The childhood bird, the photo of mum: My favourite Christmas decoration

Celebrities tell us which item takes pride of place on their Christmas tree

Mary Kennedy hangs a silver-framed photograph of her late mother Pauline on the tree every year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Mary Kennedy hangs a silver-framed photograph of her late mother Pauline on the tree every year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

It’s that time of year again when boxes of baubles are hauled down from the attic and unwrapped with delight as they take their places on the Christmas tree.

But while some decorations last the test of time and others are not fit for purpose after a couple of years, there is always one glitzy item which evokes memories, nostalgia and even a little bit of love.

 We spoke to six people to find out what Christmas decoration they would never part with and why.

Mary Kennedy

Broadcaster Mary Kennedy, who will be presenting Christmas Carols from Dublin Castle on RTÉ One on Christmas Eve and Nationwide on December 22nd from Farmleigh, says her late mother is the most important part of her seasonal preparations.

“My mother died at 15 minutes to midnight on 23rd December, 2001, so both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that year felt unbearably sad and lonesome. As a family, we went through the motions of the festive season, deriving great comfort from the love and support of friends, relatives and Mam’s neighbours.

But that was 16 years ago and since then a lovely part of our Christmas celebrations every year is a house mass to mark her anniversary. And pride of place on my Christmas tree goes to a small silver frame with a photograph of my mother that I always hang to the front of the tree, and it reminds us all throughout Christmas of the special place Mam holds in our hearts still. She loved Christmas and is very much a part of our family celebration every year.” 

Deborah Donnelly

Deborah Donnelly with the Christmas wreath she made. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Deborah Donnelly with the Christmas wreath she made. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Artist and homeware designer Deborah Donnelly says her ancient homemade wreath may have seen better days but it is her favourite decoration.

Tell us about your treasured Christmas decorations: a selection may be published on irishtimes.com

“I wouldn’t be without my Christmas wreath. I know it’s old and you can buy nicer ones but I made it about 20 years ago in South Georgia by picking the reeds and drying them out then bending them into place. Every year I add things to and subtract bits from it – and as I do a lot of cow paintings, when I found a wooden cow with a dress on it, I stuck it on there too.

It’s definitely seen better days but I really like that I picked the reeds in a potter’s garden on the edge of a reserve. My friend [the potter] passed away but I always think of her when it hangs on my door. And I can’t believe it’s still functioning – so it proves that when something is made well it lasts forever.”

Ros Walsh

Avoca’s Ros Walshe with her favourite decoration, a “bald” glass bird. Photograph: Tom Honan.
Avoca’s Ros Walshe with her favourite decoration, a “bald” glass bird. Photograph: Tom Honan.

Ros Walsh is the creative director of Avoca and, despite having access to many wonderful designs and decorations, is firmly attached to a much-loved piece from her childhood.

“The Christmas decoration I would never give away is a glass bird with a feathered tail. It is now bald, but when I was growing up it was so precious, was wrapped in cotton wool and had to be handled with great care. 

Now the same item is readily available from every store at every price point. But it’s the same as tangerines. What used to be a seasonal treat is now available 12 months a year and taken for granted – but I still love my original one.”

Neven Maguire

Neven Maguire: has just brought out his 15th cookbook, Neven Maguire’s Perfect Irish Christmas
Neven Maguire: has just brought out his 15th cookbook, Neven Maguire’s Perfect Irish Christmas

The chef, who runs MacNean House and Restaurant and the Neven Maguire Cookery School, loves this time of year and has just brought out his 15th cookbook, Neven Maguire’s Perfect Irish Christmas (published by Gill). His most precious decoration is one which reflects his wedding day.  

Neven Maguire’s Christmas tree angels
Neven Maguire’s Christmas tree angels

“Me and Amelda are married 11 years this year, and at the wedding, she did favours for everyone – which were little angels to hang on the tree at Christmas.  It’s something we always have on every year and I thought it was such a lovely, thoughtful idea from her; and now, every year it serves as a reminder of our wedding which was on 23rd of December.”

Lucy Kennedy

Lucy Kennedy
Lucy Kennedy

Broadcaster Lucy Kennedy also remembers her wedding every Christmas with a simple but poignant reminder of the day itself.

“My favourite Christmas decoration is actually quite romantic, really. Myself and my gorgeous husband Richard got married in 2008 on the Cilento coast in Italy, in a beautiful seaside town called Santa Maria. And on the morning of our wedding, I found a perfect, large pine cone on the ground which I kept. And so every Christmas I put it on our tree as both this time of year and our wedding day are my favourite memories.”

Maia Dunphy

Maia Dunphy: a new Newbridge Silverware bauble every year. Photograph: Alan Betson
Maia Dunphy: a new Newbridge Silverware bauble every year. Photograph: Alan Betson

Maia Dunphy, author of The M Word: A Book For Women Who Happen To Be Parents, has a great fondness for a silver decoration gifted to her by a friend.

“I used to only have cheap baubles on my tree but, in November 2009, just after I got engaged, a good friend of mine, Mairin, gave me my first-ever “good” Christmas decoration. It’s a heart and two doves from Newbridge Silverware, which speaks for itself with regard to the engagement, but she said it would give me the excuse to begin collecting one piece a year as a couple. It was such a thoughtful gift and sentiment and since then I have indeed bought one new Newbridge decoration every year.

 My husband and I still live apart much of the time, so I have a small tree in Dublin adorned with loveliness. My son is only two, but I look forward to adding his homemade creations in years to come –- or maybe I’ll get him a tree for his room and keep my stylish one as is.” 

Do you have a Christmas decoration you particularly treasure? Tell us about it using the form above. A selection of contributions may be published on irishtimes.com.