The Late Late Toy Show kicked off the festive season with a massive virtual hug last Friday and now it’s officially beginning to look a lot like Christmas across RTÉ television, radio, and online, with a fabulous selection of entertainment for the festive season. There’s something for everyone with brand new music shows, award-winning animation, comedy, festive soap drama, movie premieres, cracking live sport, compelling documentaries and all sorts of family entertainment as RTÉ gets set to up wrap up 2020 and ring in the New Year. This Christmas, we all need fun and escapism like never before and so RTÉ has lined up the very best in entertainment for the whole family.
There’s nothing like Movies to provide some escapism and there will be plenty to choose from on RTÉ including the Irish TV premiere of Angela’s Christmas Wishairing on Christmas Day. This heart-warming animated tale from Ireland’s Brown Bag Films is the sequel to the Emmy nominated special, Angela’s Christmas, and tells the story of a determined little girl who sets out to reunite her family in time for Christmas. Based on characters by author Frank McCourt, it features the vocal talent of Ruth Negga, Jared Harris, and Catriona Balfe.
Other Irish movie premieres include Dublin Old School, starring Emmet Kirwan, who reconnects with his estranged brother, a recovering addict living on the streets; Zoo, a charming film about a young boy and his friends who rescue a baby elephant from Belfast Zoo during WWII; and delightful Irish made animation special, The Overcoat, by Dublin based animation house, Giant, with the lead character voiced by Cillian Murphy. Other big hit movies include Peter Rabbit, Coco, A Star is Born, The Greatest Showman, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom.
Full-on Family Entertainment is what’s needed this Christmas and it’s guaranteed when Jennifer Zamparelli and Nicky Byrne get their sparkle back on and remember more footloose and fancy-free times as they look back over some magical and occasionally hilarious moments in a one-hour Dancing with the Stars special. The whole family will also love The Den’s Christmas Special as the latest series comes to a close. Join the madness and mayhem with Ray, Zig and Zag, and Dustin for a final hooley, a laugh, some special guests, and maybe even a tear or two as they bring this much-loved series to a close.
On December 31st the whole family can join in a special New Year’s Eve Countdown with music, comedy, and chat live from The Gaiety Theatre in the heart of Dublin.
Top Notch Comedy
Top notch Comedy craic this Christmas comes courtesy of The 2 Johnnies, the likely lads from Cahir, Co Tipperary who are primed to set Christmas ablaze. We can all look forward to two spanking new episodes of Mrs Brown’s Boys on RTÉ One on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, in which we see how Mrs Brown and all the crew in Finglas are coping with lockdown life. We all know 2020 was a year like no other so who better than Oliver Callan to take a romp through a year we’ll all be glad to see the back of, in Callan Kicks the Year. On the RTÉ Player, Reeling in the Fears, written by Joanne McNally and presented by Doireann Garrihy is a satirical and chaotic look back at the year in a desperate attempt to find the positives.
Stories of who we are as a nation and what we hold dear are told in a special selection of Documentaries for all interests this season. In Fungie’s Kingdom, Baz Ashmawy makes the trip to Dingle in the aftermath of the Dingle Dolphin’s disappearance to explore the magic and the mystery of the cheeky, solitary, wild dolphin who made Dingle Bay his home for 37 years. In The Real Field, John B Keane’s son, the broadcaster and writer Billy Keane goes in search of the truth behind the murder that inspired his father’s most famous work. This intriguing documentary Includes interviews with Jim Sheridan, Noel Pearson, Garry Hynes, and Michael Harding. (The 1990 original Jim Sheridan classic film The Field will air immediately afterwards.)
