How 10 well-known people celebrate Christmas with movies, books and music

Leo Varadkar

An Taoiseach

My favourite film of the year was Elvis. I am a big Baz Luhrmann fan and this film was up there with his best work. I loved the music, the storyline, the acting, the cinematography. I went to see it in the Stella, an old 1920s-style cinema in Rathmines, which is always a nice experience. I also loved Where the Crawdads Sing. It’s a beautiful film and story and I love Americana. Daisy Edgar-Jones is a phenomenal actress and she does character and accents so well. I saw that on a plane — certainly not as pleasant an experience as the Stella!

My favourite documentary film was How to Tell a Secret which I caught at the Dublin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. It’s about living with HIV and how to talk to about it with other people. I found the experiences of women with HIV to be particularly compelling.

The Banshees of Inisherin is on my must-watch list for the Christmas break and I am really looking forward to Dune 2 next year.

On books, Surrender by Bono, is a great life story. I am a big U2 fan but I learned loads about their story and their most famous songs that I did not know.

My essential reading for the Christmas break is Greta Thunberg’s Climate Book.

Over the summer, I finally got around to reading Pandemonium by Hugh O’Connell and Jack Horgan-Jones. It’s a compelling description of life inside government and the HSE during the turbulent pandemic years. I was amazed how much I had forgotten about what happened.

I also read Shane Ross’s In Bed with the Blueshirts. Shane’s a great writer and the fact that he was so self-deprecating about his own time in government made his often-cutting commentary much easier to accept.

I am an Apple Music man so I don’t really buy albums but I made an exception for Taylor Swift. I love her music and it just gets better. Midnights is great.

Sharon Shannon

Musician

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‘I look forward to maybe staying at my own home this year for the first time ever,’ says Sharon Shannon. Picture by Fergal Phillips

I have a great friend coming to visit me in Galway on Christmas Eve and we will probably cook a big roast dinner. And we will have a roaring fire. I’m looking forward to just relaxing with the animals in front of the fire. I will do the same thing on Christmas Day if I don’t go to Co Clare. I haven’t fully decided what to do this year.

My father passed away the day before Christmas Eve last year, so my family and I had to deal with all of the heartbreak of that last Christmas. We have an anniversary mass a few days before Christmas. We will probably play some music with the family.

Otherwise I look forward to maybe staying at my own home this year for the first time ever. I might join in on a few trad sessions in Galway in the days after Christmas.

I have a show at the INEC in Killarney on New Year’s night with Frances Black and Mary Coughlan. I’m really looking forward to that. We always have great fun at the Gleneagle Hotel.

My favourite music that was released this year is a trad album by amazing fiddler Aidan Connolly.

Joe Duffy

Broadcaster

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‘Damien Dempsey’s new Christmas song is going to be a staple,’ says Joe Duffy. Picture by Mark Condren

Christmas Eve is spent on Grafton Street outside The Bailey for the radio show. This year is the 48th annual extravaganza — begun by Gaybo. On Christmas Day I walk the Bull Wall. I will watch my children get in for a dip. I’ll not be emerging from my new Dry Robe due to my crippling shyness (Elephant’s Breath is the ‘in’ colour in Clontarf this season). St Stephen’s Day will be a quiet one.

My favourite music of the year included Damien Dempsey’s new Christmas song, Fáilte Abhaile (Welcome Home) — it’s going to be a seasonal staple.

Book wise, Bono’s Surrender is excellent. As was Damien Owens’s Duffy and Son. My Heart and Other Breakables by Eyeries-based writer Alex Barclay is going to smash it in 2023.

The Banshees of Inisherin is the best movie by far. Not since a 35-year-old Jack Lemmon played a put-upon, baffled, bewildered insurance man in The Apartment has an actor nailed a similar character like Colin Farrell. Genius. Oscars beckon.

