What I got for Christmas: a baby, a 1,500-piece jigsaw, a 12-foot scarf


A selection of people assess their haul of Christmas presents, and share their accounts of December 25th


John and Cathy are spending their first Christmas as parents.

Cathy: This Christmas was heaven on earth. I can’t describe it really. We were hoping for that day for a long time and it lived up to expectations. All we wanted was to be parents, and everything else is immaterial.

“We have been married a long time – 12 years next May – so a child wasn’t easy to come by. We really appreciate it and our son Seán is all we hoped for and wanted. Although Seán is only 11 months old, Santa still came. We were up until late and then we videoed Seán as he was getting his toys – how sad are we?

“My husband John is a last minute boy who runs off on the morning of Christmas Eve to get the presents. I had subtly mentioned what I wanted and he got me a very decent pair of earrings. He got them to match my engagement ring so they are gorgeous. He probably went all out knowing I was going to be asked by The Irish Times what presents he got me!

“I got him tickets for Neil Young in June and then bits and bobs. He is hard to buy for as he has everything. We are together 20 years so we have done 20 years of Christmas presents, and being together as a family is the most important thing this year.”

John: “This Christmas was extra special. It brought us back to years ago when we ourselves were young, and we almost started reliving it all again. It is like a fairytale for the past two days.

“We have been 10 years waiting for this, and there was a lot of heartache along the way. Being a parent now though makes you forget all about that.

“I wanted to give Cathy something special. She had her ears pierced a few weeks ago, and I said to myself it would be a nice surprise.

“I have a business called The Fishman’s Market in Kilkenny and I work 16-hour days. Cathy took the year off, including maternity leave, so she has done a lot on her own. I wanted to make it extra special for her so I got her diamond earrings.

“I loved the Neil Young tickets and we’ll make a weekend of that in June. All we need now is for some family members to volunteer to take Seán for a few days.”


“As always, the day flew, much of it spent playing games that involve imagination, extreme silliness and jumping on drowsy uncles while screeching with delight.

“My nephews James and Caoimhín put on a most impressive magic show, the main effect of which was to vastly increase their own financial worth.

“I’m the eldest of eight and when you add partners, Christmas gets a bit steep for presents. We’ve done a Kris Kindle for the past few years (maximum value €20 but we cheat a bit).

“My eldest nephew, David, is nearly 15 now and as he gets older I struggle to know what to get him. Still, he’s very sharp and he’s always appreciated the true meaning of Christmas: money.

“My youngest sister Kate has moved with her family to Switzerland and their return is always eagerly awaited. Buying Christmas presents for her kids can be tricky as presents add to their luggage for the return journey. My compromise is that I get them a few bits and pieces and I paint or draw them them a picture.

“This year’s favourite character is Oscar the Grouch, a childhood hero of my own, so I had a lot of fun painting his portrait for them.

“I didn’t do too shabbily for presents myself, with my brother Seán getting me Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace. He knows me well. My sister Kate knitted me a Doctor Who scarf, surely 12 feet in length. She knows me well too.

“And, best of all, my niece and nephews gave me my Christmas present, which was a really cool set of Caran D’Ache watercolour pencils and watercolour paper. It was, as the comic-book guy from The Simpsons would never say: Best. Christmas. Ever.”


Róisín: “My husband Johnny and I were going out together about 10 years, and we always spent Christmas apart. We got married this year and, as is tradition, Johnny came down to me this year to spend it with the bride’s family, so we had Christmas dinner with my parents and sister, and my aunt, in Headfort Co Galway.

“The day was not much different from the normal way. He knows us a long time now, and Mam made him a trifle in a break from our usual dessert tradition.

“I got practical presents for Johnny such as the top he is wearing in the picture and a sports bag, which he told me he needed. I work as a researcher on the Ray D’Arcy Show on Today FM and we had Ian Rush, the Liverpool FC legend, on a few weeks ago and I got him to sign a Christmas card to Johnny, as he is a massive Liverpool fan. I also got him a little funny couch potato toy, which has a slot for a remote control and snacks. He is a bit of a couch potato himself.”