Music at Christmas
Music features strongly this Christmas and on New Year’s Eve, Nicky Byrne presents Soundtrack of My Lifefeaturing the RTÉ Concert Orchestra playing a selection of greatest hits and familiar floor-fillers with Kodaline and special guests including Jack L, Loah and many more. The Queen of Nashville, Dolly Parton, joins Ryan Tubridy for a star-studded Late Late Show Country Christmas Special on December 11th and our own Irish country stars will also be on hand with some of their own favourite Christmas hits. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Riverdance with a special anniversary show and CLANNAD: A Celtic Dream Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh travels to Donegal to meet the band and reflect on a remarkable fifty-year journey. Ruth Smith and Mary Kennedy present Christmas at Home, with a rich array of musical talent, including Celine Byrne, Úna Healy, Ray Lynam, Mick Flannery, teenage YouTube sensation Allie Sherlock, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Cor na nÓg. With the ongoing pandemic, this year the iconic ‘Christmas Busk’ that takes place annually on our streets can’t happen. With no live performances this year, Glen Hansard and friends take a look back at some of the most memorable moments from the busk over the years, raising awareness around homelessness in a year when it’s needed more than ever. Don’t miss The Busk – A Decade of Christmas on Grafton Street on December 18th, an unforgettable night celebrating the best of Irish music, songs, and stories. On the same night,The Late Late Show will have some of the biggest global superstars of rock music take their legendary Grafton Street Christmas Eve busk for the Simon Community indoors to the Late Late studio for a special night of music. RTÉ, together with the Creative Ireland Programme, is calling on Ireland to shine a light on 20 December to share in a message of hope, gratitude, and solidarity on the eve of the 2020 winter solstice. RTÉ will present an event that will include a live programme on RTÉ One, a radio special on RTE Radio 1, and six spectacular projection installations in memorable locations around the country in the days leading up to Shine Your Light- Solstice.
2020 was the year when we were together apart, the year of Zoom calls and quizzes, hand sanitiser, masks, and social distance. 2020: A Year in Review looks back at a strange year in which the world watched as America voted in a new President, the UK prepared to leave the EU forever and Ireland’s rotating Taoisigh battled to save lives. And onnews2Day, Aisling Moloney and Mícheál Ó Scannáil look back at a year of huge upheaval for everyone, including children. And especially for those younger viewers, Growing Up at the End of the World is a fascinating documentary that follows three teen climate change activists over a year and a half as they demand change in a bid to save their future.
Sport fans may have missed many traditional days out this year but there is plenty of action scheduled to keep them entertained. This Christmas will see the first-ever winter GAA Championships climax with All Ireland Finals in Football, Hurling, and Camogie all showing live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player on The Saturday Game Live andThe Sunday Game Live. Also featured will be live coverage of the men’s and women’s FAI Cup Finals, Champions League Live and, of course, the highlight of the Christmas sporting calendar, the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, beginning on St. Stephen’s Day. On Saturday, December 12th, the All Ireland Camogie Final and the Women’s FAI Cup Final will take centre stage on a super Saturday of women’s sport across RTÉ
For Drama off the field, Fair City continues to capture Carrigstown life through a lens, with residents, like all of us, rising to the challenge of a different kind of Christmas this year. And we catch all the action from Albert Square in an Eastenders Christmas Special on RTÉ One on Christmas Day.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, RTÉ TV and Radio offer a rich array of seasonal religious content, with Carols, Masses, Services, Christmas Messages, and even a special Cork Nativity.
Especially for younger viewers, this Christmas are 10 brand new two-minute animations, including Christmas Owl, a Christmas version of Critters TV using Late Late Toy Show footage, and Da Humbug, an animated story about a grumpy old man finding the true meaning of Christmas Drama Week is a series of six wonderful dramas from around the world, that will raise your spirits and touch your heart. And this season also sees the return of kids’ series Squad Goals, with Anna Geary, and Ace My Space.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some comfort food and special-occasion meals, so this year The Today Show Christmas Food Special is back with three of Ireland’s leading chefs, Neven Maguire, Rachel Allen, and Kevin Dundon dishing up a Christmas feast for some lucky celebrity diners across three evenings at 6.30 pm on RTÉ One during Christmas week. Neven’s Christmas Menu will cover everything you need to know to produce the perfect Christmas day spread, and this year Donal’s Family Food at Christmas will be all about spending time with the family, keeping up traditions, and creating great family meals to enjoy over the holidays. Rory O’Connell is also back with another two-part Christmas special, How to Cook Well, over two nights during Christmas week and Catherine Fulvio returns with a Christmas cookery special, Catherine Celebrates, for those who want to try something just a little bit different this year!