Farah Elle

Singer

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‘The balance of hibernation and community festivities do me good,’ says singer Farah Elle. Picture by Steve Humphreys

My family and I started celebrating the festivities a few years ago; before that we didn’t do anything at Christmas because Muslims don’t celebrate Jesus’s birthday. But we decided, ‘Hey, let’s just start having dinner and watching movies, putting up a tree and lights and just showing gratitude for shelter and warmth during the darkest and coldest time of the year’. So every year I’m with my family.

My mom gets a leg of lamb from the halal shop and roasts a chicken to go alongside. I’m vegan so I’ll have loads of roast vegetables and maybe try out a new yummy recipe. I used to really dislike this period and sometimes I still struggle with the seasonal sadness, but I find that the balance of hibernation and community festivities do me good. Not forcing myself to get swept up by the Christmas rush and let the stress of material pressure get to me also really helps.

My favourite record of 2022 was Fatoumata Diawara’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert and my favourite book was Secrets of Divine Love by A. Helwa.

My favourite films were Everything Everywhere All at Once, Nope and RRR.

Daniel O’Donnell

Singer

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‘I usually start the day by going to mass and then it’s eat, eat, eat,’ says Daniel O’Donnell. Picture by Mark Condren

We will be in Donegal for Christmas. And the children and grandchildren will be there. We will have a traditional Christmas dinner. Hopefully we’ll find a turkey. I love Christmas. Fire on. Christmas tree up. All the usual old films on the TV. Playing games together. We always end up fighting over who won.

Santa comes very early. Probably around 6am. 

I usually start the day by going to mass and then it’s eat, eat, eat. It’s just a lovely relaxing day. I don’t cook. I wash the dishes. There is usually a charity walk on St Stephen’s Day. It helps to get rid of a bit of the excesses of the day before.

Favourite book? I’m not a reader.

Favourite record? My own!

Best movies of 2022? I liked An Cailín Ciúin.

Michael Harding

Author

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‘Christmas becomes a refuge, a retreat, a time out of the busy anxieties of ordinary time,’ says Michael Harding. Picture by Brian Farrell

I will be spending Christmas in the hills above Lough Allen as usual. We will be at home with the three cats all morning, setting the table and finishing the cooking and trying to stay off the booze until afternoon. The morning will be peppered with phone calls to family and friends, texting and emailing. A walk up the hills might also be on the cards, if the sky is clear.

We will eat turkey, with a main vegan dish to complement the meat dishes. And we will have the dinner in traditional style: starters, soup, turkey and ham, Christmas pudding, and coffee. This is all washed down with Bordeaux wine and a bottle of Croithli whiskey after the coffee.

I love Christmas. I’m a sucker for the symbolic life. Christmas is a deeply embedded symbol of light in the darkness, and the possibility of transformation. It’s a lovely time of year if you can just get into the symbolic energy.

When you get into the symbolism, the sense of light in the darkness, the sense of an ontological base to human individuality which is in essence the core of the story of this nativity, then you don’t feel you have to get through anything; au contraire, Christmas becomes a refuge, a retreat, a time out of the busy anxieties of ordinary time.

I love it. Because of the intensity of the rituals around eating, it can be a nightmare for some people who are lonely or feel disconnected from their loved ones, maybe because of death or because of various disputes. I still think that participation in communal ritual, service, mass, carol service, or just a visit to a church is a great help. I don’t go much myself, but I watch various services online which I think is becoming quite a thing. I especially love the music in services at the St Elisabeth Convent in Minsk, and finding them on You Tube for 10 or 20 minutes always chills me out.

On St Stephen’s Day we usually try to walk at some stage, along the beautiful shores of Lough Allen. If the daughter, son and daughter-in-law have been home, which they usually are, then we bid them farewell, wave at the cars heading off and turn on the television.

My favourite record this year was Cancion de Amor with Eleanor Shanley and John Feeley. It came out this time last year and I got the CD to play in my motorcar. And I’m still listening and enjoying. Lovely mix of her voice with classical guitar. Brilliant.

