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My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas: Carols and Caravans TX: 20 Dec 2013, Week 51

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In Queensferry, Paddy Doherty is gearing up for his favourite time of the year - Christmas. He is, in his own words, always “like a child at Christmas” and this year will be no different. We catch up with him as he decks his trailer in lights and purchases a life-sized neon Penguin to help give the place an extra sparkle. He is also out Christmas shopping – generously mending his broken wedding ring as a gift for his wife, Roseanne. But this time of year has always been difficult for the couple. Roseanne has lost 5 of her 10 children including her eldest son Patrick in a car accident. Christmas brings all the emotions to the fore again and despite his best laid plans, things begin to fall apart for Paddy on the day itself…

In Belfast, 17 year old Thomasina is also preparing for the festive season. The whole family is planning to go to the Christmas hotspot of Tenerife, including mum Anne Marie and her younger sister Rebecca. But first there will be another very special event – her 18th birthday party. Things don’t exactly go off without a hitch – the venue cancel at the last minute and luxury limousine fails to turn up – but nothing dampens her spirits and once the dancing starts the celebrations begin in earnest. For Thomasina it is “the best party [she] has ever been to”. Her boyfriend is also in attendance but there appear to be no plans for a wedding – she wants to but is adamant “not just yet”.

Three weeks later and the situation has changed completely. Thomasina and her boyfriend have run away together. Mum, Anne Marie asked them to come home immediately and marry. The wedding took place 2 days later. Now the planned family holiday has taken on an altogether different meaning – doubling as a honeymoon. In Tenerife we catch up with the newly married Thomasina as she cruises the local hotspots, see her sister Rebecca enjoying her own birthday and speak to Anne Marie, still coming to terms with the idea of having a newly married daughter…

But Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a traveller wedding to celebrate. Barbara McFadyen has already been a bridesmaid to her sister Josie’s wedding and her brother John’s. Now she too will step into the limelight. We see Barbara as she tries on her spectacular dress for the first time surrounded by her family and muses on what might go wrong on the big day (she could “shit herself”), tries to book a venue by disguising her name (she chooses the alias ‘Samantha Ross’) and orders her cake (she wants one the “size of a car”). But the best details are held back until the day itself. Barbara turns up to the biggest day of her life on the back of a flat-bed truck. The unusual choice of vehicle does deliver her to the church on time, but will fiancé Malachy make it on time?

Come Christmas Day, we are at the McFadyen family home. Barbara is happy to announce she is expecting a baby and looking forward to her future. But her siblings are living in the moment – sister Berry sits in an enormous pile of clothes that have been given to her (although she has no idea who by) while 13 year old brother Isaac has received weapons to add to his burgeoning collection. Tommahawks were apparently illegal last year, but this year legislation has allowed him to have the best Christmas. Ever.

As fascinating as always, My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas: Carols and Caravans offers up a festive treat full of fun, celebration and of a huge helping of Christmas Traveller sparkle.

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