EXCLUSIVE: How the stars of Home and Away are celebrating Christmas in 2019

“I still get presents from Santa, which is exactly the way I like it!”
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It’s been a big year for the residents of Summer Bay, and an even bigger year for some of the show’s stars.

From Sophie Dillman and Patrick O’Connor’s blossoming off-screen romance, to the wedding of co-stars James Stewart and Sarah Roberts, love has certainly been in the air this year on Home and Away.

Not to mention, we’ve welcomed new stars like Emily Weir, and celebrated major milestones for stars such as Emily Symons.

As we approach the holiday season and a New Year, the cast of Home and Away tells TV WEEK how they plan to enjoy the festive season with some time away from Summer Bay…

Penny McNamee

Penny McNamee wants her kids to think about those less fortunate

When it comes to Christmas, Penny and her husband Matt Tooker want it to be about more than just family and friends.

“We try to do some charity work in the lead-up to Christmas,” Penny, 36, tells TV WEEK. “We try to instil in our kids that Christmas can be a really hard, lonely time for people as well. We always try to do something special for others.”

But Santa Claus plays a big part in Penny’s Christmas too. While her nine-month-old daughter Neve might be a bit too young to understand, her four-year-old son Jack knows exactly who’ll be paying a visit.

“Jack leaves some carrots and a cookie, and our Santa loves a glass of Coke Zero or a ginger beer. We don’t have a chimney and a fireplace, which Jack is a little bit worried about!” she says.

It’s not hard for Penny to pick her standout moment of 2019: the birth of Neve in March.

But before the birth, there were some tough times, especially shooting beach scenes as her character Tori while heavily pregnant during the summer months. The on-screen doctor also welcomed a baby on the show this year.

“I found pregnancy hard,” Penny admits. “I was quite sick during it. It’s been a joy- filled year, but it’s also been a challenge.”

Ada Nicodemou

Ada Nicodemou reveals her son’s wild wish for Christmas

Ada had an idea of what to get her seven-year-old son Johnas for Christmas this year. He, however, had slightly different expectations.

“I said, ‘I’m going to buy you a bike,'” Ada, 42, tells TV WEEK. “He goes, ‘Oh, OK – I just would love a signed Justin Timberlake T-shirt.’ And I went, ‘What?’ and he said, ‘Well, I guess that’s not going to happen,’ and I go, ‘No, it’s really not going to happen.’ He just loves Justin Timberlake!”

Still, it’s set to be a great Christmas, with other presents for Johnas, and Ada planning to host a family dinner at her house.

“I’ll make the basics,” she says. “But I think we’re just going to do seafood this year.”

For Ada, 2019 highlights have included her brother’s wedding in Greece and her Home and Away character Leah’s romance with Justin (James Stewart).

“It was a great storyline for Leah – seeing her evolve into an independent woman and having fun with an equal partner,” Ada says.

The mum-of-one has also loved hanging out with young Johnas.

“He’s turned into my little buddy,” she says. “It’s amazing that he’s gone from this little baby to this awesome child. We just enjoy each other’s company.”

Lukas Radovich

Lukas Radovich is having an “orphan” Christmas

For Lukas, Christmas is all about spending time with family. And yet this year, the 24-year-old, who plays wayward teen Ryder in Home and Away, says he’ll be doing exactly the opposite.

“My parents are away in Europe doing their own thing, but I wanted to stay in Australia,” Lukas tells TV WEEK.

“Both my brothers live overseas. They usually come back for this time, but unfortunately not this year.”

While Lukas may not be sunning himself in the Riviera or enjoying authentic Italian pasta with his family, he’ll still be making the most of the festive season and its usual trimmings.

“My plans are to have an orphans’ Christmas in Melbourne,” he explains, “I’m going to grab all my friends – we’re all good cooks – and have a big feast.”

Now living in Sydney, Lukas admits it will be a change, but the young actor remains excited about the holiday season.

“Usually, Christmas is all about connecting back with family,” he says. “But this year, it will be about connecting with my friends – and making new ones as well.”

Rohan Nichol

A big year took a toll on Rohan Nichol

Our Summer Bay favourites are rarely short of tragedy, scandal and illness. But when Rohan’s character Ben fell into a dark depression this year, many fans could relate to what he was going through.

