'The new Radiohead chord book is £80, so, Santa, get your chequebook out.'

Having interviewed so many amazing, inspiring, selfless people over the past year, however, I can't help but think of their example at this time of year. I admit that I am nowhere near as charitable as they are.

I've never previously run races for charity, or taken part in Movember, or volunteered at soup kitchens. But the older I get, the happier, more secure my family become and the more amazing people I interview - people who go out of their way to help the vulnerable on a daily basis; doctors, nurses, emergency services - the more I think about others in need.

The homeless, with nowhere to call home this Christmas pounding the streets the length and breadth of Northern Ireland.

The elderly, with no family, for whom Christmas is just another lonely day.

The unwell in their sick beds, counting down the hours, minutes, seconds until their fairy lights go out.

They are the people who need Santa's attention, not me. I would ask Santa to focus on them. Life can be hard. There are always bills to pay, cars to keep on the road, places to go and people to see, and not enough time in the day. But if Christmas, and the jovial saint at the heart of it, give us anything, surely it's a little perspective.

Belfast Telegraph

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