Planes, trains and automobiles – the annual Christmas return home is underway as thousands of Irish emigrants arrive for the festive break from every corner of the globe.
The arrivals hall at Dublin Airport has witnessed an outbreak of emotion all week as families are re-united with the sons and daughters forced to emigrate by the recession.
Men, women, and children have travelled from as far afield as Australia, Canada, South Africa and the four corners of America to spend the Christmas with their loved ones.
Meathman Luke Kelly arrived into Dublin Airport from Sydney on Wednesday to be met by mum Eamonn and dad Joan – in full Santa outfits.
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“It was Joan’s idea, we always do something special to welcome the kids back whenever they travel home and this was entirely appropriate for the day that was in it,” said dad Eamonn on his local LMFM radio station.
Luke, who brought girlfriend Tegan Hinchey home to meet his family for the first time, summed up the feelings of so many returned emigrants.
“It is my first time home in three years and it just great to be back, great to be with the family again,” added Luke.
“I’ve tried Christmas in Australia but it’s just not the same thing. We’ve got together with a load of other Irish emigrants and we’ve had the turkey and the ham but it’s not as good as back home here in Ireland.
“Even the tinnies and the barbie on Bondi Beach don’t come close to a real Irish family Christmas.”
Dad Eamonn perfectly summed up the Christmas experience for so many parents awaiting the return of their loved ones.
“It’s brilliant to see them all home but you could sense the emotion of it all at Dublin Airport as well,” said the Dunboyne resident.
“So many families were meeting up for the first time in a number of years, so many of us were waiting on children who have been forced to emigrate by the economic reality in Ireland now.
“We have educated our children here and so many of them, in their teens and their early 20s, have been forced to go away to find work. That’s the reality now for so many Irish families.”
Luke, settled into the family home once again, is looking forward to the traditional Christmas dinner on Sunday.
“My mum’s cooking will never taste as good as it will this Christmas day,” he said.
“I’ve only been home a few hours but with everything that’s been done for me so far, it makes me want to stay now!”
Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport are up this year with over 620,000 people expected to arrive or depart in the next two weeks.
Cork, Shannon, and Knock have also reported increases in passenger volume year on year.