“I’ve had a few people reach out to say they’re struggling and it’s meant a lot to me,” Rohan, 43, tells TV WEEK. “Being courageous enough [to open up] is lovely.”

The nature of the heavy storyline took its toll on the actor, who declares he’s looking forward to switching off.

“I’ve battled a bit of exhaustion,” he admits. “Because the storyline spanned six months, you’re down in the muck a lot. It got to be a real downer.”

Still, Rohan is grateful to have tackled an issue that’s so relevant and relatable.

“Everything we’ve done has been tackled with respect and wisdom,” he says. “I’m proud of it.”

Rohan shares how he found a reprieve in his hobbies – and a distraction in buying a new house, which is where he’ll be spending Christmas this year.

“I’m going to Victoria, and I’ll be coming to terms with being a home owner!” he says.

Georgie Parker

Georgie Parker’s big family Christmas plans

For Georgie, Christmas is all about family – and she has plenty.

“Our family’s very split,” she explains. “My mum’s married to a beautiful man and my dad’s married to a wonderful woman. Sometimes we all get together – I think that’s what we’re planning this year.

“Luckily, we all get on, so we like to see each other.”

In Home and Away, Georgie’s character Roo has also had some happy family times this year, with her parents Alf (Ray Meagher) and Martha (Belinda Giblin) reuniting.

“She’s ecstatic,” Georgie, 55, says of Roo. “She’s finally got the family she never thought she’d have.”

One of Georgie’s standout moments of 2019 came from another show: The All New Monty: Ladies’ Night.

Georgie and her H&A co-star Lynne McGranger were among the eight high-profile women who went topless to raise awareness of breast cancer.

“I wasn’t that worried about the physical stuff,” Georgie explains. “As you get older, you get less concerned, because it’s inevitable that your body’s going to change.”

She says it turned out to be “amazing”.

Sam Frost

Sam Frost found her groove with her second year in Summer Bay

When Sam arrived in Summer Bay as Jasmine Delaney in 2018, the then reality star threw herself into the role.

Moving on from her time on The Bachelor Australia in 2014 and as the Bachelorette in 2015, the now 30-year-old was committed to honing her skills as an actor.

“I dedicated myself to work,” Sam tells TV WEEK. “One hundred and ten per cent of my energy went into growing as an actress.”

After her first year on set, however, Sam felt it was time to readjust her focus and strive for a healthy work-life balance.

“My New Year’s resolution last year was to spend more time with friends and family,” Sam recalls.

Reflecting on her second year with the show, she adds, “This year has been all about friends and family and staying true to my values.”

It’s a sentiment the Melbourne-born actress intends to carry through Christmas when she returns home this year.

“I’m so excited,” she says. “I’m one of six kids – I’ve got four brothers and a sister. And we’ve got four nieces and a nephew, so it’s a madhouse. Having quality time together means the absolute world to me.”

Sam says a favourite part of the festive season is a visit from Father Christmas himself – and that you’re never too old to enjoy him.

“Santa comes to visit, which is so fun,” she says with a laugh. “I still get presents from Santa, which is exactly the way I like it!”

Tim Franklin

Tim Franklin on spending Christmas in the waves

Forget under the mistletoe, you’ll find Tim Franklin (above left) in the waves this Christmas.

If there’s one thing Tim is hoping Santa delivers on Christmas Day, it’s good surf… and maybe a few gifts he can take out in the water.

The Gold Coast-born actor is returning to sunny Queensland for the festive season to spend time relaxing by the beach with his family after what he calls a “big year.”

“I’m keeping it really low-key,” Tim, 29, tells TV WEEK. “Couple of beers by the barbecue with my dad, waking up, praying for good surf – and, hopefully, trying out new presents.

“Last year, my mum got me a hand board [for bodysurfing]. I always thought they looked silly, but it was the greatest thing ever.”

Christmas Day will see Tim’s whole family hit the surf.

“Our little tradition is to go for a surf with Christmas hats on,” he says.

“Everyone’s in there, no matter their level. Even my older sister is out there, just yelling and giving it a go.”

