Louise O’Neill: ‘Fairytale of New York makes me grit my teeth’

All I Want for Christmas: author Louise O’Neill on Christmas songs she can’t stand and her best festive memory

Novelist Louise O’Neill: ‘Rihanna is on my nice list, for donating over $2 million to support domestic violence victims during lockdown.’ Photograph:  Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Novelist Louise O’Neill: ‘Rihanna is on my nice list, for donating over $2 million to support domestic violence victims during lockdown.’ Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

When do festivities usually kick off in the O’Neill household?
My parents own a butcher shop in Clonakilty and as any butcher’s daughter will tell you, the festivities don’t start until the last turkey has been delivered on Christmas Eve! After that, we can all relax for another year.

Real or fake tree?
It has to be real. My mother has instilled a snobbery in me around three things: artificial trees, tinsel, and multi-coloured fairy lights. Nothing beats the smell of a real Christmas tree.

Best Christmas memory?
Christmas ’97 is a standout. We didn’t have power because of the storm but my father’s cousins owned a hotel and offered to cook our turkey. My mother hobbled the rest of the meal together on a gas cooker and we invited our neighbours to eat dinner with us. For a Christmas that threatened to be a disaster, it turned out to be such a joy.

Tell us about your average Christmas Day
My sister and I get up first to open our Santa presents (yes, we are in our 30s). My parents join us before going to Mass together, and then friends and neighbours call to the house for a drink and a catch-up. I don’t know what this year is going to be like. . .

What Christmas song could you happily never hear ever again?
This is almost sacrilegious to admit this but Fairytale of New York makes me grit my teeth. I can appreciate that technically, it’s a great song, but. . .

Best and worst Christmas films?
A Muppet’s Christmas Carol is my favourite Christmas movie. It’s a masterpiece and I won’t hear another word about it. I can’t stand Love, Actually. It’s not romantic, it’s deeply unsettling.

What Christmas TV programme will you set to record?
I rarely watch television on Christmas Day but I might make an exception this year, since we can’t visit friends and family. Where’s my RTÉ Guide?!

Who would you invite for Christmas dinner?
The three wise women: Oprah, Michelle Obama, and Beyoncé. I’d love to invite Meghan Markle as well, just to get the dirt on what really went down in the royal family.

Best part of the Christmas meal?
I just appreciate being able to sit with my family and enjoy the meal itself. It sounds trite but having struggled with an eating disorder for many years, it’s not something I take for granted.

What’s the most irritating thing about Christmas?
Having to listen to Fairytale of New York on repeat (I’m sorry!).

Who’s on your naughty list and your nice list this year?
Rihanna is on my nice list, for donating over $2 million to support domestic violence victims during lockdown. Covid-19 is on my naughty list, the absolute brat.

In conversation with Shilpa Ganatra

After The Silence by Louise O’Neill is published by Riverrun and out now