Christmas 2019: The celeb guide to surviving the festive season

Christmas 2019: The celeb guide to surviving the festive season

From last-minute presents to managing the big day, Ciara McDonnell asks celebrities for their Christmas survival tips.


Florence is nearly five and Enzo, the young fella, is nearly two, so our house is in full-on Santa mode this year.

Florence is really aware of it this year and we have been tormented by the Elf on The Shelf for the last month, which is the bane of my life. They are like another job! As if we all need another job!

The most excited person in my house at Christmas is my husband, Lau.

Every year he is dying to get rid of Halloween so we can get the Christmas tree up. His family are all the same, they start talking about Christmas in August and it wrecks my head. I have had to stop myself from starting many arguments and just go with it — it’s the only way. You’ll never beat them!

Every year, our Christmas Day varies. We’ll do my family one year and then we’ll do Lau’s family, so it goes Dublin-Bristol-Dublin-Bristol.

It’s been happening like that for the last twelve years, but since the kids I find travelling harder. I joke that the reason I had kids was so I could use them as an excuse to stay at home, at Christmas!

I had all of my family around last year and we were all having a glass of wine and a great time and I FaceTimed his mother and I got a bit emotional and committed myself to going to her place this year instead of her coming to me. It’s a bit tricky really, because we are all worried that Santa won’t know where to go.

But I am thrilled to go and it will be a brilliant Christmas.

When we are here in Dublin at Christmas we always go into town and do a family brunch on Christmas Eve and it’s lovely.

Nobody is worried about cooking, so no one is stressed.

We go in quite early and we have a brunch and Champagne and a good time and then everyone is home nice and early to get ready for Santa, which is ideal.

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I take two weeks off at Christmas and I love that time. January, February and March are all crazy busy for me with radio and Dancing With The Stars so I try to make the most of it while I’m off and spend time with my friends and family. For New Year, we are going to Center Parc.

I didn’t want to get on another plane, and I wanted to go somewhere active and this place is in a 400 acre forest.

All the free stuff like the walks and swimming is the best stuff, and we absolutely love it. I like to dress up on Christmas Day. By the time New Year rolls around I am sick of all the dressing up, but at Christmas I am still excited by it. A friend that I work with has full-on black tie Christmas dinner and I am always a little bit jealous, because I think that it makes it really special.

I like to see people while I’m off work, I like to go visiting friends and family, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

This is the first year I said to Lau, ‘please don’t get me anything’. Do you know what, I actually meant it!

I have so much stuff, I don’t want any more. I told him that if he wanted to get me something, to get me an experience.

Take me away somewhere, get me a massage — something like that. I have so many clothes and things that I don’t need anything, and I don’t want for anything, not like years ago.

If you haven’t got your gifts yet, then I tell everyone to shop Irish.

Go to your local shops and buy your last-minute gifts there.

There are so many amazing Irish brands, so they have made it really easy for us to support them.

  • Cuando ( has an amazing range of gifts by Irish makers and designers, lots of which can be personalised.
  • Lou & Belle ( is an incredible online store owned by a Mum of two called Ali Gibbons, and has amazing sustainable children’s toys and gorgeous baby clothes.
  • Whiskey lovers will adore Natterjack Irish Whiskey and for gin lovers, I’d go for Sixling Irish Gin - it’s infused with cloudberries.
  • If you have kids, My Higher Shelf ( is an incredible source of gorgeous emotion-based kid’s books.
  • Sixling Gin (€48) @ Celtic Whiskey Shop.
  • Today I Feel by Madalena Moniz (€11.99) @


This year I’ll be spending Christmas in my sister’s new house for the very first time.

Up until this point I have spent every Christmas in my parent’s house, our family home and all the family would have gathered together — all of us and the grandkids and it is absolute utter chaos.

But the best kind of chaos.

It is great fun, we don’t get many chances for all of us to get together so we really appreciate it.

I usually go to my parent’s house on Christmas Eve and we’ll go somewhere close by for dinner.

Then I’ll go for a drink with my parents before joining my friends in the local that we’ve gone to all our lives and have a few drinks. I wake up in my parent’s house on Christmas morning and have a nice breakfast.

Then family come over or we go to see them, and then we’ll always get together in the afternoon and that’s when the chaos begins.

After a great big dinner we play card games and generally have a laugh. It’s the only time of year where you are not worrying about emails or where you have to be, and there’s great comfort in that, I think.

We don’t have any other commitments other than what is in front of us. I think it is brilliant in terms of people who suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). There is none of that on Christmas Day. You have to live in the moment and it’s fantastic.

Men don’t have to be hard to buy for.

There are lots of great options for those of us who haven’t done our shopping yet.

Straight off the bat I have to suggest a Kennedy & Co gift set.

There are three different gifts set each with a different permutation of product. The products are great because they are fantastic value and they really work.

A nice hold-all or weekend bag is always a good gift for a guy.

Aspinal of London do some beautiful leather hold-alls and leather bags. If you want to get something that’s going to last, then this is the job.

I love fragrance and scent. The Tom Ford Private Blend selection is beautiful, or Chanel Bleu. Hugo Boss fragrance is a gorgeous range too.

If you are struggling to find that perfect gift, or you need to pick up something at the very nice minute, then you can’t go wrong with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot or something like that. A nice bottle of bubbles is always welcome I think.

  • Kennedy & Co Gift Set (€25) @ McCabes Pharmacys and Dunnes Stores nationwide.
  • Vueve Clicquot Yellow Label (€65) at wine stores nationwide.


In terms of Christmas and food, I have a few rules that I always follow.

I think that if you are eating a certain way, it is a mistake to think that the world is going to accommodate you.

My policy is to always offer to bring a dish if I am going to someone’s house.

I always tell people who are thinking of going vegan that you have to be armed.

You can’t expect everyone to cook a separate meal just for you. I suggest having about five recipes that are bulletproof, you know inside out and work for meat-eaters and vegans.

In terms of Christmas, this year I collaborated with The Merrion Hotel on a three-course Christmas lunch and it was really exciting because obviously they are a five-star hotel and things have to be a little bit more sophisticated.

I have a recipe on my website for a sage and onion gravy and I absolutely love it.

I think that gravy is one of the most important parts of Christmas dinner, and if you get that right then you’re onto a good thing. I’ll be making myself a beetroot tart and, if I have that, with all my veg and my delicious gravy then I won’t feel like I am missing out at all.

Gift-wise, there are lots of great products out there for those of us who are vegan and trying to be as environmentally conscious as possible.

Codex Beauty is an Irish brand that is really committed to sustainability. They are very into re-wilding practices with their products, which is actually just letting nature do its thing.

The best thing is that they work.

I adore their facial oil, and it makes a wonderful gift. It’s hard to know what to give someone, but I find this to be an excellent multi-use product.

I use it as a serum, on lips and even as a primer for make-up.

If someone is going down this path and is worried about how to approach it nutritionally, then I’ve worked with Meagher’s Pharmacy to create a vegan supplement box.

I worked with a pharmacist there to come up with a definitive collection of what vegans need to supplement their nutrition.

It should cost €67 but if you buy it in a bundle it’s €55 for a two month supply. It’s a great gift for someone who is into their health and wellness.

For super last-minute gifts, I love a shop called Mo Muse in the Powerscourt Town Centre in Dublin. They have gorgeous jewellery that is at an accessible price point.

They are ten years in business and have an excellent website.

Fuschia Make-Up have an eight-piece vegan brush collection and I really, really like it because it comes in a lovely box and the brushes are excellent quality.

I think brushes are always a lovely gift and always go down well.

Bia Facial Oil by Codex (€100) @

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