Allen and Lorena Krause, with their three children Alexandra, Sarah and Klaus.

Christmas at Killua Castle

On a frosty morning just before Christmas, Allen Krause talked to the Westmeath Examiner of how he and his family, wife Lorena and three children, plus four dogs, spend Christmas.

The couple restored 18 Century Killua Castle, the ancestral home of Lawrence of Arabia, and 170 acres of farmland in Clonmellon, over the last 22-plus years, and now rear rare breeds including Irish Moiled Cattle, Dexter Cattle, Jacob Sheep, Old Irish Goats, Wild Boar, and Red Deer.

Born in Mexico and of Austrian descent, Allen’s childhood Christmases were traditionally Austrian, traditions he has kept alive in his home.

What’s your favourite Christmas film and song?

"My favourite Christmas film is probably Love Actually, you’re going to think I’m so silly, and I love traditional carols, there’s one that I particularly like, I think it’s Finnish, it’s called Personent Hodie. We always make fun, the words are in Latin obviously, but we always make fun when I’m cooking the goose, my daughters standing very attentive at my shoulder, and my children always say ‘We want goose, goose, goose, we want goose, goose goose!’"

Who cooks Christmas dinner in your house? What’s your favourite part?

"I do! I cook every day here but definitely for Christmas. It’s a traditional meal that I’ve had since I was a child, and I enjoy cooking it and having the family around. It’s a time when everybody comes together, so it’s lovely.

"We celebrate first of all the evening of the 24th, so Christmas Eve, and then we have everything pretty much warmed up for Christmas lunch, but we celebrate Christmas Eve.

"The way that we do it, I prefer to have presents opened before dinner so that nobody’s rushing dinner because they want to rush to the presents.

"Around 8 o’clock or half 8, I pop a bottle of Champagne open and just have some nibbles and we open presents. Then, by the time we’re done with presents, the main meal comes.

"We start with a Cream of Chesnut soup, followed by the goose with a stuffing that I make with onions, apples, and sage. Obviously gravy, red cabbage, and the typical Austrian potato balls – they’re called Knödel. I always have the Knödel for Christmas, they’re very popular and the children love them. Every time I make more, and every time they complain that I should make more," he laughs.

"Then after that, we normally have the Christmas pudding, so you can see it’s a combination of Austrian tradition bastardised with English, Irish traditions. And we finish up with Stilton and Port, which is my personal favourite part, because then I can relax and just dig into the Stilton and Port."

Allen and Lorena have three children who all come home for Christmas.

"My eldest daughter is 29, my second daughter is 25 and my son is 22. They always come here and it’s lovely family time, everybody together."

Killua Castle taken from Killua Castle Facebook page.

Do you have any family Christmas traditions?

"Christmas Day, first thing, the whole family go out for a walk around Killua, with the dogs," Allen said, adding that the family have four dogs, two Labradors, "one who is very, very old". "He’s now 14 and a half, but he’s still going strong. We have his grandnephew, and two rescues, one that we rescued from Navan, and one Chinese mix rescue that my daughter brought home. It doesn’t matter what the weather is. So instead of me having to walk the dogs on my own, I have the whole family with me.

"The other thing that I normally do for the family is, right after the Christmas walk in the morning, I make the traditional eggnog for everybody, and of course everybody becomes very, very happy with the eggnog," he laughs.

How do you spend Christmas afternoon?

"I usually reheat whatever is left from the meal. If I think that we all dug a lot into the goose the previous night, which is usually the case, I use the leftovers and actually bake a goose pie with them, so it’s slightly more substantial.

"I love cooking, and if you have the rendered goose fat, you can make a lovely crust for the pie. It’s no trouble, I enjoy doing it. So, I do spend a lot of time in the kitchen as you can see, but I enjoy it. As long as I’m not like Cinderella, on my own, that I have my family around, then I’m happy.

"So that’s Christmas Day lunch, and then after that we normally watch films in the afternoon and just relax."

What’s your best Christmas memory?

"Well from my childhood, I used to spend Christmas with my mother and my grandfather. Sometimes my grand-aunts would come and be with us. And the food was exactly the same as I would make it now, but it would be my grandfather who would make it. The difference was that I would not get my presents until Christmas morning, which was nice, but I was clearly not thinking too much about dinner, not thinking too much about anything, I just had my mind set on the presents, a typical child. We had Santa Cluas, we were very influenced by the American traditions I suppose, because my mum had gone to college in the States, so she had adopted all those traditions.

"Foodwise, it was very similar, but of course in a very different setup, in a very modest house, not in a castle.

"I was born in Mexico, I lived there the first 22 years of my life, but it was very funny because the traditions were entirely Austrian. My grandfather was Austrian, and he kept the traditions, so it was a typical Viennese meal that you would have on Christmas Day. And that continues to be the tradition here."

Are you an organised shopper, or a Christmas Eve one?

"I try to be organised, because again if you try to do last-minute Christmas shopping in Clonmellon, it’s not easy. And I can’t get myself to Dublin because I’m cooking in the kitchen, so I try to be organised, I try to think in advance.

"And again, it’s not about giving expensive presents, what we like to do is just give something that shows that you’ve been thoughtful about the person that you’re giving to. So either with my wife or my children, just thinking what they’re interests are, but it’s usually fairly inexpensive."

Do you make new year resolutions?

"Not really. I’m a very constant person, I have my routines very well established. And if there is a change that I want to make, then I make it right away. I don’t wait for the new year, I don’t think about it, I do it every day. So while obviously it is a new year, there’s nothing different, it’s just carrying on."