All we want for Christmas is...

Christmas is a time to celebrate with family, or remember loved ones lost, create traditions with a new generation or relax at home, after a crazy year. Here SARAH HORGAN chats to five Cork women to find out how they will spend the festive period
All we want for Christmas is...
Singer/songwriter Nella with her daughter Faílenn and their dog Chicken in Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

CHRISTMAS Day will be a bitter-sweet occasion for renowned Cork playwright and actor Irene Kelleher.

“This is the first time since my dad’s death that I’ll be letting Christmas back into my heart and mind,” the Ovens native said.

“Since his passing in 2017, this has been an especially hard time of year for us as a family. After the death of a loved one Christmas is never the same. I think about Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and how he never wanted to let Christmas in.

Irene Kelleher. Picture: DenisaPhoto
Irene Kelleher. Picture: DenisaPhoto

“When you take a closer look at the story, it’s clear that it was just too painful for him.”

The festive season will offer Irene some much needed downtime.

“As an actor, you have to take the work wherever you can get it. It’s rare that I have time off this time of year so I want to spend it with family, friends and nobody else. I’m going to enjoy the downtime so much. I put up the decorations on December 1. I know that dad would have killed us if we didn’t put up decorations as Christmas was a time of year that he loved.”

Irene’s friend Paula will form an important part of this year’s celebrations.

“My best friend Paula moved to Key West in Florida and this is the first year she won’t be home for Christmas. We’re very sad not to be able to have our usual Christmas afternoon tea — as was tradition for the last ten years — so we are both going to dress up and video call each other and have Christmas tea together. It may be the the world’s first Christmas Afternoon Tea video call.”

Irene’s favourite Christmas dates back to 1998.

“As a child, my family made it so magical for me. In 1998, we still had Santa but there was a storm which cut off the electricity supply. It ended up being the best Christmas ever because all we could do was sit in the good room around the fire together as a family.

“It made everything so lovely and intimate.“

One of Irene’s proudest memories was listening to her father sing at midnight mass.

“I used to leave some carrots out for Rudolph and then go to midnight mass with the family to hear dad sing. He had a beautiful voice. “

This year, Irene will spend Christmas Day with her immediate family before reuniting with her husband Denis for St Stephen’s Day.

“We’ll look forward to being together on St Stephen’s Day after spending Christmas with our families. We always go away for New Years. It will likely be a quiet little cottage somewhere.”

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= Laura O'Mahony and her family will sit back and watch her on the small screen this Christmas Day in the RTÉ Juniors Christmas panto
= Laura O'Mahony and her family will sit back and watch her on the small screen this Christmas Day in the RTÉ Juniors Christmas panto

Confession after breakfast might not be everyone’s idea of festive fun.

However, one of Cork’s best-loved comedians, Laura O’Mahony, wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Cork woman will celebrate Christmas in Glanmire with her parents, husband Shane and two children — but not before indulging in some breakfast and much needed confession.

“I worked in Liam Russell’s bookshop for years,” Laura explained. “Every Christmas, my friend and colleague Áine and I used to go for breakfast on Christmas Eve before work. Even though the shop is no longer there we’ve kept up the tradition anyway, meeting every year without fail. There’s normally lots of giving out at breakfast so that’s why I always leave the confession till after and not the other way round.”

Laura enjoys bedecking her home with Christmas decorations — each of which tell their own story.

“Every year, my mum gets us a decoration for the tree that tells a story of what is happening in our life. Every stage of our life has been marked with a decoration at this stage, including the birth of our daughter Polly, aged four, and son Alfie, aged two.”

Laura will be a big part of other Cork families’ Christmas Day too.

“This year, I feature in the RTÉ Juniors pantomime Hansel and Gretel which will be airing on Christmas Day,” she explained.

“Filming the production was a great experience as I got the chance to meet former Eurovision singer, Niamh Kavanagh who I was completely “fan-girling” over,” she laughed.

“I can still remember watching her on television while wearing my communion dress.”

The mother-of-two has been gracing Cork Opera House’s stage too in the Improvised Panto. She is also preparing for her much awaited stand up show Laura O’Mahony: The People’s Princess taking place on March 14 of next year.

“I’m hoping there’ll be a few gas scenarios on Christmas Day that will lend themselves well to material for my stand up show in the Everyman in March.“

Laura forms one part of the popular comedy trio CCCahoots.

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Singer/songwriter Nella with her daughter Faílenn and their dog Chicken in Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.
Singer/songwriter Nella with her daughter Faílenn and their dog Chicken in Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

Rochestown singer Nella O’Dwyer has pulled out all the stops for Christmas this year.

That includes matching pyjamas for every family member, including her new addition — rescue dog Chicken.

This will be their first Christmas with the new pet, who is settling in well to the O’Dwyer household. Renowned musician Nella, who lent her vocals to the World of Warcraft video games and is a household name in China, is most looking forward to spending valuable time with her teenage daughter, Failenn.

