Let’s remember what’s important this Christmas...

EMMA CONNOLLY catches up with some Cork women to find out how they are spending December 25th
Let’s remember what’s important this Christmas...

The Lord Mayor of Cork Clllr. Deirdre Forde who visited the Lehane Christmas tree farm in Castletreasure House, Donnybrook, Cork. Included are members of the Lehane family , Pat, Conor, Paddy, Killian and Thomas and Liam Coppinger. Picture Dan Linehan

Lord Mayor Deirdre Forde

CHRISTMAS Day for Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde will be a working one - not that she’s complaining one single bit.

She’s looking forward to visiting Cork University Maternity Hospital in the morning, followed by the Cork City Fire Brigade and then Anglesea Street garda station.

“All the people working in these agencies deserve so much praise for keeping us all safe during such a busy period,” said Deirdre, who will also visit St Vincent’s Hostel.

Then it will be home to Douglas where two of her three children and their families will be waiting for her – with dinner well in hand.

“I brought all of my children up to be very independent so thankfully they’re all very good cooks!” said Deirdre.

Helping out will be her son Jonathan, his wife Samantha and their son Freddy (13), who will be visiting from London; and her son Darren and his children Macdarragh (6) and Rory (11).

“My daughter Susan, her husband and their children Sage (2) and Bodie (3) are in Australia and we’ll definitely be missing them. They left just before I became Lord Mayor.

“There are lots of families in the same situation, missing family members, but we’ll be calling them on the day,” she said.

Deirdre acknowledged those who are alone, or lonely, at this time of year.

“That includes our friends from Ukraine. But I know Cork people will extend a welcome to them all,” she said.

Deirdre says she’s a huge fan of Christmas: “I go the full monty with it! I love it all, including the chaos – I’m very much a ‘lastminute.com’ sort of person!”

After a traditional dinner (of course spiced beef will be served with the turkey and ham), the family will play board games and watch a film.

“We might also try to get out for a walk – my new year’s resolution is to get out walking more,” she said.

“For next year I’m also hoping to travel more as Lord Mayor and sell Cork city as I’m so very proud of it.”

We have to ask… what’s Santa bringing?

“You’d never know! I’m keeping my options open!”

Orla McAndrew, chef.
Orla McAndrew, chef.

Orla McAndrew, chef

For those of us who get stressed out cooking Christmas dinner for our extended families, spare a thought for chef Orla McAndrew.

Come 7pm on Christmas Eve, she’ll have made dinners for 600 people across Cork – and when they’re all collected from her unit in Donaghmore, she’ll have to start prepping her own.

“Yes, I’ll be exhausted but I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of the year, and I’ll enjoy it all!” she said enthusiastically.

Orla, her husband and their three girls, aged 9, 7 and 3, share their table with her mum and dad; her brother; and her sister, her partner and their three children.

Her own menu will be completely traditional from her prawn cocktail starter to her mum’s trifle or fresh fruit salad for dessert.

“Our dinner is like something from Christmas in the ’70s!” she laughed.

They disperse the present opening throughout the day, and often get stuck into the board games before dinner is even served.

“It’s all very relaxed and fun. And after eating we just chill out, or watch a movie and all go to bed early – the girls will have been up since the crack of dawn!” she said.

Orla, who is well known for her regular TV appearances, earlier this year launched the country’s first zero-waste catering service. She’s bringing the same zero-waste ethos to her festive feasts.

“I always remind people, especially at this time of year, that you don’t need a fortune of food for it to be fabulous,” she said.

And for anyone wondering, Orla says that means two types of potato only!

Revd Canon Elaine Murray Rector (Parish Priest) of Carrigaline Union of Parishes for the last 11 years.
Revd Canon Elaine Murray Rector (Parish Priest) of Carrigaline Union of Parishes for the last 11 years.

Revd Canon Elaine Murray, Rector of Carrigaline Union of Parishes for the last 11 years

IT’S a very busy time of the year for Revd Canon Elaine Murray, who, after sticking on the turkey and ham on Christmas morning, heads off to her churches (one in Monkstown and one in Carrigaline) where she says the services ‘are always magical.’ She is a big fan of Christmas, and after celebrating her birthday on December 12, she says everything “gets covered in tinsel!”

Married to Liam, they celebrate at home with their adult ‘children’ Conor and Áine, and their Dutch/Australian friends Han and Jane, who have been a part of their Christmas table for 30 years.

“Last year, the family came for two days and because we all got Covid-19, they had to stay for two weeks. Luckily, they agreed to come back again this year!” said Elaine.