Johnny: “Róisín’s family are a lot more into present-giving, and the ceremony of giving presents. They sit around the tree and one by one everyone opens their presents.

“I got Róisín a chain that she had her eye on. In terms of a fun present, I got her a ‘onesie’ in River Island. It was embarrassing having to ask someone working in the shop for her size.

“The Ian Rush card she got me was a massive surprise and the last present I opened. The couch potato present means now I have an excuse to use it. I can see that present really coming back to haunt Róisín.”


Annie: “On Christmas Day, there was the five of us, and my mother-in-law, who is nearly 90, and my brother-in-law and his wife came along after the dinner.

“I am awful to buy presents for, as I don’t need anything. So I think they go through this horrendous thing of trying to decide what to get me every year. I told my kids to buy me a jigsaw. I got a massive 1,500 piece jigsaw of the map of the world in the 1400s. I was up until 2am trying to get it started.

“My daughter Amy is the easiest to buy for at the moment. She is studying graphic design and I used to have a book by the designer Bob Gill that I robbed from college years ago. Then it disappeared, when someone robbed it off me. She told me a few weeks back that Bob Gill was speaking at a conference she was going to, so I had to look for the book and try to get her a copy. I managed to track one down, and she was over the moon.

“The farmer I am married to, Alan, doesn’t need anything. I got him a tie. He got me a turkey. We downplay the commercial aspect of it and I don’t understand spending a fortune on some shiny object.

“We had a great day though. The dog especially had a great time with the mess, and we sit there and eat like the world is coming to an end. At 6pm, Alan gets up and heads back out to do the milking and that’s it.”

Amy: “My mother always says she doesn’t want anything but we have to get her something because she is our mom. The idea of the jigsaw is we thought we’d get her something to calm her nerves. She is delighted with it now.

“We normally get up at the crack of dawn, and once Dad goes off to the farm, we help make the dinner. Then Dad is back for lunch and we play some games and he goes off again.

“I loved the Bob Gill present. He is talking at the Offset festival in March and he is my favourite graphic designer. I didn’t know that my mother even knew of him, never mind that he was her favourite also.

“It was all very calm really so I think the jigsaw is working already.”


Joe Conlan plays one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin.

Joe: “Christmas Eve is usually my Christmas Day. I have to take Christmas Day easy as I have two shows each day for the next few weeks from Stephen’s Day onwards. I went to mass on Christmas Day at 11 o’clock. I then came home and made a few calls and went over to my sister who lives in Donnybrook. I had Christmas lunch with them and we exchanged gifts.

“They go all out and have a lovely sense of home. It is very warm and they have a big fire lighting and a gorgeous dog that is very affectionate.

“I am single myself. Christmas being single is different, but I am fine with it. I don’t have a problem being on my own Christmas Day. I lead such an active life that I love the space I get on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

“ My mum passed away three years ago from cancer and I lived with her for many years. On Christmas Day when she was alive, we would go to a hotel.

“With presents, I tried to buy Irish as much as I can. From my nieces and nephews, I got a lovely dressing gown and I got some vouchers for massages. That is great for me as, while I got to relax on Christmas Day, it’s back to work now and my body will be really strained at the end of it all.”

Sarah Bartley: “Joe usually calls for dinner on Christmas Day and that’s the cue for us to have some champagne. We used to all meet in the morning when my Gran was alive, and then we’d go to our own homes in the evening but it changed when she passed away and so he comes to us for dinner.

“He is always really grateful whatever you get him. We got the dressing gown for when he is relaxing and my Mam got him a gift voucher. He got me a lovely top. He has a great eye and has been buying me clothes since I was a kid. They always suit me and fit me.

“I think because he is theatrical and around costumes, he knows what to get. Next time I will see him he will be on stage, and because he works so hard, we enjoy the time we have with him.”

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