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Q&A  •  23 November 2022


Paul Kelly Shares his favourite Christmas food (and it’s not gravy!)

We caught up with Paul Kelly to learn about his Christmas traditions, favourite Christmas song, go-to gravy recipe and more.

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

We stumble our way through Christmas carols and songs every Christmas Eve. Not too reverentially. We’re quite a big clan so there are usually 30 or more of us. My sister Mary Jo leads proceedings on a little keyboard set-up outdoors. My nephew Dan and I follow along as best we can on guitars. Some of those carols have a lot of quick-moving chords! 

'Good King Wenceslaus' is a favourite. We always end with 'Silent Night' but we get there via 'Jingle Bell Rock' and 'Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer' amongst others. We can’t leave them out otherwise the kids would NOT be happy. We eat and drink and sing. Sometimes one of the children will perform a piece on an instrument they’ve been learning at school. My grand-niece, Anna, brought the house down a couple of years ago playing 'Danny Boy' on the clarinet. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

See Anna and 'Danny Boy' above.

What is your favourite . . . 

Christmas food:

I’m always pretty excited when the mince pies start appearing. A friend and I started a mince pie club (two members) a while ago and we try out mince pies from as many places as we can over a few weeks and give them a rating.

On the day we generally pick a theme – curries, Asian, Mediterranean, seafood – and everyone brings a dish accordingly. Takes the heat off the host.

Ham sandwiches on white bread with hot English mustard are pretty good to take to the Boxing Day cricket test. Along with leftover mince pies, of course!

Christmas song:

It’s hard to beat Darlene Love’s version of 'White Christmas'. I play it loud first thing every Christmas morning.

Christmas movie/ TV special: 

It’s a Wonderful Life. A Frank Capra movie starring James Stewart. Goes straight to the heart. James is pitch-perfect as usual and he’s helped out by a funny, bumbling angel.

Are you doing anything special for Christmas this year?

We’re going to England this year to have Christmas with relations in Liverpool and London. I was supposed to go last year, but Covid got in the way. I’m hoping for a white Christmas. Then again, be careful what you pray for!

What is your favourite book to read at Christmastime? 

No particular book. I usually get a few books as presents, so I might start on one of them. Maybe I’ll get Ian McEwan’s latest novel this year if I’m lucky.

And . . . you’ve surely been asked a million times. But do you have a go-to gravy recipe? If so, what is it? 

The one in the song is the one I use most of the time. I got it from my first father-in-law.


Love Paul Kelly? Spend Christmas curled up with his poetry book Love is Strong as Death or check out his memoir, How to Make Gravy

Featured Titles

Love is Strong as Death
A collection of more than 300 of Paul Kelly's favourite poems.
Read more
How to Make Gravy
A memoir in a hundred songs – classy storytelling from Australia's most prodigious singer-songwriter.
Read more

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