The entertainment continues on the airwaves across RTÉ Radio 1, 2FM, Lyric, and RnaG this Christmas. On December 22nd, Ray D’Arcy show will be paying homage to all the wonderful Charity Calendars that have been sent in from all over the country.
Although different from previous years, Liveline won’t let Covid-19 put a stop to their Christmas Eve special in 2020. This year, Joe Duffy and friends will entertain listeners in their homes instead of on Grafton St., with guests including Kodaline & many more sharing some Christmas wishes. Derek Mooney will have a direct line to Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, ensuring he’s on his way to all the homes across the country, while Panti Bliss takes to the fireside offering solace in a year that has changed us all.
On Christmas morning, wake up early and jump out of bed to the sounds of Christmas played by Lilian Smith; Michael Comyn offers a festive mix of warmth, music, inspiration, and humour in the company of a variety of socially distanced guests on Christmas morning from 8 am. RTÉ Radio 1 will accompany all busy kitchens and homes right across the day as Miriam O’Callaghan hears some seasonal readings and tunes until John Creedon rocks around the Christmas tree with his own unique blend of music and tunes.Christmas Miscellany brings listeners a festive mix of new writing and complimentary music, a much-loved staple of Christmas morning on RTÉ Radio 1 for over fifty years. The writers this Christmas morning include Dónal Ryan, Paul Howard and Christine Dwyer Hickey.
St. Stephens’ Day gives us all time to reflect as Joe Duffy presents Legacies. If you’ve green fingers, gardeners from Kilmacurragh Estate, Dower House, and more give us a window into their world outdoors, sharing their wisdom of lifelong learning just before we take up the reigns for St. Stephen’s Day Sport. Also, on St. Stephen’s Day in Services Ahead, Brenda Donohue visits the Barrack Obama Plaza in Moneygall meeting those working there and those passing through over a busy twenty-four-hour period. Callan’s Kicks looks back on the unforgettable year’s epic highs and lows. Leakers, experts and Covidiots, Shinner winners, and Golfgater haters. On the last day of 2020, we put the year that took away sport-loads of craic, plus Fungie, firmly in the rear-view mirror.
Lottie’s Celeb News Special on Christmas Day offers two hours of the best celeb stories and music from 2020 presented by Lottie Ryan and then to carry 2FM listeners through the evening, on Christmas Day from 6 pm The National Chart Show with Bláthnaid Treacy will announce this year’s Christmas No.1 as well as replaying all the Number 1’s from the year 2020.
Sounding a note of hope and celebrating our love and appreciation for the many musicians of Ireland, RTÉ has a range of concerts and music documentaries for all tastes this season.
-Ireland in Music sees all the country become a stage, as Denise Chaila and Sharon Shannon perform from the Cliffs of Moher; Clannad perform from Poison Glen in Gweedore; Lisa Hannigan from the bandstand at St. Stephen’s Green and The Stunning from the beautiful grounds of Trim Castle.
-After a Woman’s Heart features Eleanor McEvoy and the female artists from the best-selling Woman’s Heart album – which was released 30 years ago and was the soundtrack of many of our lives. They take us through their own experiences during a time of sweeping reforms in Ireland, including divorce, decriminalisation, and marriage equality.
– A new season of concerts, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra Winter Sessions, will include a Viennese New Year’s celebration and a John Lennon celebration with guests including James Vincent McMorrow and Andrea Corr. These concerts, an RTÉ Concert Orchestra collaboration with the RDS, will be broadcast on RTÉ Lyric Fm and streamed on rte.ie/culture, Fridays at 7 pm, 11 December to 1 January as well as across RTÉ One over the holiday period.
