With immigration levels from Ireland once again mirroring the eighties, some Irish emigrants in New York are preparing for their first Christmas away from home.
After moving to New York in October, Rachel Ormond, a 21-year-old Cavan native, is determined to enjoying the holiday season, despite being away from her family.
“I love Christmas, I’ve never spent it away from home but I’m definitely excited to spend it away. I have all the decorations up around the house and we have our Chris Kindle all set up,” Ormond told the Irish Examiner.
“I’ll miss home, definitely but it’s a positive overall. My parents have sent over my stocking and a few other little things that would remind me of home at Christmas which was really nice.”
“It will feel strange not being with my family,” she added.
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Flexible phone plans and Skype means it is easy to stay in touch with home.
“I can call landlines for free at home so it’s easy for me to stay in contact with friends and family. I also use Skype and Facebook,” she told the Irish Examiner.
After graduating with a master’s in marketing from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Larkin decided to make the move to New York and apply for the one-year graduate visa program on offer.
“I had just finished college and had always thought New York would be a fascinating city to live in. It seemed like the perfect time to move.
“I haven’t been away all that long and flights are expensive during the Christmas period. I also think the fact that I have family here [an aunt and a cousin] makes a big difference. I’ll be spending Christmas day with them. It’s not as big of a deal here. People will have a traditional Christmas day but most will go straight back to work the next day.”
Another recent graduate Aoife Larkin (21) from Dublin decided to stay on in New York after a vacation in LA and Las Vegas.
“I love Christmas, I’ve never spent it away from home but I’m definitely excited to spend it away,” she told the Examiner.
After she found a job as a carer for the elderly, her holiday visa lapsed, which means she is now out of status.
“The whole business of being illegal seemed crazy to me at the time. I said I’d go over for three months. But then when I got here, I began to notice how many Irish were here.
“I’m planning to go home next September. If I overstay by more than a year, that means a 10-year ban. But if it’s less than a year, it will just mean a three-year ban. When my friend moved here, I thought she was mad,” she told the Examiner.
“It’s like home, it’s not like Dublin, it’s kind of like a country town. It’s closeknit, it’s really nice. So then when I got work, I decided to stay because it’s not nearly as bad as you think it might be once you come over. It was all very unexpected but it’s definitely worked out.”
Sean Kennedy (25) from Mallow in Cork, is also here on the new one-year visa offered to graduates. Living in Queens he decided that going home for Christmas was too costly.
“It’s too expensive to go home for Christmas and I feel like I would break my momentum if I did that. I’m still adapting to life here, I’m making friends and I’m doing interviews for jobs. It’s been hectic to say the least. Getting set up doesn’t happen over night in this city. It can be tough at times, but surviving is the key.”
On Christmas day he intends to enjoy dinner and drinks with friends before heading to heading to Madison Square Garden for the opening day of the NBA basketball season.
“But I’m looking forward to it too. Christmas in New York... it should be fun when ‘Fairytale of New York’ comes on in a pub on Christmas Eve. We haven’t had snow yet so it remains to be seen whether it will be a white one or not.”