Hampshire celebrities share their Christmas memories in the county
PUBLISHED: 12:00 03 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:00 03 December 2018
What does Christmas mean to you? Not everyone celebrates it of course but for those who do it is often simply a time for festive fun and creating new memories. We asked Craig David, Elizabeth Hurley, Colin Firth, Amanda Holden and more of Hampshire’s stars on what Christmas means to them
Laura Carmichael who is Lady Edith from Downton Abbey to the rest of us, was born in Southampton and has very happy memories of the festive season at home.
“We have always had a good Christmas together,” she said. “It has never changed really, we still get together as a family and enjoy that special time. I come from quite a large family and we don’t just slump, we like to do things. When the last episode of Downton Abbey was shown on Christmas Day we dressed up to watch it.
“Of course, we had always shot the Downtown Abbey Christmas specials some time earlier so I had two festive seasons which was great.
“Southampton is good for Christmas because the city shops always look great and there is always a good panto at the Mayflower so you cannot help but get caught caught up in it. Great memories.”
Singing star Craig David is also from Southampton and grew up on the Holyrood Estate. Whenever possible he likes to go home for Christmas.
“I love going home but I only stay for a couple of days because the family can drive me crazy,” he joked.
“We also had a lot of fun at Christmas and that hasn’t really changed. This is a great county to spend the festive season because we have cities like Southampton where everything is on the doorstep or you can go to the countryside and have peace or you can go out on a boat if you want. It’s brilliant but one thing I like to see every Christmas if possible is Home Alone, my favourite Christmas film.
Elizabeth Hurley is famed for sending cheeky Christmas cards to her friends but there is another side to the festive season that she really enjoys.
“I have been asked many times to go and switch on the Christmas lights in this town or that and if I am available I love to do it,” she said. “I love to do it. I love the lights and when you switch them on and there is a great ‘Oooh!” from the gathered crowds that is just so lovely and it makes you feel that Christmas has really started.
“I really do love all things Christmassy and love decorating my own house, so lighting up a whole street is just heavenly. I think every area comes into its own at Christmas; my house definitely looks better with the decorations up. I would never want to be abroad for Christmas – it is at its best in this country – and in Hampshire!”
Jeremy Irons recalls his growing up days on the Isle of Wight and especially Christmas.
“We were what one might call a middle-class family,” he said. “We were not short of anything and Cowes and the beaches were my playground.
“Christmas was fun of course – we did not go crazy and we were quite traditional but I liked the music, I liked the decorations and, of course, getting presents. I made sure that there was always an extra treat for the dogs too and we went for our daily walk, just the same. I often wondered what it would be like if it snowed on Christmas Day and we could go to the beach and make a sandcastle and a snowman next to each other. They were happy festive days on the Isle of Wight.”
Colin Firth was born in Grayshoot into a family of academics.
“We moved around a lot so there were not the roots that other people have when they are growing up. Perhaps that is why Christmas has never meant as much to me as to other people.
“It is nice to have good food, some fun and some presents but a few years ago I was in yet another version of Scrooge and when you read that story you can start to empathise with Ebenezer. I find that Christmas can be very irritating with its endless radio jingles and the shopping stresses that go on in the lead-up. Having said that, I hope everyone has a nice time and I’ll do my best”
Someone who really does enjoy Christmas is Portsmouth-born Amanda Holden.
“It is a really family time and I love being with my family at Christmas,” she said. “I really appreciate the family I have and I’m so thankful for my healthy children. I try to keep Christmas like the times when I was a little girl. The tree always goes up on the first weekend of December. Maybe it sounds a bit strange but I like all the bits of Christmas, even the stress, the noise and the family arguments. It may sound odd but I love all that.
“One tip I give myself is to shop early. It takes a lot of the stress out of it and you have time left if you have forgotten anyone. Don’t put it off – get out there!”
Mike Batt, pop music legend, was born in Southampton.
“I went to Peter Symonds School in Winchester and that was a lot more interesting at Christmas. It wasn’t as good as being at home for the actual festive time but the lead up to going home was pretty good – Christmas carols, relaxed rules and better things to eat.
“Christmas was good to me in 1974 because I had a big hit with – wait for it – Wombling Merry Christmas. It was especially popular around Christmas time with people playing it at parties. In fact, most of the Wombles records, singles and albums seemed to be especially popular at Christmas – and they still are.
“Christmas was always party time in our household and so I have great Christmas memories. We often did fancy dress and my mother was brilliant at making the costumes. She even made some of the original Womble costumes. She was great and so are the Wombles, they are still hugely popular.”
Finally, Christmas in the Titchmarsh home near Alton is about as traditional as you can get as Alan Titchmarsh revealed.
“I don’t like to be away at Christmas and that means home and family. We’ve always been close as a family and I now have four grandchildren so Christmas in the Titchmarsh household is manic.
“I have been known to dress up as Father Christmas now and then – well, regularly actually. My wife is a great cook. I did do it myself one year and it was alright. Everyone lived but I noticed that they didn’t ask me to do it again the following year.
“We often invite people round for a get-together before Christmas and use our barn as a kind of function room. We put on a special show and have a lot of fun. That is one of the good things about Christmas, you can be really daft and nobody minds. I hope we shall have another fun Christmas this year and I hope your readers do too. Cheers!”
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