Making Merry Feature

Dr Oli Tooher-Hancock & Kendra O’Mullane

It’s that time of year again, when Christmas trees are put up all around the world, carols are sung, and the magic and wonder of the festival is in the air. It’s a time of joy, kindness, giving and new beginnings. And whether you’re Christian or not, everyone indulges in the celebrations. Keeping the spirit going, You & I spoke to two lovely ladies about their versions of Christmas cheer. Read on to learn how they spend the magical day and what the festival means to them.      --- Niharika
 
Dr Oli Tooher-Hancock  
 
Dr Oli Tooher-Hancock
The principal of the International School of Hyderabad (ISH), Dr Oli Tooher-Hancock eagerly awaits the festive season each year. A cosy family dinner, loads of celebrations at the school and at home, and being with her loved ones is the essence of her ideal Christmas.
 
How do you celebrate Christmas?
I’ve been serving as the head of ISH for the last three years. We celebrate many festivals at the school throughout the year, and Christmas is no exception. The campus is decked out with trees, and both students and teachers take part in ‘Secret Santa’. We also dress in Christmas colours and Father Christmas visits the children on the last day of the semester. We have a whole school assembly in which we sing holiday songs – all very festive. We also create and give out hampers to our workers.
 
On the personal front, I celebrate Christmas in the most traditional way. It’s the most special time of year for my family and I... a time of giving and tradition. We have been overseas for over 20 years, and do not always make it back home during this time. So when my boys were young we established certain traditions that we still follow every year, wherever we are. We watch It’s a Wonderful Life  in the build-up to Christmas and always leave out a carrot for Rudolph, a mince pie and a ‘wee dram’ for Santa – and they always get nibbled, eaten and quaffed!
 
On Christmas Eve, after dinner, we open one or two gifts from under the tree. Then on Christmas morning we have a traditional English breakfast, and exchange gifts. Our boys have had the same Christmas stockings since they were babies, and they’re filled with all sorts of gifts. We then go to church and come back home and prepare a traditional turkey with all the trimmings for lunch. We have Christmas crackers (from the UK) and a Christmas colour theme. Dessert is always Grandma’s Christmas Pudding. Then we watch Christmas films. If we are in the UK we listen to the Queen’s Speech.
 
We also contact all our friends and relatives with a Christmas letter (including a themed family Christmas photo).
 
What is it about Christmas that you enjoy most?
All of it, but my happiest memories ever were watching my boys wake up on Christmas morning to see what Santa had left for them – simply magical! I also love to give; that is the greatest pleasure of all. We always have a charity focus, which is important for us as a family.
 
This Christmas is very special as my mum and dad are coming for their third Christmas to Hyderabad, my elder son is coming back from university in Canada, and a friend is visiting from Spain. So it will be a full house.
 
What preparations do you make prior to the festival?
I begin putting up the decorations and tree at the end of November and completely change the house into ‘Christmas’, along with scented candles of apples, cinnamon and mulled Christmas spices. This year we are dominated by red with gold and silver. Christmas music is played in the house and we watch many traditional films to get into the festive spirit.
 
Tell us about the special dishes that are prepared during this time.
This Christmas my family are having their 23rd annual ‘mince pie and mulled wine do’, where we have an open house and sing carols. Mince pies are fruit-based and the mulled wine (or apple cider) is served warm. Every Christmas we also make pickled onions – a must with Christmas Day lunch, and cold cuts afterwards!
 
Kendra O’Mullane 
 
Kendra O’Mullane
Chairman and Managing Director of O’Mullane Management Solutions, Kendra is a successful entrepreneur who loves everything about Christmas and its festivities. The revelry in the air – from the tree lightings, to all the get-togethers and office outings – are what keep Kendra busy during this time. But this year she’s looking forward to going back to Australia to celebrate Christmas with her children.
 
How do you celebrate Christmas?
We celebrate it with friends, family and lots of food! Every year my four kids (currently working and studying in Perth and Seattle) come over in the morning, and together we prepare a variety of delicious food and exchange gifts. We start by putting the turkey in to cook (it usually takes 3 to 4 hours), and then get involved in making some other scrumptious dishes. In Australia, we usually combine a traditional Christmas meal with contemporary dishes. So what we have is a lot of seafood, salads and, of course, the turkey. The festival is always about spending quality time with family and friends, and making and relishing a great meal together. On Christmas evening we sing carols and exchange gifts. I’ve been living in Hyderabad for the last 16 years, and have spent many Christmases here. But this year I’m looking forward to spending it with my children in Australia.
 
On the work front, we have a big, well-decorated Christmas tree, and I usually take my staff out for a special Christmas lunch. We share gifts and have a nice time together. It’s also a great time to think about the less fortunate and do our bit to help them. Every year I go to various orphanages and organisations, and extend my support to them.
 
What is it about Christmas that you enjoy most?
The magic of Christmas! It’s the perfect opportunity for everyone to cherish the mystery of Christmas, and enjoy it with family and friends.
 
What preparations do you make prior to the festival?
We usually have a 9-foot-tall Christmas tree that we put up around the beginning of the month. The entire family decorates it together with beautiful trinkets. When my children were growing up we also used to bake biscuits and build gingerbread houses together. We did everything together, right from baking and icing the biscuits, to placing the lollies and decorating the gingerbread house.
 
Tell us about the special dishes that are prepared during this time.
A turducken (a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey)! It’s my absolute favourite! Apart from this we also prepare the usual roast potatoes, green beans, roast pumpkin, plum pudding, garden salad, cold prawns, etc. And it’s all prepared at home!