What does Christmas look like at the homes of some of the people who took part in our Parenting in My Shoes series over the past year? Can you still enjoy a Christmas that looks very different from festive seasons of old? And what might 2022 have in store? We asked the broadcaster Ciara Kelly
“I absolutely adore Christmas. It’s my very favourite time of the year,” says Ciara Kelly, adding that this year, like last year, she suspects Christmas Day will be an immediate-family-only celebration.
“We’re a bit of a crew anyway. There’s six people here – myself, my husband and four kids. It’s not like it’s a kind of sorry, miserable affair. It’s fairly raucous and riotous even with the immediate family alone,” she says cheerily.
“My kids range from 12 to 21. The older ones … they’ll be very good. Everyone will help. But also they’ll whip up a gin and tonic before dinner, or a glass of mulled wine, and it will be quite festive and celebratory.”
It’ll be lovely to have lie-ins, because I do get up at 4.30am. Lie-ins are massively important to me. They are such a treat. I’m like a teenager
In fact, Kelly is really looking forward to having all her children under the one roof again this Christmas. “My eldest, my 21-year-old, who’s in his final year in college, has moved into town into a flat with two of his pals. So he’s not here all the time at the moment. I’m really looking forward to having him back and us all being together.”
She’s also really looking forward to the break this Christmas. “My work is very plugged in to the news. I’m very plugged into that news cycle 24/7, and it will be very nice to have probably just over a week of actually giving my head a rest from it.
“It’ll be lovely to have lie-ins, because I do get up at 4.30am. Lie-ins are massively important to me. They are such a treat. I’m like a teenager,” she says, laughing.
Kelly enjoys all the Christmas customs – “the fire, the movies, the too much food, the couple of drinks, the bottle of Baileys” – and if you’re wondering who to blame, she says she’s “singlehandedly, almost, responsible for the shortages on the national grid”, thanks to her love of Christmas decorations and lights.
She prefers to work Christmas Eve, as she likes the “deferred gratification” aspect. She also gets her hair done and collects the turkey, and the family have a late lunch together. And there are no especially early risers on Christmas morning in her house. “I think they’re just like their mammy – they love their sleep,” she says, adding that the family agree a time to get up at, instead of 4am rousings. Then “we go downstairs and open the livingroom door to see if Santa arrived.”
The family spend a bit of time opening Santa’s gifts and exchanging presents with each other. Then, while the rest of the family is “supposedly tidying up”, Kelly makes an “enormous fry”.
And even if it is just the immediate family, she says that dinner time, which happens in the late evening, is still a dress-up affair with an elaborate table.
Even though Christmas 2021 looks as though it will be similar to Christmas 2020, she’s still looking forward to it. “I feel extremely lucky that I will spend Christmas with my family, whereas some people would have their kids abroad or whatever and it may be not possible.
“In a way, the pandemic, despite the fact that I had Covid and my daughter had Covid and we had a few rough patches during it, because neither of my elderly parents are alive, in a funny way I was spared a lot of worry that I know other people experienced. You’re not ever lucky to not have your parents, but I feel I was lucky that I didn’t have to worry about something horrible happening to them.
“I wasn’t overly worried about my children getting Covid, because the reality of it is that the chances of that going wrong for them is so low, so I recognise that I’ve been luckier than an awful lot of people, so I am still looking forward to it [Christmas] in whatever shape it takes.”
Kelly says 2022 is a blank page. “I don’t know what’s coming. I believe that Covid is endemic now, which means that it’s not going to pass. We don’t seem to be hanging on to our immunity – be it through infection or vaccination – long. It looks like it’s waning. It may change – it may be that subsequent vaccine shots change things. It looks to me like we are living with Covid in more than just a sloganeering type of way, that Covid is here to stay.
“I don’t know what that is going to mean for our new normal. I don’t think society can function going into national lockdown on an ongoing basis. I think there will be an element of shielding and personal responsibility, where people will say, ‘I’m wary of doing this, so I won’t do it,’ and other people saying, ‘I’m happy to do it, so I will.’”
Kelly is hoping 2022 “will be as close to our old normal as possible, because I still miss our old normal. Some people are more risk-averse than others, and I’m not very risk-averse. I want to hug people. I want to go to mass gatherings. I want to go to crowded pubs. I want to be able to go to parties. Some people don’t mind not doing those things, but I think they’re part of what makes life worth living. The joy you get from those things, I don’t think it’s unimportant. “So, yes, 2022 is a bit of a blank page, but I live in hope. I’m an eternal optimist.”