The most wonderful time of the year

Alan Hughes, TV presenter/panto star

The most wonderful time of the year

Christmas means ‘panto’ in our house. This is my 17th year in a row playing Sammy Sausages in Snow White and the Adventures of Sammy Sausages at the Tivoli.

During the party season, when most people are having a whale of a time, we are up to high doh trying to get a show on. Once you see hundreds of kids laughing and singing along though, it’s very hard not to get into the spirit of Christmas.

Myself and my husband Karl [the show’s scriptwriter] do two shows a day right up until New Year’s Eve. So Christmas Day is the only day we get off. As a kid, I used to look forward all year to watching Christmas Top of the Pops.

Nowadays, my ideal Christmas is spent doing absolutely nothing. It’s the one day of the year when I don’t even cross the door.

For those 24 hours, I love ditching the diet, putting on my PJs and watching the soaps. Any pounds that you put on are burned off pretty quickly when you’re bopping around the stage twice a day!

Karl and I always say that we’ll just get each other a little token gift for Christmas.

Then I usually dash out at the last minute and buy him something big like a laptop or an iPhone — and his face drops when he realises he’s only gotten me a pair of socks!

Growing up in Ballyfermot, we didn’t have pantos or ice-rinks — but I’ll always remember that over-whelming feeling of opening the present on Christmas morning. One year, I remember getting this gorgeous big red bike that I really wanted. I couldn’t even ride it, I was so small — and nearly killed myself trying — but I was over the moon.

Vouchers are great — but there’s just something about unwrapping a great big present.

This year, the best present I could get would be good reviews for panto. It would take the pressure off.

When it’s all over, myself and Karl usually book into The Morgan Hotel in Dublin on New Year’s Eve to celebrate in style!

Louise Duffy, Today FM DJ

My favourite part of Christmas is the journey home to Mayo with the car full of presents and Christmas songs blaring on the radio. I’ve never spent Christmas anywhere else. I’ve got a big family and friends dotted all over the world, so I look forward to getting together with everyone once a year.

This year, my little brother is coming home from Australia for the first time in two years — and I can’t wait! On Christmas morning, we have a big party and the madness pretty much continues all day, with people coming and going.

I love that lull in the middle of the day when you can curl up in front of the fire with your hand stuck in a tin of sweets and a good movie on the TV. Diet is a bad word in our house at Christmas. Chocolate is considered breakfast and wine is cracked open before noon. There’s no point in fighting it!

Kris Kindle never really took off in the Duffy household — someone would always go crazy and buy presents for everyone, making the rest of us look like miserable Scrooges.

Every year, I try to have all my presents bought and wrapped the weekend before Christmas so I can just relax and enjoy the festivities.

If money was no object, I’d love to find a new set of wheels in the driveway on Christmas morning. Back on planet Earth, I have my eye on an Alexis Bittar necklace and some Jo Malone goodies — hint, hint!”

Sonya Lennon, Off the Rails presenter

Before my twins Evie and Finn, seven, were born, there was a definite hinterland where Christmas didn’t really mean anything.

The minute they came into the picture, all that changed.

For me, Christmas is all about family. We’ll do brunch in our house for my partner Dave’s family and then head out to my parent’s house for dinner.

Every part of my life is scheduled to the hilt. But on Christmas Day, I switch off my phone and email and just relax.

From pâté to cranberry sauce, all of the food is made from scratch — and we thoroughly enjoy eating it too!

We’ve been doing Kris Kindle for the past three years.

We post a list of five things costing no more than €100 that we’d like to receive up in my parent’s house — and everyone gets something.

There isn’t enough money floating around anymore to randomly buy stuff that nobody wants. I’d much rather get a gift voucher for dinner out or a beauty treatment. Anyway, people are usually too terrified to buy me anything fashion-related!

When I was about 11, I pleaded with my parents to get me a cat for Christmas. So when I came down in the morning to find a tiny little ball of fluff in a basket at the bottom of the tree, I thought all my Christmases had come at once.

Unfortunately, it didn’t look too healthy – and by St Stephen’s Day, my Christmas present was being buried in the back garden.

After Christmas, I got an encyclopedia of cats and read it from cover to cover. And a few months later, I went and picked from a new litter.

Nowadays, Evie and Finn would probably be more interested in getting an iPhone from Santa.

With last year’s presents still sitting there barely used though, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell!

Donal Skehan, Food writer and presenter

My girlfriend Sofie is Swedish, so every second year we go over to her family for Christmas.

In Sweden, Christmas day is Dec 24, which is always very odd for me. So whenever we’re in Ireland for Christmas, like this year, I really cherish it. For the first year ever, I’ve taken on the massive task of cooking Christmas dinner for 12 people on my own. The pressure is definitely on!

From mince pies to mulled wine, Christmas cooking is steeped in so much tradition.

But my absolute favourite is the Christmas ham. I use Nigella Lawson’s recipe for ham in Coca Cola, which gives a lovely sweet, sticky glaze.

Leftover turkey sandwiches are also a winner in my book.

As a small family, mum, dad, my brother and I exchange gifts every year.

Now that we’re grown-up, there are no remote control cars whizzing around the kitchen table on Christmas Day. But I always appreciate a new cookbook.

Meanwhile, Sofie and I usually get each other something we can both enjoy like a holiday. Last year, as a mutual Christmas present, we went to Vietnam and Thailand.

Sometimes though, it’s the simple things that you remember the most.

One Christmas, when I was around six or seven, dad bought this battered old rocking horse at an auction and restored it.

There’s a great old photo of myself and my brother sitting on the rocking horse, which I still have at home in my room.

For me, Christmas begins the minute the lights are switched on.

There’s something magical about shopping for Christmas presents on Grafton Street when it’s alive with lights and carol singers, before stopping off in Bewley’s for a coffee.

And if it snows, well that’s just the icing on the cake.

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