“When I get back home around lunchtime, the family have little canapes ready and we have delicious champagne and open our presents. I buy individual gifts, as do we all. Even our rescue dogs Nellie and Daisy get gifts, which is probably why opening them can seem to take hours on Christmas Day!”

Elaine even admits to buying her 32 and 30 year olds their ‘Santa’ jammies which she gives to them wrapped on Christmas Eve!

“We would have the starter around 5-ish, followed perhaps an hour later by the main course, and we rarely eat the dessert till much later as we are all so stuffed!”

After a busy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day, Elaine says, is all about “totally collapsing on the couch”.

“It’s for watching soppy festive films on the TV. I never cook, just reheat all of the food from the day before – well, maybe cook fresh roast potatoes because you can’t really reheat those! I never even leave the house (unless it falls on a Sunday like last year and in that case I have normal services in the churches). Carrigaline is famous for the Wren Boys on St Stephen’s Day and, to my eternal shame, I have never seen them in the 11 years I have lived here,” she said.

Christmas was always a special time growing up, Elaine said: “I think I have always tried to recreate that magical atmosphere for my own family. It is always about the people around you though. Obviously, my faith is hugely important to me so this is a time of the year when I really remember what it is that is actually important, you know, that corny saying ‘The Best Things in Life are only Things’.”

Miss Cork, Saoirse O’Shaughnessy
Miss Cork, Saoirse O’Shaughnessy

Miss Cork, Saoirse O’Shaughnessy

This will be Miss Cork Saoirse O’Shaughnessy’s first Christmas being off in several years.

“Between working in a nursing home and as a care assistant, I’ve been working the past few years, not that I’ve minded,” said the 23-year-old.

She’ll be celebrating the day with her family in Coachford, mum and dad and her three younger siblings, aged 15, 14 and 12.

Like lots of people, she prefers Christmas Eve to the 25th, and it’s when she swaps Secret Santa gifts with her family.

“And on the morning itself, we have a tradition where we’re all given our own couch for our gifts from Santa. My pile is getting smaller every year!” she joked. “I usually ask for a surprise and mam nails it every year!”

The day itself is shared with her granny and uncle, with her mum at the helm in the kitchen, cooking up a traditional feast.

“We do the washing up though!” she said.

After that, it’s board games, and a relaxing evening for Saoirse, who has been busy helping out with her family business, Coachford Equestrian Centre, which this year hosted Santa visits. Then it’s back to Cork city the next day to enjoy St Stephen’s night out with friends.

Anyone special she’d like to meet under the mistletoe? “A lady never tells!” she laughed.

Judy Hopkins - Company Partner/Owner, Hopkins Communications Picture: Miki Barlok
Judy Hopkins - Company Partner/Owner, Hopkins Communications Picture: Miki Barlok

Judy Hopkins - Company Partner/Owner, Hopkins


JUDY Hopkins usually spends Christmas in either Baltimore or Glanmire, but this year she’s going all the way to Australia, and she can’t wait.

“Most years, if we are not in Baltimore, or abroad, it’s my parents’ house or my brother’s house in Glanmire. It’s always Mum, Dad and I for Christmas Day, and then, depending on where we all are, my brother Mark, his wife Eorann, and their two gorgeous children Jack and Anna join us,” she said.

And it’s a traditional Christmas all the way.

“If we are in Glanmire and Christmas dinner is at my parents’ house, I head over there Christmas Eve with my dog Dave, to help prepare. We visit relatives in Ballincollig for the ox tongue, pate, and all the glorious snacks my Aunt Trish and Uncle Sean McCarthy put on for us. Back home for dinner and it’s the couch by the fire, cuddles, snoozes and movies! And if we are in Baltimore, we do the Christmas Day swim,” she said.

“But this year, I am thrilled to say I’ll be in Newport, Sydney, Australia with my friends Sinead, Julie and Lesley-Anne and some of their friends and family.”

Judy says her idea of what Christmas is all about has changed over the years.

“Apart from getting a nice rest from a busy work-year, I love spending time with my family, as well as meeting friends who are home from overseas or up the country. I have a couple of annual meet-ups with school friend groups which is always so heart-warming. We can always pick up where we left off, even if it has been a year since we last saw each other in some cases.”

Heading into their 33rd year in business, Judy said they also like to help with charitable contributions.

“At Hopkins Communications we give an annual cash donation to St Vincent de Paul (who right now are receiving 1,400 calls for help each week where people have to choose between eating or heating their homes), and this year we are also doing a toy drive for them. Mum and I are doing another clothing and toy drive for a group of Ukrainians living at The Address Hotel, and the same for the Direct Provision Centre in Glounthaune.”

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