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Our magical Christmas

It is the most special time of the year and four well-known Northern Ireland personalities tell Weekend why this Christmas will be a great one for them

BBC journalist Emma-Louise Johnston and husband Jonathan Crawford, both 33, are looking forward to their first Christmas|with daughter Emily, five months. Emma-Louise says:

I totally love Christmas although poor Johnny, being in retail, doesn’t get to do much during the festive season. He is usually knackered on Christmas Day. It falls on me to decorate the house and I love doing it.

This year is so special because we have Emily. She is still a bit too young to appreciate what it is all about but for me it is just the perfect Christmas because she is with us. I won’t buy her loads because I think that’s just crazy but there will be one or two small gifts from Santa. She is at a lovely wee age now where she just smiles and laughs all the time and she is so cute.

Mum and Dad always made Christmas very magical for us growing up and I am determined to do the same for Emily.

Johnny and I will toast the day with Buck’s Fizz for breakfast and open our gifts. We are not usually extravagant and would tell each other what we wanted. This year I think we will just book a nice break away for the two of us after Christmas.

We are going to my mum’s for Christmas dinner. All my family will be there: my brother Simon and his wife Fiona and their little girl Holly as well as my brother Peter and sister Lucy. My dad does all the cooking although there are so many of us this year we will probably all chip in and help.

This has been a wonderful year for me because of Emily. She really is a wee gem. She is like her dad in that she is a good sleeper and like her mum because she loves her grub. She has just made our lives so special and for us it will be an idyllic Christmas with our daughter.

Frank’s girls are staying with us, so Santa will be visiting

TV host Christine Bleakley (32) is looking forward to spending this Christmas playing Santa to her fiancé Frank Lampard’s two children, Luna (6) and Isla (4). She says:

Getting engaged to Frank made 2011 very special. He had been semi-joking about proposing for so long that it become a classic ‘cry wolf’ situation and when it happened I thought ‘Oh My God, is he actually going to do it?’

He managed to completely surprise me and it was a beautiful moment and such a perfect setting that it felt like we were the only couple in the world.

We genuinely have no idea when we will get married, the only reason being trying to work round Frank’s football schedule, which kind of rules next summer out.

We dream about how we want it and ideally it would be with at least a few days off to enjoy even a brief honeymoon, but the reality is that we might have to decide just to take a day and go and do it.

Christmas for me is about family and I always go home to mum’s. But this year we are having it at home in London as Frank has a match on Boxing Day against Fulham.

The plan is that my family will join us. We have Frank’s girls staying with us this year so Santa will be visiting our house and it is very exciting. Having the girls here adds so much to Christmas that you can’t help going back to your own childhood and it’s given the whole thing a new lease of life.

We did Santa’s letters the other day and went and put them in the postbox. We are really looking forward to it and I have a few ideas about things like leaving the mince pies out for Santa.

Mum will probably still cook dinner as that is one bit of Christmas that she couldn’t let go. Even when we try to help her she has everything so well organised now that we are more of a hindrance in the kitchen to her than a help.

Frank and I aren’t flashy when it comes to presents. He is so much better than me at putting thought into his gifts and always bowls me over at Christmas and birthdays. Still, I’ve no idea what I will be getting.

I’m really excited about 2012 and doing Dancing on Ice. I have watched the show for years and I can’t believe I am going to be part of it.

I have spoken to former presenter Holly [Willoughby] who has been great and Phillip Schofield, who is a telly legend and I’m just really positive about it all.

There are lots of other things being talked about, but Dancing on Ice will take me through to March so I am going to just concentrate on that in the meantime and give it my all.

My Christmas Day will be all about family

Miss Northern Ireland Finola Guinnane (22), from Belfast, has just enjoyed the most exciting six months of her life and is looking forward to a special family Christmas. She says:

It was such a shock to win Miss Northern Ireland on June 13 and since then I have been so busy and had the most enjoyable six months of my life. I genuinely can’t believe that I am already half way through my year and I’m sad that I only have six months left, as I could happily do this for the rest of my life.

I was at Miss World in October when we spent a wonderful week in Scotland playing traditional games and learning the Highland fling. Then we had a week in London, sightseeing and rehearsing.

It was an amazing experience and I made friends for life with Miss Scotland, Jennifer Reoch, and Miss Wales, Sara Manchipp, who I hope to meet up with before Christmas.

I’ve also been working with the Children’s Hospice, which has been a real eye-opener and made me realise just how lucky I am. It’s been an honour working with them and the nurses really are angels on earth.

Christmas for me is all about family. My sister Susan and brother Mark have young children and will come to mum’s for Christmas dinner. We will open our presents in the morning and then have our dinner in the afternoon, which is the most exciting part for me. I’m a real foodie and love my mum’s turkey.

In the evening more cousins and other family will arrive for a party and my fiancé, Dairmaid McPhillips, will join us.

Dairmaid and I have been going out for six years so we don’t really go for very extravagant presents. We are going to Mexico on holiday in January, which is our Christmas gift to each other. There may be one or two wee surprises as well, though ...

It’s great to have someone else do the cooking for me

Chef and proprietor of the award-winning Mourne Seafood Resturant Andy Rea (39) loves Christmas and is looking forward this year to putting his feet up and letting his sister do all the cooking. He says:

I’m like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation, I just love Christmas. I had my tree up at the end of November and my fairy lights hanging from my balcony. I have the cinnamon candles all round the place and the Christmas music playing.

I will do all the Christmas things like the panto and markets with my two daughters Megan (10) and Sophie (9). It’s been a really good year for me business-wise with the opening of our cookery school, which we sunk every penny into and it’s going very well.

We also opened our Tapas Bar, which is going down really well and has been number one on Trip Advisor for most of the year.

It’s been tough because of the VAT on food and rising energy costs and rates, but you either stand still or listen to your customers and make changes, which is what we did and fortunately it is paying off.

A perk of working for us is that unlike most restaurants, we close on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Usually people in the hospitality industry spend Christmas Day knackered but I think everyone should have a chance to enjoy Christmas so even though we would be packed on Christmas Eve I close up so that my staff can have time off over the festive period.

I will spend Christmas Eve in the kitchen making my own cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy, which I give out to all the family. I spend so much time cooking fish that I actually don’t mind doing the Christmas turkey, but I’m really looking forward to Christmas Day this year because my sister Jennifer is doing all the cooking at her house in Saintfield.

She will panic a bit but she knows that I’m easy to please and she will have me spoiled rotten. It will be lovely to be able to sit back and relax and have it done for me. I spend the morning with my daughters and then go to my sister’s, where the rest of the family will join us that evening — we will have a proper party and I will stay over.”

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