Revisiting our Christmas traditions

WHAT’S your favourite Christmas tradition? From staying up to watch The Late Late Toy Show to the Finnish custom of visiting the graveyard on Christmas Eve, the history of festive traditions is as long as Santa’s present list. We asked celebrities for their favourites.

Pat Shortt, Actor/Comedian

“In the world of showbiz, it’s not unusual to work on Christmas Eve, and even Christmas Day. I have done it myself in the past, and while there was always a great atmosphere in the hotels where we played, sometimes you wouldn’t get home on time for Christmas Day. Once the children came along, I vowed not to work over Christmas and just enjoy the festivities with them. Although they’re getting older and harder to entertain now, when the kids were younger, every Christmas Eve, after they had gone asleep, I would leave a trail of sweets from their room down the stairs to the Christmas tree. And in the morning the children would wake to would find Santa’s footprints in snow around the fireplace. The children’s reaction on Christmas morning will stay with me forever.”

* Pat Shortt’s (above) new tour, ‘I am The Band’, plays Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa, Cork, on Saturday, Nov 23 (

Sinead Kennedy, Winning Streak presenter

“As a child, I always loved Christmas — and not just because of the presents. My favourite tradition was the family trip to Cork City, for some last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve. The atmosphere in town was always electric, and my dad would let us pick an extra little treat for under the tree, like a CD. Now that I’m all grown-up, I haven’t really established any Christmas traditions of my own, to be honest. But I usually spend Christmas Eve in Dublin, with my boyfriend Conor, swapping presents and chilling out, before hopping in the car and heading home to help my mom with the last of the wrapping. On Christmas morning, we still sit around the tree and open our presents together. Then, we pile into the car, dogs and all, to go to my granny’s house in Tipperary for dinner.”

Alan Stanford, Actor/Director

“When I was a small child, growing up in a little village on the Isle of Wight, my mum and dad always took just one holiday a year. Each Christmas, we would go to London, to the same hotel in Waterloo, where, year by year into my mid-teens, I shared the festive season with the same group of kids and their families.

That’s where I found theatre. The pantomime at the London Palladium each year was my first experience of the magic of stage. Later on, I saw musicals, such as My Fair Lady, on the West End, and watched Sir Laurence Olivier act at the National Theatre. That childhood Christmas tradition probably shaped the course of my life, and explains why I’ll be celebrating much of this Christmas at the Gate.”

* Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, directed by Alan Stanford, runs at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, from Dec 3 to Jan 18 (

Elaine Crowley, Midday presenter

“I absolutely love Christmas.! Every year, I go back home to my mother in Cork for Midnight Mass, which is at nine o’clock. With nine brothers and sisters, and lots of nieces and nephews, there’s always a big gang of us around the dinner table on Christmas Day. Myself and my little brother, Liam, who’s a chef, always do the cooking. Although I try to avoid the washing up.

On St Stephen’s night, I used to always meet up with my best friend for a drink at the local pub. Sadly, she’s just emigrated to Canada, so that tradition will be gone this year.”

* Midday airs weekdays at 11.45am on TV3

Rob Heffernan, Race Walker

“Once November hits, I start training for the next year. By the time Christmas comes around, I can’t wait to take a day off. On Dec 23, I do a really long session, around 35kms. Then, on Christmas Eve, I just do around 10kms in the morning, before taking the rest of the day off. Christmas is just a day to relax with [wife] Marian and the two kids, Megan (10) and Cathal (8). It’s great to get out of the training gear and switch off from the world, with no phones, no nothing. I have such a heavy schedule, that those 36 hours off feel like two weeks. On St Stephen’s Day, I’m back training. One good thing about doing so much mileage is that I can eat whatever I want at Christmas.”

Joanne Hynes, Fashion Designer

“As a child, I remember visiting my granny’s house in Tuam every Christmas Eve. The entire family would meet there, and we usually ended up staying until the wee small hours. Santa must have been informed, because he always somehow knew to come to my granny’s house rather than our own. This year, I’ll be spending Christmas with my own family, at our new home in Wicklow, where I’m hoping to build new traditions for our 15 month-old daughter, Fainche, to carry on. My mother always turned our home into a winter wonderland at Christmas, so I’ll do my best to emulate her talents by gathering wood and holly to make decorations. Instead of presents on Christmas Day, we always donate money to Féileacáin, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland ( We also plan to take Fainche to visit the crib.”


Jerry Buttimer, Fine Gael TD

“Christmas Eve is one of my favourite days of the year. It’s a day when Cork City is alive. My day begins in-keeping with a tradition of my late mum, to rise early around 6am and head to the supermarket to buy groceries for the big day. With the early morning dash finished, it’s onto town. I always leave my shopping until Christmas Eve. I love watching people amble down Patrick St, wishing each other ‘Merry Christmas,’ walking through the market with the smell of spiced beef, popping into St Augustine’s to say a prayer and stopping off at the SHARE crib, before picking up the Holly Bough on my way home. Cork on Christmas Eve is such an important part of my tradition, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Nadia Forde, Model

“I’m playing a fairy in the panto Jack and the Beanstalk this Christmas. My work schedule is pretty full-on, but I love it. We’re having great fun in rehearsals, so, hopefully, the kids will enjoy it just as much. The best thing about doing panto is that it keeps me at home in Dublin over Christmas. Town can be a bit crazy, but I don’t mind. Christmas carolling is definitely my favourite Christmas tradition, and, years ago, I used to sing at Mass in my local parish church. I’ll probably just catch up with some friends who are home for Christmas.”

* Jack and the Beanstalk is at the Tivoli Theatre, Dublin, from Dec 11 to Jan 12 (


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