“IT’S ALL ABOUT MAKING THINGS EASY” - CLIONA O’CONNOR (clionaoconnor.ie)
THE weeks leading up to Christmas are often a time filled with excitement, anticipation, and for those cooking dinner on the day, stress.
But for mum of four Clíona O’Connor, it’s also a time to get prepared.
When she answers the phone to me at the beginning of December, she already has dessert and one of the sides ready to go.
“I already have my mum’s sausage stuffing in the freezer, as well as these chocolate pots with chestnut purée that I’ll serve after dinner,” she says.
“My top tip would be to find a balance of what you can make for the freezer the week before, what you can make the day before, and what you’ll do on the day.”
The Six O’Clock Show cook is planning a festive feast of ham, turkey, veg, and grazing boards for her family. For recipes, she’ll be turning to a well-known chef.
“Jamie Oliver has a recipe for parsnips with ground almonds, which I love, and I’m going to use his recipe for the carrots as well, he makes them with butter and clementine juice,” Clíona says.
“And then I’ll do sprouts with bacon and cream as well. We don’t really do starters, I just make up a sharing board for everyone to pick on. It’s so much easier.”
They’ll be spending the day at home in Douglas before driving over to see Clíona’s parents in her home town of Kilworth. Having recently recovered from Covid-19, it’s a visit she’s really looking forward to.
“It’s my son Ollie’s birthday on Stephen’s Day so that’s another day of celebration for us as well,” she says.
“We usually go for a walk, I think we’ll go with my mum and dad to the waterfall near Kilworth this year, and eat our leftovers and selection boxes en route.”
A special dessert is also being planned for Ollie’s big day. His choice this year is an ice cream cake.
“I think I’m going to make a chocolate arctic roll. I make really easy ice cream out of three ingredients: literally just sugar, condensed milk, and cream,” she says. “It’s all about making things easy.
“My other tip for people would be to have your butcher cut the legs and wings off the turkey and cook them in a separate tin to make everything more compact in the oven. And just enjoy the day - especially the leftovers, they always taste better the day after.”
‘NO PRESENTS - WE JUST WANT TO BE TOGETHER’ - SINGER LYRA
It’s been quite the year for Bandon-born superstar Lyra. Still basking in the success of her recent single Lose My Mind, the singer is excited to spend Christmas at home with her family in Cork.
When we talk, she says: “I’m currently trying on Christmas outfits. My group of friends usually tries to get together for an evening around this time so if all goes ahead, I’ll be going to my first Bingo Loco in Cork in a few weeks, which I cannot wait for.
“Besides that, this Christmas for us is massively family-orientated. We even decided to not do presents this year. We just want to be together.”
The proud aunt feels especially lucky to be able to spend the day with her sister’s twin babies and two-year-old child in Kinsale.
“I’m more excited for this year than any Christmas ever. I actually cannot wait,” Lyra says. “My sister’s husband is an amazing cook and we’re all going to wrap up and do a swim somewhere that morning as well.
"It’s going to be all about being together, relaxing, and enjoying the day - with some mulled wine of course.”
New Year’s Eve will be a little busier for the chart-topper, however, as she’ll be joining Picture This and Ryan Sheridan to perform a sold-out outdoor concert in Dublin Castle.
“It’s going to be crazy because I rang in the New Year there last year too for RTÉ, but I was completely on my own because it was lockdown,” she says.
“I’d say I’ll get a bit teary. This year has just been such an emotional rollercoaster. I haven’t been affected by the latest restrictions gig-wise, for the first time ever, but I am really feeling for other artists at the moment.
“I do think it’s a great idea that they’ve allowed two 50% capacity shows to take place though. I’m delighted that this time around they’ve come up with a solution rather than just cancelling everything. That gives me hope.”
‘TIME TO CHILL FOR A FEW DAYS’ - SPORTS STAR LINDA COLLINS
Cork Camogie star Linda Collins will be home in Cork this Christmas. After captaining the squad that narrowly missed out on this year’s All-reland title, she headed to Dubai to continue her teaching career.
“I’m home for three weeks and the plan is to take it easy and have Christmas dinner with just the five of us in my family and my nana. I’m really looking forward to it,” she says.
“We have a really chill few days every year, which I love, especially after how busy it always is during the year with training and work. We literally just eat, relax, and play games. After we go to mass and have dinner we’re all straight into PJs and comfy clothes.”
Between training and moving, this year has been especially busy for the Ballinspittle native. However, it was also one that she’ll look back on fondly.
“It was a really special year for me and I really enjoyed it,” she says.
“The highlight was definitely having the honour of captaining Cork around the parade on the day of the All- Ireland final, but making all my new friends in Dubai is also up there.
"I never thought I would make the move but I’m really enjoying it. I’m going back before New Year’s and a group of us are going to go for dinner that night. It’s a far cry from how I normally spend the day, so I’m looking forward to the change and to spending the next year there.
“I want to travel as much as I can and we’ll see what happens after June then. I’m just taking it as it comes and I’m going to try to enjoy 2022 as much as I can.”
COMMUNITY TRADITIONS - TEACHER AOIFE O’SULLIVAN
Christmas will also be a family-orientated occasion for Cork primary school teacher and former Miss Ireland Aoife O’Sullivan.
“We’re finishing school on the 23rd and I’ll go back home to spend the break with my family in Ballinadee straight after,” she says. “We usually have dinner at home on Christmas Eve and open presents that evening before going to mass together.
“This year, we’ll be able to go to our local pub again to see our neighbours afterward, which I’m really looking forward to. It’s probably one of my favourite parts of Christmas and we couldn’t do it last year because of lockdown.”
Aoife is the oldest of three, and even though her youngest sibling is 20 years old, they still run downstairs on Christmas morning to open their presents from Santa.
“It’s so funny, but my mom and dad still love doing it,” she says. “We all head to the Christmas swim in Garretstown beach afterwards. It’s been lovely to see the group growing over the years. People come from all over for it now.”
After dinner, the family will sit down to watch Christmas movies and read any books they received.
“We still have a lot of traditions in Ballinadee, like the Wren on Stephen’s Day and the long puck and hunt which take place every New Year’s. There’s a real sense of community,” Aoife says. “I’m really looking forward to some down time but I know I’ll be missing the classroom by the time I go back.”