James Stewart

James Stewart and Sarah Roberts have extra joy in their lives this Christmas

For James (above right), 2019 has gifted him one very special moment: his wedding to his Home and Away co-star Sarah Roberts at picturesque Luttrellstown Castle in Ireland.

“That was the biggest moment of my life – it was huge,” James, 44, tells TV WEEK. “It happened so quickly that at the time you don’t know how big it is or how much it means to everyone involved.”

With this being the couple’s first Christmas together as husband and wife, James is looking forward to new traditions.

“What traditions come with Christmas after marriage? Do I get her a bigger present or save that for the anniversary?” he asks, before adding with a laugh: “If it’s anything to go by, on my birthday, I have to buy Scout [his daughter] presents.”

What James does know is that he and Sarah now have twice as much love to share.

“We’ve got two families now,” he says. “We’d like to visit them all.”

Sophie Dillman

Sophie Dillman reflects on finding love – and the perfect Christmas ham

It’s been a whirlwind on and off-screen for Sophie Dillman and Patrick O’Connor, who recently confirmed that they’re dating in real life too.

The pair fell in love during the filming of scenes for Ziggy’s outback car rally in the South Australian country town of Parachilna earlier this year.

“It’s great working with him – it’s always fun,” Sophie, 27, tells TV WEEK. “I can never guess what I’m going to get from him [while filming], which is the best.”

Both stars are heading home to Queensland to see their families for the holidays, and there’s one thing Brisbane-born Sophie can’t wait for: ham!

“Ham is the key component to our Christmas – and the glaze is very important,” she says. “We have a pre-Christmas ham to check the glaze before we have our Christmas ham.”

Two Christmas hams may sound a little excessive, but Sophie counters with a laugh, “Does anyone complain about excess ham?”

Sophie is spending Christmas in Noosa in Queensland and says there will be “lots of family time, board games and champagne”.

Patrick O’Connor

Patrick O’Connor admits there’s no place like home

Patrick plans on heading back to the Sunshine State for the holidays.

“I’m going to Noosa to see my family,” he says. “I’ll use the time to unwind, hang out for a couple of weeks, eat a lot of food and go to the beach.”

Raised in Brisbane since he was eight, Patrick made the move to Sydney after landing the role of Riverboy Dean in Home and Away in 2018. But it wasn’t until this year that the 27-year-old really came to settle and love his new home.

“It was a bit different this year – work wasn’t as full-on,” Patrick tells TV WEEK. “I’ve had more time to go to the beach and head out of Sydney at weekends.”

Courtney Miller

Courtney Miller is jetting overseas this Christmas

This year, Courtney is wishing for a white Christmas − something Santa might just deliver given the actress is spending the holidays in the UK.

“I’ll be in London with my big sister, who’s living and working there,” Courtney tells TV WEEK. “We’re going to rent a house with her mates in Cornwall.”

Going away for Christmas has become a tradition for Courtney and sister Jess.

“I usually spend Christmas with her,” she says. “We’ll have a family Christmas a few weeks before, then we tend to go off. The year before last, we were in Asia.”

Emily Symons

Emily Symons’ four-year-old son Henry is “very excited” about Santa

“It’s wonderful seeing Christmas through a little one’s eyes,” she says.

Emily Weir

Emily Weir is having a quiet Christmas – literally!

“I’m thinking of doing a silent retreat called Vipassana for 10 days at Christmas – it’s like a reset for the mind,” Emily explains of her holidays plans.

The actress admits her new gig as Mackenzie Booth has been life-changing.

“Joining the cast of Home and Away has been the best year of my life!”

Kestie Morassi

Kestie Morassi is looking forward to an Italian-style Christmas

Kestie, who plays Maggie, is spending the festive season visiting family

“I’ll start in South Australia, then finish in Melbourne,” she says. “My family has a big Italian feast – we’re eating for the next three days.”

Shane Withington

Shane Withington is looking forward to enjoying a special treat

Shane and his wife Anne Tenney have one special Christmas tradition in their family: “My wife always makes the pudding a year or two in advance.”

WATCH BELOW: Go behind the scenes of our Home and Away Christmas shoot…

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Behind-the-scenes of our Home and Away Christmas shoot

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