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What makes Christmas Day so special for Naomi Long, Sonya Mac and Sean Coyle?

In the first of a two part series, Stephanie Bell takes a look at how some of our best-known personalities will be spending the festive season.

Q Radio 'After Dark' presenter Sonya Mac hopes to be serving Christmas dinner to 120 people this year as she gives up her own Christmas Day to bring festive cheer to others and raise money for charity in memory of her dad James, who died from cancer three years ago. She says:

I always enjoyed a traditional Christmas Day with mum and dad, but after we lost dad, mum and I found it very difficult on our own.

Last year we decided to open my cafe Eats Healthy in Newtownards on Christmas Day for people who lost loved ones or anyone who was alone or just wanted to come along.

It was a crazy day, but such a success that we are doing it again this year. I will be at the cafe for about 7am to start preparing the meals and we have two sittings for dinner, at 12.30pm and 3pm.

Mum comes along and helps, and last year we didn't even get a Christmas dinner.

We got sitting down for the first time at 11.30pm that night with a slice of Pavlova.

I served the turkey last year and I didn't even get lifting my head once to say hello to people because it was so busy.

We are already almost booked out for the 3pm sitting and have only a few places left at 12.30, so it is shaping up to be just as busy this year, with all money raised going to the Children's Cancer Fund and Cancer Research UK.

I don't feel that I am missing out on anything. Mum and I will buy each other a present and exchange gifts at some stage over Christmas.

The way I look at it, I would prefer to be doing something worthwhile for charity than filling myself with turkey and then spending the evening slumped in front of the TV eating Quality Street.

Mum and I will visit dad's grave in the morning and lay a wreath before we go to the cafe.

If it wasn't for dad, I don't think the charities would be as much in the forefront of my mind, so it is in his memory that I am doing it and it is something different on Christmas Day.

It's a good feeling, knowing you are helping a lot of people."

After Dark with Sonya Mac, Q Radio, Mon-Fri, 10pm-2am

Alliance leader Naomi Long (45) and her husband Michael (45) look forward to a traditional family Christmas. Naomi says:

I love Christmas, it is my favourite time of the year. My birthday is in December, so I am a real December person. On Christmas Eve I do a Santa run and deliver all my presents to family and friends. Our last call is to my in-laws, where we have Christmas dinner every year and I will leave all of our presents there to be opened together on Christmas Day.

I keep one present back for Michael and he keeps one for me, to give to each other on Christmas morning.

We have quite a routine on Christmas Day. After breakfast we go to church at Bloomfield and then on to my mother-in-law’s house.

It is a real family Christmas, with Michael’s parents, Elaine and Adriane, his sister Alison from England and his nephew Sid, who is 10. Before mum died she would have been there, too.

We open presents first and we do it very slowly with a glass of Champagne beside us. It usually takes quite a while, as we hand them out and open them one at a time to see what everyone has got, and being the only child Sid usually gets quite a lot.

We then sit down to Christmas dinner in the afternoon, which will usually be interrupted for the Queen’s speech.

We will leave the table after the main course to listen to the Queen’s speech and then have our dessert.

Michael’s sister goes and rings her friend. As a child she and her friend didn’t like the Queen’s speech and would have rung each other while the rest of the family watched it and they have kept that tradition up, so while we are all sitting round the TV she is off to make her phone call.

Elaine is a fantastic cook and we always have traditional turkey and all the trimmings.

She always worries about the dinner being cold by the time she gets it out, but it is never cold, it’s always perfect.

Sid’s latest passion is guitars, so I am getting my old guitar which I haven’t played in years restrung so that he can play it over the week he is home at Christmas and on Christmas Day.

After dinner we usually play games or watch TV. This will be our first Christmas for 18 years without our dog Bonnie, as he passed away earlier this year, but we have a new dog, Daisy, who will also be with us and we’ve got him a Christmas coat.

I don’t go mad with presents at Christmas, but I like to make an effort and pick something I know people will like and appreciate.

At our age we don’t really need more stuff, so we are more into experiences rather than things.

For me, you get more joy out of that and they are treats which you normally wouldn’t buy yourself.

We spend a lovely evening in Michael’s mums and then I do a big meal on Boxing Day and everyone comes to us.”

BBC Radio Foyle presenter Sean Coyle says he enjoys a quiet Christmas Day at home with his wife Valerie. The couple have three daughters and six grandsons. Sean says:

We get up on Christmas morning and my good wife makes the breakfast, usually a wee fry, and then we go to visit our three daughters and grandsons.

Our daughter Una has two boys, Clare has three boys and Fiona has one boy and we will visit each of them and spend time playing with the children and their new toys.

We then go back home and my wife cooks the Christmas dinner. We will pour a wee glass of wine and put on a couple of CDs and I will stay in the kitchen and talk to her while she makes dinner.

There’s not much point in me helping, as I know nothing about cooking — she’s a great cook and I would only get in the way. I do absolutely nothing apart from maybe mash the potatoes.

We sit down around 3pm for dinner — we don’t have turkey as I don’t like turkey. We have chicken instead and ham and roasties and all the other trimmings. We don’t usually have a starter and I’m not interested in pudding.

I don’t cook and I don’t shop either. Every year it’s the same when it comes to presents — my wife will say ‘Don’t you get me anything this year’ and I will say the same to her.

My girls will get my wife’s present for me and my wife will get the girls something for me. I’ve been informed that I’ve bought my wife perfume this year!

After dinner I go into the living room to the land of leather and fall asleep on the sofa. My wife will probably go upstairs with her Kindle for a couple of hours and we won’t see each other again until about 8pm.

I‘m very anti-TV and I try to do without TV on Christmas Day. I’ve already checked the listings and there is not one programme on that I would want to watch.

My wife, though, might put something on the TV on Christmas night and I sit and look at it. For us, it is a quiet day and we enjoy it.

My wife looks after our grandsons so we have them in our house every day of the week.

We have an open invitation to all of our daughters’ houses on Christmas Day and they don’t understand why we like to be on our own.

But we just like to be able to go and visit them in their homes and play with the children and then come back and have a quiet day, just the two of us together.

There is no mad drinking or party hats, we just love to be able to talk and eat together and have a nice day with no pressure.”

Sean Coyle show, Radio Ulster, Mon-Fri, 10.30am-noon

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