But I don’t buy records. Most of what I listen to is on Spotify. I listen to a lot of Rachmaninoff and Arvo Part.

My reading tastes would be a bit odd and I read mostly on Kindle. Secrets of Divine Love by Helwa is a wonderful book on Islam.

Asking for Trouble by Patricia Craig is fascinating, and Twisted Root again by Patricia Craig is a super interesting read.

Northern Protestants on Shifting Ground is essential reading at the moment. Interdependence; Biology and Beyond by Kriti Sharma is the one I’m engrossed in right now. Buddhism in the chemistry lab — just my cup of tea.

Films? Harry and Meghan. Loved it and loved them even though they are a kind of joke. But they’re a serious joke and their impact for both good or ill on both the British monarchy and more importantly the Tabloid Zone is going to be significant.

They have truly established a brand that won’t be going away any time soon so it could be a force for good, even though, as I say, they sometimes sound as empty as a pair of designer shoes that have been locked in a wardrobe for too long.”

Camille O’Sullivan

Singer

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‘Currently I am bringing Christmas to the green room in the Gate theatre,’ says Camille O’Sullivan. Picture by Steve Humphreys

Well, this will be a pretty short Christmas as I’ll be performing Piaf in the Gate Theatre running until the end of January — we get December 24 and 25 off! It’s lovely to be home. I’ve spent Christmas on the beach in Australia a few times. Last year I was in New York, ice skating while opening the new Irish Arts Centre; I brought back a massive Santa and toy soldier in two golf bags so they are coming wherever I’m going for Christmas!

I booked us a hotel as a special treat for my parents coming from Cork, my nine-year-old daughter and partner — a wee treat and no cooking for me and mum! 

I love to decorate. So currently I am bringing Christmas to the green room in the Gate theatre — turning it into Papa Noel’s Grotto. It has a crib, candles, stockings and I just took some cardboard boxes out of a skip to make candy canes and a gingerbread house.

At home my French mum used to make the most wonderful Christmas dinner, but understandingly she doesn’t want to cook this year

We always have good fun and a full-on argument on Christmas Day, so we’re prepared with board games and port. I plan to eat as much different types of chocolate and always love watching That’s Entertainment, dancing clips from the 40s, 50s and of course The Wizard of Oz.

I love going to a little church off Grafton street on Christmas Eve — I love the street, it is so empty — and going for little drink after to hear the beautiful carol singing. 

We’ll always take a walk maybe through Stephen’s Green. I’ll go for a swim in the sea on December 26 and then prepare for the birthday on December 30 and New Year’s resolutions I won’t be able to keep! After being separated two years I feel so lucky to be with my family this year and in front of a lovely audience, precious moments.

My favourite records of 2022 were Harry Styles’s Harry’s House and Bjork’s Fossora.

My favourite films were Living — I love Bill Nighy — and Licorice Pizza.

Best books? The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka, The Bullet That Missed: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery by Richard Osman, and The Alan Rickman Diaries. I’m looking forward to reading Bono’s book.

Michael Mulcahy

Artist

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‘We’ll be getting tipsy on Champagne, to mark it as a special day,’ says artist Michael Mulcahy. Picture by Mark Condren

I’m staying at home this Christmas, in Wexford with Vera. Neither of us like fuss, so it’ll be an easy day. After our four sheep dogs make sure to get us out for a long walk, we’ll be getting tipsy on champagne, to mark it as a special day.

I’ll boogie around to my favourite CD of 2022, Window to the World by The Frisky Gypsys. I love their light rock vibe. Their song Born to Believe on it, about not letting anyone hold you back, is how I live my life.

I’ll browse through some of my art books. My favourite this past year, is on the French painter, Gerard Garouste. I went to see his exhibition in Paris recently. 

Neither Vera nor I are big dinner eaters, so it’ll be our preferred salmon for us. Then just nibbles for the rest of the day. I’ll be on the phone, to family and friends. Sending love and good wishes, for all to have a stress-free Christmas with good humour all the way.

