A host of famous names reveal their favourite-ever Christmases—and the ones they’d rather forget.

Comedian Andy Parsons

My best Christmas…

...was probably in Moscow in 1991, when I was 24. A journalist acquaintance let me and two friends stay in his flat while he was away during the first week of January—when Russians celebrate the festive season.

We somehow made it to the apartment on New Year’s Eve by one of the most potholed roads I’ve ever encountered, driven at 70mph in a taxi with no seat belts by a man who smelled of vodka. Then, when we arrived, the journalist had arranged for us to contact a Russian lady we didn’t know, who would take us to a private party.

In broken English, she told us over the phone to meet her at Mayakovskaya Metro Station. She’d be wearing a fur coat and carrying an umbrella. It sounded very exciting and Smiley’s People, but none of us could speak Russia or read Cyrillic.

To recover from the taxi ride, we’d drunk some vodka of our own (my first experience of the lemon-and-pepper variety), and then had to buy tickets and make our way across a strange city. What could go wrong? Still, we managed it, got to the party, and enjoyed a sit-down feast of cabbage and boiled beetroot—with vodka in between courses.

In the end, one of my friends slept for eight hours under a pile of coats, the other enjoyed some extra hospitality from the lady, and I was led by a group of pipe-playing men to Red Square at 4am, where we took off our shirts and danced for an hour, even though it was minus 30°C. Glasnost had arrived!

 

My worst Christmas…

...was in 2005 when I spent the big day on a 24-hour British Airways flight to Australia.

The tickets were slightly cheaper, but I thought BA would lay on something special. How wrong I was. No turkey meal, no little presents, nobody dressed up as Santa—just a lot of very miserable cabin staff who wanted to be at home. Ho, ho, ho!

 

Actor Ray Winstone

Ray Winstone
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My best Christmas…

...My family and I were enjoying a festive break in the Maldives in the late Nineties, and I saw the most incredible sight from the beach. It was this huge marlin jumping clean out of the water and landing elegantly in a shard of blues and silvers.

It was unbelievable, but I didn’t tell anybody—not my wife Elaine, nor my daughters Lois and Jaime—because I reckoned they’d think I’d been at the Christmas spirits a bit too much!

It became a golden memory, but life is about discussing shared experiences, so I was always a bit disappointed that I was the only one who’d seen it. Then, about the same time two years later, Lois suddenly pipes up: “Dad, do you remember when we saw that big fish in the Maldives?” She’d been standing right behind me at the time and I hadn’t realised. We had shared the experience! That marlin had made my Christmas all over again.

 

My worst Christmas…

...My worst behaved Christmas was when I was 18 and at drama school. I was furious that the headteacher hadn’t invited me to the Christmas party—even if I hadn’t been a model student.

So, while everyone else was preparing to kiss under the mistletoe, I was busy plotting my revenge and, a little later, stuck a piece of wood containing some very sharp tacks under the wheels of her car, with inevitable consequences.

By Christmas itself, my actions had got me expelled—someone “grassed me up”, as they say—and I spent the festive season fretting about a missed opportunity and, quite understandably, getting it in the neck from my parents. The £900-a-term fees they’d been paying hadn’t come easily to them. But the incident did make me realise that there are consequences to one’s actions—for you and for others. I tried never to hurt my parents in the same way again, and to be less selfish and more hard-working.

 

Actor Christopher Biggins

Christopher Biggins
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My best Christmas…

...was in 1976 when I was doing my first-ever pantomime Mother Goose. My parents and brother came up to stay in my hotel in Darlington. It was cold and raining, and the only place we could find to go for Christmas lunch was a terrible cafe.

It wasn’t looking good…but we were joined by almost all the cast and the Dunkirk spirit prevailed. There were about 25 of us round the table—we sang songs, played games and drank lots. It was wonderful.

 

My worst Christmas…

...isn’t a specific occasion, but more a sadness that I’m always working in panto.

We do performances on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, so the 25th is rather rushed. I remember with nostalgia being a youngster and having the time to wrap presents, decorate the tree, and put out a little cake and sherry for Father Christmas.

The hotels I stay in are good to me and always put a tree in my room—but it’s not the same.

 

Dancer and TV Personality Anton Du Beke

Anton Du Beke
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My best Christmas…

We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid, but my parents always spoiled us at Christmas and made it lovely. Sometimes they worked on the day itself (my dad as a waiter, my mum helping in an old people’s home), and then my younger sister and I would have to wait until they both got back.

