My Christmas in West Cork | Southern star
Some well-known local personalities tell Emma Connolly their favorite way to spend christmas day
Louise O’Neill, writer, Clonakilty
MY parents own the O’Neills butcher’s shop in Clonakilty, so Christmas Eve is busy; the holiday season doesn’t start off right for my family until every last customer has collected every last turkey. I drop off presents with our neighbors – it’s always a great opportunity to meet people at home for the holidays – then we settle in for the night.
A family friend gives us their delicious homemade pie every year, so we have it on brown bread for supper while we watch an old movie (preferably A Muppet’s Christmas Carol or Home Alone).
For as long as I can remember our house has been packed with visitors on Christmas morning, with neighbors, friends and family calling for a glass of mulled wine and a chopped pie. Obviously, because of the Covid, this will not happen again this year. After opening the presents with my family, I’ll work out – either a long walk or a YouTube HIIT session, depending on the weather – while my parents go to mass. My partner, Richard, will spend Christmas with us as his mother and brother. immunocompromised and still cocooning.
We usually have dinner around 4pm and the only dish I stress is cauliflower and broccoli in a cheese sauce, and that amazing sausage stuffing that my Grandma Murphy always made. We play after-dinner games – Cards Against Humanity has been a recent favorite – and there’s always room for a slice of my dad’s amazing spicy beef as a bedtime snack!
2021 has been a long and exhausting year for many of us; I feel like we are still collectively dealing with the trauma of the pandemic. I hope 2022 will be a brighter year and we can start to heal and move forward.
County Mayor Cllr Gillian Coughlan
WE wake up early in our house on Christmas morning to see what Santa has brought, and there is always a lot of fun and excitement to be had.
We put the turkey in the oven before going to midday mass in Bandon, the same church where we got married and where we had all our family baptisms. Then we visit the cemetery to remember our deceased. Then our tradition is to meet Nana Nora and the Coughlan clan and exchange gifts. This year it will obviously have to take place outside, but it’s a great opportunity for all of us to have a chat during this busy time of year.
Then it’s back home and it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in the vegetables! I’m going to cook the ham from the night before and my husband Don is a big help. The five of us usually sit down a little after 3 p.m. for a traditional meal. Before the next tour, I try to go out for a walk on my own (I’m not the type to swim party!). I love the peace and quiet of the city on Christmas Day, and the luck that it gives me to reflect, how wonderful the past six months have been as mayor. I have a lot to be grateful for and this gives me time to think about it, and also to consider the months to come. Our son Ronan will do his confirmation in the spring and will enter first year; Aidan will be finishing his chemistry studies and Maeve will be in grade six.
Later we will visit my family, the O’Mahonys, my mom, sister and brother, and spend the evening with them, chatting and maybe watching a movie.
I appreciate that the time flies so quickly and I really can’t wait to stay home with my family and enjoy the simple things together this Christmas
Phil Healy, Olympian
WE ARE very attached to tradition in our house at Christmas time – Santa Claus always stops by even though my youngest brother is 19 and there are always gifts for each of us wrapped under the tree ! This year I hope for an Adidas sweater, Puma shoes and a 4TH ARQ fleece.
The rule is that everyone must be home by the 23e, then on Christmas Eve, everyone is on the bridge. Everyone has a job to do, whether it’s dessert, stuffing or whatever. I am generally on the desserts and according to the requests, I will make cheese cake or chocolate cake.
Before Covid, we would have gone to midnight mass in Ballinacarriga, and we usually swap our Kris Kingle between us before or after mass.
It’s always just the six of us for dinner, we eat around 3pm. My favorite food is mom’s garlic potatoes, and I would let the sprouts pass! We could take our two Bichons Freddy and Lily and Oscar our Alsatian for a walk down the road, then it’s a movie, usually Harry Potter, and after a board game – 30 Seconds is a favorite.
If anyone succeeds, there will be turkey sandwiches later! On St. Stephen’s Day, we start all over again and house our uncles.
The way Christmas falls this year means I have Christmas Eve, St. Stephen’s Day, and St. Stephen’s Day out of practice, so it’s a treat – it’s the best gift I could have hoped for.
Tim Houstoun, Managing Director, Global Shares, Clonakilty
It is not Christmas in the Houstoun house until all the children have come home and the family is together again. Our four children have all grown up now – working or at university, and scattered between Cork and London, but we have fond memories of the excitement of Santa Claus at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning when they were younger. . I’m an early riser, but on Christmas morning my wife Máire is always up first, and we enjoy a hearty breakfast on Christmas Day. We always try to go to mass as a family in the village of Timoleague.
Everyone helps in the kitchen and my daughters always take care of the dessert. Then there are the traditional calls to our families in London and Donegal, which have improved so much since the arrival of Skype video calls. One year I remember Grandma in London knitting a scarf for all the family members, which we all wore for video calls! It was fun!
We wait until after dinner to open our presents, then my sons bring out the board games. We love to play cards as a family and always play “Hearts” (or “Chase the Lady”). We are blessed where we live in Timoleague and can wrap up and take long walks after all the party fun.
Around Christmas we traditionally enjoy visits from friends, neighbors and partners of our children. It is a wonderful time of year.
Bro. Tom Hayes, pastor of Enniskeane
I WAKE UP on Christmas morning with the awareness that it is so good to be alive to mark the history-changing event that is the birth of Christ among us.
The parish house is quiet in the morning, so it is easy to find time for reflection and prayer.
Shortly after the porridge, I leave for the first of three Christmas Day Masses, each with a different community and with little time between them.
The vibe is uplifting and the gathering includes people taking a peek, perhaps not having been in a while.
I am deeply aware of those attending Christmas Mass whose dinner table has been altered over the past 12 months for a variety of reasons – from the joy of newcomers to the separation of loved ones and perhaps the love.
Under the garland there are silent tears for those who are far away and those who are in hospital or in care.
Parishioners literally go all out – not only on the organ but in many ways in the masses as well – while thinking of table planning at home as well.
After the last mass people quickly walk away but there is always a chance to find out who got the gift of an engagement ring this year!
The place where I currently minister in Enniskeane is roughly equidistant from each of my siblings who never see me without a table to put my feet under at Christmas.
The formula for the following hours is simple: warm company, meal, a glass or two of wine, exchange of gifts… and watch the first 15 minutes of everything on TV before heads fall!
Then someone begins to remember the moment when we …