Christ­mas as a child was mag­i­cal ...

Rugby star Iain Hen­der­son, BBC NI news pre­sen­ter Tara Mills and Ra­dio Ul­ster’s Sean Coyle re­call child­hood mem­o­ries of the fes­tive sea­son and tell Stephanie Bell how they plan to spend the big day this year

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - CHRISTMAS COVER STORY -

Ul­ster and Ire­land rugby ace Iain Hen­der­son has a very spe­cial rea­son to look for­ward to Christ­mas this year — his eight-month-old baby daugh­ter, Lana. He and wife Suzanne (28), who mar­ried in July of last year, have wel­comed the lit­tle ad­di­tion to their fam­ily and will also be host­ing Christ­mas Day at their house in Drum­beg for the first time.

Iain (26), who is rid­ing high with the Ul­ster and Ire­land rugby teams this year, had surgery on a hand in­jury on Mon­day, which will put him out of ac­tion for 10 weeks.

With 12 fam­ily mem­bers com­ing for din­ner, he might need the ex­tra time to get pre­pared.

“Last year was our first Christ­mas as a mar­ried cou­ple,” Iain says. “We stayed at my par­ents’ house on Christ­mas Eve, spent the morn­ing with them and then went to Suzanne’s par­ents for din­ner.

“We planned to stay at her par­ents this year and go to mine for din­ner, but now that we have Lana, we have de­cided to have ev­ery­one over to our house for din­ner this year.

“It will be our first time cook­ing Christ­mas din­ner, so it will be an in­ter­est­ing day for me and Suzanne. I hope it goes well. We will do a lot of prep a few days be­fore­hand.

“We plan to cook turkey and all the trim­mings and are re­ally look­ing for­ward to it. Lana is at a good age where she is look­ing at the Christ­mas lights and lov­ing the sparkle. We will be try­ing to en­sure she is happy and kept in her rou­tine as much as pos­si­ble.”

Tra­di­tion for the Hen­der­sons usu­ally in­volves a trip to church for the carol ser­vice on Christ­mas morn­ing, but be­cause their baby is so young, they will miss it this year.

Iain has fond mem­o­ries of Christ­mas as a child, grow­ing up in Ballinderry with his two older broth­ers, Richard (29) and Stu­art (33).

His par­ents, Gor­don and Zoe, al­ways made Christ­mas mag­i­cal for the boys. “I re­mem­ber on Christ­mas morn­ing go­ing into mum and dad’s bed­room around 5am and be­ing told we weren’t al­lowed to go down­stairs yet,” Iain ex­plains.

“We would have tried to sneak into the lounge, but dad would have bar­ri­caded the door so that we couldn’t get in.

“We would have sat in our bed­rooms with an­tic­i­pa­tion for an hour or an hour and a half un­til around 6.30am or 7am, when it was a more ac­cept­able hour to get up.

“There was a lot of ex­cite­ment and the fire was al­ways lit early in the morn­ing be­cause the house would have been freez­ing.

“Mum al­ways had stock­ings with our names on them — she still does. She gives them to us now and still acts sur­prised when we open the presents, as if she hadn’t bought them and had no idea what Santa had brought.

“It was my two older broth­ers who broke the news to me about the man in the red suit. I think I was seven or eight.”

The fam­ily al­ways at­tended church on Christ­mas morn­ing, and af­ter­wards it fell to Iain’s dad to cook din­ner while his mum or­gan­ised every­thing else.

His grand­par­ents would visit at some point, bring­ing with them more presents.

“I re­mem­ber Christ­mas as a child as be­ing very ex­cit­ing and hav­ing a buzz and be­ing a real fam­ily time,” Iain says.

Now that he is a par­ent him­self, he is look­ing for­ward to cre­at­ing the same magic for his daugh­ter.

And while Lana is too young to un­der­stand what all the fuss is about, her par­ents are feel­ing the added thrill of Christ­mas with a child in the house.

“We’re al­ready start­ing to feel the ex­cite-

‘It’s our first time mak­ing Christ­mas din­ner for fam­ily, I hope it goes well’

Hav­ing a child has given an added kick to the Christ­mas spirit for us

CHRIST­MAS HOSTS: Iain Hen­der­son with wife Suzanne and daugh­ter Lana. Be­low: with Suzanne on their wed­ding day and (right) at the Kingspan Sta­dium

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