Belfast Telegraph

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Family, friends and fun... how Northern Ireland personalities enjoy Christmas

Kerry McKittrick talks to four local well-known people about how they like to spend the holiday.

Claire McCollum (43) is a TV and radio presenter. She lives in Greenisland with husband Alastair and their children,  Samuel (11) and Rosa (9). She says:

Christmas can be a wonderfully busy time of year in our house because both of our children were born at Christmas - on December 27 and 29. For the first time in ages they're having a joint party this year today, and that will really kick off all of the celebrations.

They both get on so well and it really does kill two birds with one stone. Then on Christmas Eve we have neighbours and friends over for drinks. Everyone is coming to us on Christmas Day - my sister, her family and my mum and dad. The turkey is ordered, mum is doing her amazing stuffing, I've ordered the fruit and veg from a local shop and my sister will bring the Christmas pudding.

Because it's just family it's all very relaxed - we can stay in our slippers all day if we want.

Then on Boxing Day we'll go to Ali's parents' house to see that side of the family.

The big thing this year is that on the 28th - in between the two birthdays - we'll be getting a dog. A little miniature Schnauzer.

Every day is accounted for over Christmas so New Year's Eve will be very quiet, with just the four of us.

I love the whole season.

The build-up and finally getting to Christmas Eve knowing that you've ticked as many festive boxes as you possibly can.

Having family and friends together is just lovely and the kids are so excited about it.

I'm not very fussed about presents, though - there's nothing I really need and I prefer to make sure everyone else is sorted with their gifts.

This year Ali and I have promised ourselves a shopping day in January - a day out with just the two of us.

Tara Mills (47) is a BBC journalist and presenter. She is married to Daniel and they have two children, Daniel (11) and Aimee (10). She says:

We're very traditional for Christmas Day and stick to the same thing every year. My husband has a big family so for breakfast we all go out to his sister's house in Crumlin. It's great because we all get to see everyone - there are so many of us I don't know what other way we would do it. It can be so tricky to keep everyone happy but I think we've nailed that one.

Then we come home and host my family for Christmas dinner - my parents, my sister Pamela and my nephew Finn. Thankfully my husband is a brilliant cook so he does the turkey and all the trimmings. The rest of us try to help without getting under his feet.

Christmas can be difficult for a lot of people and I always try to be aware of this. I think most families will have an empty chair or there are people who don't get to have a family Christmas at all. I'm very aware of not overdoing the festive spirit as a lot of people can find it a challenging time of year.

We used to be really good and go for a big walk after Christmas dinner but we haven't done that for the last couple of years. We turn to the board games now - it's good fun and the kids love it.

My mum still does stockings for all of us - complete with chocolate coins. We've said that she doesn't need to do it for the grown-ups but she insists every year.

It may sound a bit boring but I love my time with friends and family at Christmas and that is when I'm happiest. I love seeing my kids discover their Santa presents in the morning - the excitement and joy that brings to children is a real revelation to me.

My two don't even write long lists or get tons of stuff, they're just very easily pleased. If you have that in your life - with your children or nieces and nephews or someone else's children - then it's lovely to tap into.

Sarah Travers (43) is a TV presenter, director of Bespoke Communications and ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society. She lives in Portstewart with husband Stephen Price and they have two children, Jack (20) and Evie (14). She says:

The dynamic of our Christmas Day changes every year - as the family grows, people can come and go at any time. My sister lives in Glasgow and she's just had a baby so my mum will go over to her this year. We'll be having my in-laws over for Christmas lunch instead.

My other half is a fabulous cook so he'll look after all the food. I will be his sous chef and chief prosecco pourer - as long as I don't to do too much of the pouring then all the other parts will fall into place.

We might go to church the night before so we can have a lazy morning - the children don't jump out of bed any more. It's a very chilled day so we'll have a lazy lunch and then probably some board games, with neighbours and friends popping in to say hello. Maybe the box set of Father Ted might appear later on but that's as exciting as we get.

Jack will be back home from university and I think we're all just looking forward to a rest.

There will be a bit of a hibernation and a beach walk at some point, probably Boxing Day.

I don't think we're very exciting but I hope it stays that way.

Christmas is all about family and connecting for me. I've stayed in Portstewart, where I'm from, so a lot of my friends will come back at this time of the year and I get to catch up with them.

I love getting together for a few pints. We'll also head over to Glasgow in the New Year to see the new arrival - we didn't want to inundate my sister over Christmas!

Vinny Hurrell (35) lives in north Belfast. He presents his own show on BBC Radio Ulster each Monday evening at 10pm. He says:

Usually I would go home to Randalstown for Christmas Day but this year I'm having the whole family come to me. This time last year I bought a new house and we've been doing it up all year so it seemed like a great idea to invite everyone here a year ago. That will be mum, dad, two brothers and a sister - the other sister is having her in-laws to her house.

My mum is really great at Christmas so I have very happy memories of the festive season when I was growing up because of all the effort she put in. Mum made it look effortless so it's only now that I'm realising just how much there is to do. You can't prepare too far in advance either or the food will all be off by Christmas. Everyone has a job - one brother is doing cheese and crackers and another is doing cocktails, while my sister does desserts.

I'm not a bad cook but I've spent years trying to eat well and I've been told a lot that my food is bland and tasteless. I'm going to try and go against the grain on Christmas Day and make things taste really good. My mum may have made it all look easy but I know that it's really not. Still, I'm trying to do everything the way that mum does it because I have no idea what to do otherwise. The only big change I'm doing is adding bacon to the Brussels sprouts, which mum never did.

My best ever Christmas? That would be the year that my present was a motorised go-kart. We came downstairs to find a petrol can in the living room with a note telling us to look in the garage. That was the gift we got the most use from - hours and hours of fun.

Now, I realise that the best gift can be the people you spend Christmas with. As I get older I appreciate how lucky I am to have my family around me at this time of the year - you take so much for granted when you're young.

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