Luke O’Neill’s Christmas: Get your vaccines up to date and have fun

The scientist, author and professor of biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin, dissects the festive season

What Christmas song would you happily never hear again and why?

Oh, that’s tricky one… I’ll go for I Wish It Could be Christmas Every Day, by Wizzard. Imagine if it was Christmas every day. That would be the worst idea ever, a nightmare.

And your favourite Christmas song?

Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime. The bouncy intro is great and immediately gets me into the Christmas spirit.

Where will you be spending Christmas Day?

At home in Sandycove. During the pandemic, we went over to England in 2021 because my sister couldn’t travel. On the way back we all tested negative, thankfully. That was one of the few exceptions when we didn’t have Christmas Day at home.

How do you feel about the sense of normality now that Covid has diminished somewhat?

Well, we will be exposed to the virus over Christmas because we know crowds gather indoors and the virus loves being indoors. The advice is to make sure you’re up to date and protected with your vaccines, especially if you’re in the older age or vulnerable groups. That’s the key message – but, yes, overall we are back to normal.

Best and worst Christmas movies?

Let me have a think… I quite like Scrooged, the one with Bill Murray. You need a bit of grumpiness around Christmas. The worst? Deck the Halls, with Danny De Vito.

Christmas dinner – is it turkey, ham and all the trimmings or something else entirely?

We have the traditional Christmas dinner and I usually cook it.

Is religion an important aspect of Christmas for you?

No, not at all – we’re a bunch of scientists in that regard. We like Christmas carols, though.

Best Christmas memory?

When you have kids it’s magical. We have two boys and my best memories of Christmas was when they were of the age when Santa visited. Their excitement on Christmas morning was fantastic. We also have a great love of playing the dreaded board games around Christmas. We always play Pictionary and 30 Seconds, and it always ends in violence. I call those Christmas games the blood sports in our house.

The best thing about Christmas?

The best by far is that everyone else is off work and that’s wonderful. During the summer you might go on holidays but some of your colleagues haven’t and so you get emails, but at Christmas you get a real break. I love that it’s a family holiday and I also love the lights, the baubles, and the Christmas trees. From a history point of view, we invented those to get us through the dark winter, and I also love the feeling of the season going from darkness into the light of spring.

What kind of Christmas shopper are you?

Severe panic the day or a few days before. I have the best of intentions but, sadly, it’s almost always last minute.

  • To Boldly Go Where No Book Has Gone Before, by Luke O’Neill, is published by Viking, €22.99.
Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture