WITH the big day almost upon us, some of Ulster's best known faces reveal what Christmas means to them.
FIRST MINISTER PETER ROBINSON
FIRST Minister Peter Robinson said that, for his family,Christmas is a time to come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and its impact on the world.
"For me, Christmas also offers a precious opportunity to spend time with my family, but I am always mindful that at tables across Ulster there is still an empty chair and a missing loved one as a result of the
terrorist violence which scarred our Province for so many years."
Mr Robinson said Christmas Day would offer a short break from the daily
routine of government, but added: "In politics it will only be a short rest and pressing issues are never too far away."
The First Minister said that despite a challenging year of economic downturn and violence from dissident republicans, he believed the people
of Ulster must look to the future.
"The Christmas story is ultimately one of hope and I believe that we
must look forward and work for a better future for everyone here."
BELFAST LORD MAYOR NAOMI LONG
AS a Christian, Christmas is a particularly important time of year for Lord Mayor of Belfast Naomi Long.
"I usually start Christmas Day at church at our family service, before we all get together as a family for opening our presents.
My mum-in-law, Elaine, is cooking Christmas dinner for us as she has every year since Michael and I married.
"I usually do the cooking on Boxing Day, which is a much more relaxed affair."
After losing her mother in March, Mrs Long said this Christmas would be
difficult for her family.
She added: "We'll probably stick to the usual routine this year, and my nephew Sid will be with us. At three-and-a-half, the excitement for him is definitely building."
As regards presents, the Lord Mayor said: "I don't mind what I find under the tree as I'm just looking forward to getting a break after a really busy year.
"I would wish everyone a really Merry Christmas and a peaceful and
prosperous New Year."
MODEL AGENT ALISON CAMPBELL
MODEL agency boss and mother-of-two Alison Campbell has always loved the festive season.
"I'm a true fairytale romantic and love the whole story of Christmas and Bethlehem and the baby Jesus, right through to the snow and the
Christmas parties and all the celebrations.
"From childhood it was such a special time and I remember all those
Christmas mornings when I could not wait to get up and see what
Santa had brought me.
I could never believe how he got it just so right."
Alison said after having her two boys, Stuart and Philip, she was able to relive the Christmas excitement she had felt as a child with them.
"Now they're older they help me with the tree and the cooking and all
the preparations, it's great," she added.
With Christmas being the busiest time of the year for her business, Alison said she was looking forward to a few days off to spend with family and friends.
UTV JOURNALIST SARAH DOBSON
UTV journalist Sarah Dobson will have a Christmas to remember this year as she prepares to marry fiance Rory, who she met while studying at
Sarah, who will marry Rory just before New Year, said: "We both wanted to have our wedding around Christmas as we love the time of year but I
have to admit it's been very hectic trying to organise everything.
"It's also been a very busy year at work so I'm looking forward to relaxing. I'm off for almost a month including the honeymoon."
Sarah will head home to Coleraine on Christmas Eve where
she plans to spend a few days with her large family.
"It's normally a very full house with my eldest brother, wife, their children and my other older brother but they are all spending it in Wales this year and coming over after for the wedding and New Year."
Of the big day itself, Sarah said: "We'll go to church either on
Christmas Eve or Christmas morning and have a lovely long walk by the sea, then get cosy by the fire.
"My mum is a fantastic cook so she will spoil us with lots of gorgeous food. And, of course, a glass of champagne or two."
RACER RYAN FARQUHAR
MOTORCYCLE racer Ryan Farquhar has had one of his best seasons ever –
surpassing Joey Dunlop's record for top-flight road races on the island of Ireland.
He says Christmas is all about family, but he takes just a few days off, before going back in the shed to work on his machines.
"I'll be working right up until Christmas, but then it's all about
"We spend our time between mine and Karen's, and just the way it falls this year means I'll have three days.
"I have two girls, and of course I like to be with them."
He said they "just do the normal family stuff - dinner and all that".
But he says the world doesn't stop for him - "I have quite a lot of work to do".
"I'm building a new off-road bike using a Kawasaki 450 single cylinder
engine, so we'll just keep on with that and see how it goes.
"As soon as one season ends, the other one starts, so there's no real
RADIO PRESENTER JOHNNY HERO
DOWNTOWN Radio presenter Johnny Hero admits he was "getting a bit jaded" about Christmas until he had children of his own.
"Now I'm a sentimental bit of old fluff.
"Having young kids around really gets you back in to it - I was out
the other day rolling around in the snow - it gives you a chance to
relive your own childhood Christmases."
He said it was really all about children and their innocence.
"They have just recharged my Christmas battery. My wife just loves it. We had the decorations up since September - she'd have them up in July if we let her, she'd decorate anything."
So how will he spend the holiday?
"Not really much different - I'm on the radio as normal and then I'm doing my Glam Slam Christmas bash, which will be great - but I just love this time of year, we as a family just have a ball - love it, love
it, love it."