-On Fittest Family Celebrity Special, popular figures and their family members, including Katie and Ruby Walsh, are put through their paces for charity.
-Two Talented, presented by Donncha O’Callaghan, sees four well-known faces, including Brian Redmond and Maclean Burke agree to be mentored by their talented youngsters for a Christmas special.
-The Man Comes Aroundtells the story of Johnny Cash’s tour in 1963 and his relationship with Ireland. We hear from the Irish people who saw him up close and personal in rural venues around the country.
-From the makers of the acclaimed hurling series The Game comes Christy Ring: Man and Ball, a film about the enigmatic Cork hurler -deemed by many to be the greatest player of all time- in the year of the centenary of his birth.
-The heart-warming Francis Street Photographer tells the story of Suzanne Behan who sets about to reunite people with precious family photos after she finds her photographer grandfather’s box of 70,000 negatives, capturing the pulse of life in the Liberties.
Agus, as Gaeilge
-Cosc: Back in 1942, Casablanca, one of cinema’s most romantic films engaged and intrigued audiences all over the world. But for more than three decades, Irish movie fans were denied the full story of Rick and Ilsa’s ill-fated wartime love affair. In this episode of Cosc called Banned, Casablanca devotees discuss the enduring magic of the movie and discuss the cultural implications of the cuts made to the original film in Ireland.
-Laochra Cois Laoi: 1990 will be forever remembered on Leeside as the year of the historic Double, when the Cork hurlers and footballers won both the All-Ireland Hurling and Football titles within a fortnight of each other. This programme celebrates that amazing achievement as Garry Mac Donncha chats to some of those involved.
–Fair City: The Collins family rally to bring back the spirit of Christmas and an unusual Christmas morning surprise for Anto doesn’t quite get the reaction the family anticipated. Hayley’s heart isn’t feeling so wholesome while Carol takes in an unusual house guest who provides some light entertainment with hi-jinks and tricks, but a caller to her door is not the call she’s hoping for… will her Christmas wish come true? And with family more important than ever this year and many forced apart from those they love, from thousands of miles away Wayne takes his place at the top of Orla’s table.
-Movie magic for all ages will light up the small screen this Christmas. Traditional favourites will include:Peter Rabbit, Coco, A Star is Born, The Greatest Showman, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom.
–Other classics include: Willy Wonka, Home Alone 2, Mrs Doubtfire, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the four Indiana Jones movies, and Some Like It Hot.
-RTÉ Player has plenty of iconic box sets for binge-watching this Christmas. Choose from classic US sitcoms Frasier and Seinfeld on RTÉ Player or binge-watch Martin Sheen as President Bartlett with every episode of The West Wing.
-Choose from fan favourites One Tree Hill, Normal People and Love/Hate or try something new like Dominic West’s The Hour, Kelly Macdonald in the suspense drama The Victim or Australian teen drama The Hunting.
RTÉ Radio 1
-Join Will Hanafin and his uber festive panel of Emer McLysaght, Jules Coll and Pauline Mclynn as they rip open the wrapping from Christmas archives past to see if it was better or worse back then…. -There’s guaranteed Christmas cheer on Sure ‘Twas Better Christmas Eve.
– Arena on week nights over Christmas will offer the best author and film director interviews, combined with festive specials, what to watch on Christmas TV/film, the art of winter, and a New Year’s Eve look back at the best of culture in 2020.
-Don’t miss Rick O’Shea and Olivia O’Leary opening books and reciting poetry with their specials of The Book Show and The Poetry Programme on Christmas night.
-There will be further comedy with Comedy Showhouse across Christmas week on RTÉ Radio to bring plenty of laughter to your evenings.
-In the week that follows, expect to hear Kathryn Thomas, Michael Cahill, Brenda Donohoe, Documentary on One, Comedy Showhouseand music that is Gold! Also, this week on Like Family we hear from some of the families Brenda Donohue has met throughout the year and on New Year’s Day, Brenda will revisit them and reflect on the changes in their lives in 2020 and what they are hoping for in 2021.