That was purgatory. But we’d normally eat around the time of the Queen’s Speech—lunch was the full shumoddle—and then watch a film. I was bewitched by Fred Astaire in Top Hat and The Band Wagon, and Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain—they were always on and inspired my love of dancing.

 

My worst Christmas…

...My parents had a party in our house on Christmas Eve, and my six-year-old brother had been finishing off a few of the leftover drinks. He couldn’t differentiate between lemonade and alcohol, so we ended up rushing him to casualty to have his little stomach pumped.

I was a few years older and felt partly responsible. Thankfully he was fine, though he probably nursed a hangover on Christmas Day.

 

Actress Charlotte Bellamy

Charlotte BellamyFeatureflash / Shutterstock.com
 

My best Christmas…

A few Christmases ago, we had a totally traditional time. My children Sunnie, Herbie and Teddie were the perfect ages (six, three and one) to make it all magical—even if Herbie was a bit anxious about a big, bearded stranger coming into his room at night and we had to leave his stocking outside his door.

Lots of the family came to stay, and Harrogate—where we live—had gorgeous lights and a lovely Christmas Eve concert. My mother is really good at helping in the kitchen and makes fantastic mince pies, so we spent a lot of time eating, and after Christmas lunch we played silly games.

My parents split up when I was young, so having a family occasion with everyone I love meant a lot.

 

My worst Christmas…

...was when I was about 20 and got so drunk on Bacardi in the pub on Christmas Eve that I spent the whole of the following day in bed. My poor mum!

 

TV Personality Kirstie Allsopp

Kirstie Allsopp

My best Christmas…

...is going to be this year because I’m going to be brilliantly prepared.

I’ve ruined Christmases in the past by trying to do too much all on my own, then bursting into tears on Christmas Eve. So I’m going to make lots of lists, not invite too many people, and remember that no one else notices if things aren’t perfect.

I’m going to have done all my shopping before December and wrap everything long before Christmas Eve, so I don’t have to stay up all night. And I’m not going to force worthy educational gifts on my children, as I’m inclined to do, but buy them stuff they actually want.  

 

My worst Christmas…

...was when I was 16 and we were in Thailand on an amazing holiday. I was all sulky because I was so far away from my friends. As a parent myself now, I feel awful about all those times I was grumpy at Christmas because I know how much effort my mother put into making it special.

 

Actor Stephen Tompkinson

Stephen Tompkinson
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My best Christmas…

...Back in 1972, when I was seven, my brother John and I were spending Christmas at our grandparents’ house in Stockton-on- Tees, and we got snowed in. Snow is what you dream about at Christmas—and we had enough to not only enjoy things like sledging but also to keep us cut off, pretty much, from the outside world for four days in a house full of toys, lots of cousins to play with, Laurel & Hardy cartoons and the Morecambe & Wise show on TV. It was heaven!

What was particularly great was that John and I got on so well. We didn’t fall out, just played games, ate festive food and threw snowballs at one another. I think if you survive four excitable days together under the same roof when you’re kids with lots of energy to let off, that pretty much sets up a relationship for life. We’ve been close ever since.

 

My worst Christmas…

...It won’t come as any great surprise to learn that it was when my mum Josephine died. It happened just two days before the turn of the year, in 2004, and of course it’ll be on the family’s mind this Christmas, too.

That time obviously had a profound effect on me—on all of us—although the fact that I gave up alcohol around that time was coincidental rather than consequential. Subconsciously, however, I may have been aware of the need to make every moment count, to create more time and more energy for myself—not only for work but also for my four-year-old daughter Daisy.

When you lose someone, you realise how precious time is and how easily it can be squandered.

 

Actress Phyllis Logan

Phyllis Logan
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My best Christmas…

...was 1994, when my husband proposed at our house in East Finchley, north London. He said, “I’ve never wanted to marry anyone else, so I’ve got you a special present.” I opened the box to find an engagement ring.

 

My worst Christmas…

...The following year I got terrible food poisoning. We had to call the doctor out on Christmas morning, and he gave me an injection to stop me being sick.

My very capable mother and sister took charge while I lay miserable in bed. I managed to make it downstairs later in the day to eat some dry toast and pull a cracker, but I missed all the fun.

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