“Now that she’s older, the traditions are changing,” the former Voice of Ireland contestant said.

“Lately, Failenn has got into Indian food so that’s why we’re going to an Indian restaurant on Christmas Eve. We also plan to look around the shops before going for a drink with the family in the Imperial. My brother just came home from Australia for Christmas so it will be really nice to be able to celebrate with him.”

The musician said she plans to spend Christmas Day with her parents, brother and daughter.

“I’ll be putting turkey in the oven before the whole family goes out for the annual Christmas Day swim in Myrtelville. We always time it badly so our hope is to do things differently this year.

“We’ll be bringing our rescue dog Chicken with us too. This will be our first Christmas with him. I’ve even got him a pair of pyjamas so we can have the whole matching set. He already has loads of jackets but he’s a member of the family now so it was only fair that we got him a pair of pyjamas as well.”

Christmas is also an opportunity for Nella to show off her culinary skills.

“I cook everything because I love it. We always wait till after dinner to open our presents. When Failenn was little she would open up her Santa presents first. Then, after dinner, there was always a gift under the tree from the family that she could open too.”

For as long as she can remember, the festive season has been a magical time for Nella.

“Christmas has always been exciting for me,” she said.

“I was always the one who wanted to have the tree up earlier. The best present I got as a child was the ‘big red fun bus’. I must have played with it for hours. “

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Dr Doireann O'leary enjoys watching Home Alone 2 on the small screen while spending time with family on Christmas Day
Dr Doireann O'leary enjoys watching Home Alone 2 on the small screen while spending time with family on Christmas Day

For popular Cork blogger, Dr Doireann O’Leary, Christmas is all about the anticipation.

“I love the build-up, from the lights to the decorations,” she said.

“Some people prefer to start their Christmas shopping earlier. However, I always leave mine to the last minute because it gives me a chance to really soak up the atmosphere in the city. I don’t mind how chaotic it is. My shopping is usually done on December 23 or 24, when it’s really busy.”

Doireann also enjoys the atmosphere in the surgery in the build up to festivities.

“What’s lovely is seeing the kids looking so captivated by it all. Christmas is a time for them really.”

Despite being one of Cork’s best known bloggers, Doireann insists that her Christmas is like any other.

“I’ll be spending Christmas Day with my in-laws this year. It will be a Christmas Day like anyone else’s really with the traditional Christmas dinner.

For me, the most important part of Christmas is spending time with family and friends.”

One of Doireann’s favourite traditions is watching Home Alone. “I could watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2 a million times and still enjoy them.”

While Doireann is known for her ridiculously stylish fashion, this Christmas Day she will favour comfort over glamour.

“I haven’t picked out what I’m wearing yet. All I know is that it will be something comfy.”

Christmas has always been a special time for Doireann.

“I can remember getting a bike for Christmas one year. That’s something which stands out for me the most.”

Readers can check out her popular Instagram page at @dr.doireannoleary. She also has a blog that can be accessed at drdoireann.wordpress.com

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Anna Geary.
Anna Geary.

Christmas will be the perfect end to a busy year for Cork camogie legend Anna Geary.

Marrying the love of her life, Kevin Sexton, and landing her dream job on Today FM were no doubt memorable highlights for the former Cork captain.

Nonetheless, low-key festive celebrations will come as a welcome break following a whirlwind 2019.

“I’m finishing work on December 21,” the Milford native said.

“This year will be spent at home with my parents. I’ll be looking forward to pressing the pause button. For me, the best things about Christmas are sleeping in and watching movies you’ve watched a thousand times before. It’s important to be able to step back without feeling guilty. My mother always said that ‘wasted time is not time wasted’. It’s only now that I’m starting to realise what she meant.“

One of the best parts of the festive season for Anna is meeting with old friends.

“It’s all about looking beyond the materialistic chaos that we all buy into. Life has a funny way of blindsiding so it’s good to remind ourselves of what’s really important. I look at Christmas as a time of year that brings people together. What I’m most looking forward to is meeting with old friends and reminiscing over copious amounts of wine and tea.”

The radio broadcaster and television presenter has fond memories of Christmas from her childhood.

“One of the best presents I ever got was Fisher Price kitchen, which is ironic because I hate cooking now! I will insist on going out to buy the food or wash up afterwards just to avoid it.

“Another memorable present was the Talk Boy which could record your voice and speed it up or slow it down. It originally featured in the movie Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. I can remember thinking how cool it was that I had the actual device from the film.”

Christmas dinner will be a low key affair for Anna.

“I have a wedding over Christmas so I’ll be trying not to over-indulge so I can still fit into my dress,” she laughed.

She acknowledged that the festive season can be a difficult time for many.

“A number of people’s circumstances will have changed, making Christmas a painful time. It’s important that we think of others this time of year and remember that the strongest friends are often the ones we need to check up on.”

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