–Tune in from the 26th – 29th Decemberfor the 2FM Celebrity Takeover where we hand the mic over to Gavin James, Erica Cody, Greg O’Shea and JC Stewart as they let us in on their own ultimate playlists.
-Grammy-nominated Fontaines DC recorded a special show in the summer with 2FM’s Dan Hegarty to showcase their new album ” A Hero’s Death”. Hear this exclusive studio session on 2FM on 28th December including a rare sit-down interview with Dan and the lads.
-End the yearwith DJs Dave Treacy, Mo K, DJ Wax and JJ Hartigan who will broadcast live on New Year’s Eve, mixing the biggest tracks of the year along with all your New Year requests. Stephen Byrne will then bring listeners aBillie Eilish concert recorded live in Sydney on New Year’s Day to bounce you in to 2021.
RTÉ lyric fm
-On Christmas Eve, Marty Whelan re-captures magical Christmas memories with Mary Crosby, daughter of Bing, and Michael Bublé also makes an appearance with his Bublé bells. Chef Neven Maguire calms the nerves with his annual Christmas countdown in the kitchen.
-It wouldn’t be Christmas without the glorious masterpiece that is Handel’s Messiah – hear it performed by Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin on The Full Score with Liz Nolan, Christmas Day, 1-4 pm.
-Later that evening, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra presents a concert of Christmas favourites on The Lyric Concert with Paul Herriott at 7 pm, with a host of great guests, RTÉ Cór na nÓg, Cór Linn, Rachel Croash, Brian Dunphy, Zoe Conway & John McIntyre conducted by Gavan Maloney.
-On Movies and Musicals on St. Stephen’s Day, Aedín Gormley introduces ‘Pure Imagination’, a concert of games and film soundtracks with composer Eímear Noone conducting the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and soloists Jack L and Sibéal.
-At 7 pm on Opera Night – Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Paul Herriott presents I Barocchisti and the Swiss Radio-Television Chorus and soloists in a recording from Lugano Switzerland under the direction of Diego Fasolis.
-The Lyric Featureremembers the late Derek Mahon who died in October this year. In this RTÉ archive documentary, the first broadcast on Christmas Day 2001, his long poem The Hudson Letter is read by actors including Stephen Rea and Dawn Bradfield to a soundtrack recorded along New York’s Hudson River and music from piper Peter Browne.
-On New Year’s Day, there’s a chance to hear a stunning new piece by Max Richter, VOICES, inspired by the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In a time of dramatic global change and challenge, this piece takes voices from around the world, interwoven into Richter’s profoundly moving music. Hear it on Vespertine with Ellen Cranitch at 10 pm
RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta
The Christmas highlights will include a new six-part music series, An Seomra Glas, presented by Fiachna Ó Braonáin who will be joined by a special musical guest for each episode.
-In An Chéad Saol Eile, Máire Bríd Ní Chualáin will interview a series of people, including a priest, a singer, a poet and a broadcaster, about their beliefs about death and the afterlife.
-The RnaG schedule will also include a series of concerts, including an event held in 1991 to honour famous Connemara poet and sean-nós singer Caitlín Maude, and a concert recorded in the former home of Canon Goodman at the Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh music school last spring. We’ll hear some of the best music recorded at the Scoil Gheimhridh Frankie Kennedy and Scoil Gheimhridh Ghaoth Dobhair winter schools over the last twenty-five years, as well as a programme about Donegal’s Inis Oirthear island.
In sport, as well as the live action, there will be programmes on Corofin and Galway footballer Gary Sice, Donegal great Charlie McGeever, the All-Ireland 1998 Hurling Championship, and Offaly’s 1982 All-Ireland football victory.
Christmas is a time for reflection, and the schedule will also include programmes honouring the memory of two great Connemara men who died during the year, musician Johnny Connolly and writer and actor Joe Steve Ó Neachtain.