'Childhood Christmas was difficult' says former Leeds United player Chris Kamara

Childhood Christmas in Middlesbrough was difficult for former footballer and Sky Sports pundit Chris Kamara.

"I don’t want to get my violin out,” the 65-year-old says. “But...we didn’t have a lot of money and my birthday is on Christmas Day. To get one present was lucky, to get two, it never really happened.”

Kamara, who played for Middlesbrough, Leeds United and Sheffield United amongst others, admits he wasn’t a big lover of Christmas until his two sons were born.

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"I could never drink on my birthday because I was playing [football] on Boxing Day until I was 38,” he says. “I can pinpoint on Christmas Day when I turned 39, that’s the first time I was able to have a drink on my birthday.”

Chris Kamara says childhood Christmas in Middlesbrough was difficult. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA.Chris Kamara says childhood Christmas in Middlesbrough was difficult. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA.
Chris Kamara says childhood Christmas in Middlesbrough was difficult. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA.

Kamara, who recently released his memoir Kammy: My Unbelievable Life, is among celebrities sharing their favourite festive traditions in the run up to Christmas.

These days, the festive season is centred around his four grandchildren. “They mean everything to me – my wish is for them to be healthy throughout their lives, and that I enjoy them until I’m no longer able to. Every year we are either at our house or the other grandparents’ house for Christmas.”

For Mark Wright, 36, a reality TV star and the co-founder of a fitness and lifestyle platform, Christmas is also about family time.

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"And lots of cheese and wine nights,” he adds. “My wish is just continued health for my family and myself.

"Obviously I’m getting into my mid-30s now – you start to worry about health a little bit more, you worry about your mum and dad’s health a little bit more because they’re getting older, and just wish that everyone stays healthy.”

Actor and comedian Dawn French is hoping for a pain-free knee this Christmas after undergoing replacement surgery in November.

“My Christmas is going to be very different this year because I’ll be on crutches,” the 66-year-old says. “I will be sitting in a high chair so that I can easily get around, bossing everyone else about. Come to think of it, that’s no different to any other Christmas,” she jokes.

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Tradition for Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp is buying the TV Times and the Radio Times “whether we look at them or not...almost as part of the decoration that sits on the coffee table at Christmas”.

"On Boxing Day, I always look forward to mashed potato, leftover turkey and pickles,” the 62-year-old says. “I’d never eat that at any other time of the year, but on Boxing Day that is the dinner.”

For musical theatre star and Radio 2 presenter Michael Ball, it’s all about the turkey. “People have gone off turkey. They say, ‘Shall we have roast beef?’ No! I don’t care if you don’t like turkey, you’re eating it!,” he says.

The 61-year-old also likes starting gift-giving in the early hours. “Being allowed to open one present after midnight on Christmas Eve – but not a big one, just a little taster,” he says.