Holly Carpenter

Influencer

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‘Prioritise your mental health and physical well-being over trying to please everyone,’ advises Holly Carpenter. Picture by Steve Humphreys

My boyfriend Jamie will be heading home to Kinsale on Christmas Eve to spend time with his family. When he hits the road to Cork, I’ll be packing a suitcase and moving home to my mum and dad’s house for a few nights with my dog Max. I’m excited to spend time with my parents, younger brother and our four dogs.

In terms of food, I may be biased but my mum Jane is the most talented chef I know. She really thrives in the kitchen at this time of year so I’m looking forward to ham, turkey, stuffing and Brussels sprouts. Oh, and crispy golden roast potatoes drowning in butter — the list goes on!

Do I enjoy the Christmas period? I find the end of the year can be quite stressful as someone who is self-employed. I also feel a lot of pressure to socialise, but as I’ve grown older I’ve learned that you don’t need to spread yourself too thin and say yes to every invite. I can sometimes feel a little burnt out by the time it comes to Christmas Eve but I think that’s why I enjoy the cosy relaxed atmosphere of my parents’ house even more.

Do I have any tricks for getting through it physically and mentally? I know it can be difficult not to feel overwhelmed at the thought of Christmas shopping, social gatherings and trying to see all of your relatives. My advice would be to prioritise your mental health and physical well-being over trying to please everyone. It’s not the end of the world if you miss out on a few dinners or events if it means you’ll avoid feeling run down. I used to burn the candle at both ends every year but I have improved and matured a little — I hope.

On Christmas Day, I go for a big walk in the park with my dad, brother and our dogs. We have a family tradition of making breakfast bagels together each morning and then I’ll give mum a hand with the dinner — although she’s extremely organised so sometimes I feel like I’m getting in the way with my last-minute offer of help.

St Stephen’s Day is a very relaxed cosy day in our house. I’ll usually have a long bath with Christmas music, pop on some fresh festive pyjamas and watch back-to-back Christmas movies. Going to the pub on St Stephen’s Day is my worst nightmare.

My favourite records of 2022? I loved Harry Styles’s album Harry’s House. A lot of his songs put me in a good mood.

As for my favourite books of 2022, Idol by Louise O’Neill was the most gripping book I read in 2022. Louise has such a gift for grabbing the reader’s attention instantly and I love her style of writing.

Elvis was my favourite movie of the year. I thought the cast and soundtrack were incredible and I couldn’t believe how little I knew about his life. I also loved Nothing Compares. I have always been fascinated by Sinéad O’Connor. Kathryn Ferguson is an outstanding director so I would highly recommend seeing this if you haven’t already.

Alan Hughes

Broadcaster and actor

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‘It’s great to totally chill make a nice dinner and totally relax,’ says panto star Alan Hughes. Picture by Brian McEvoy

As Christmas Day is our one day off from our panto Snow White at the National Stadium, it’s spent at home with just me and Karl. Panto is so full-on with two shows a day it’s great to totally chill and make a nice dinner and totally relax.

We will make the traditional turkey and ham which I normally run around town on Christmas Eve trying to buy

We both love the festive period as panto is so much fun and it’s great we are back live at the National Stadium playing to full houses

It’s a tough four-week run. So, lots of vitamins are needed and I really need to focus mentally to get through, but to hear children and adults loving the show is worth it all

Favourite song of the year is Harry Styles’s Same As It Was. The Prince sings it in Snow White. We met Harry all those years ago back at X-Factor and he always had that something special.

Our favourite film was the new West Side Story. Our favourite song is Somewhere from the movie. Brian Kennedy sang it in the church at our wedding and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Snow White and Buffy and Sammy runs at the National Stadium until January 8. panto.ie

https://www.independent.ie/life/how-10-well-known-people-celebrate-christmas-with-movies-books-and-music-42241109.html How 10 well-known people celebrate Christmas with movies, books and music

Fry Electronics Team

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