MANY tears of happiness were shed as families who had been longingly counting down the days on the calendar were finally re-united.
There were emotional scenes in the thronged arrivals halls at Dublin Airport as passengers touched down safely from far-flung destinations and clung to their loved ones to the buoyant notes of the Dublin Gospel Choir.
Parents and children across the generations waited patiently for the first sight of their loved ones. The excitement was etched on their faces, as some decided to make it a welcome to remember with Christmas jumpers, Santa hats and carrying all manner of homemade welcome signs.
And the excitement on all sides was palpable when they finally came through the doors yesterday.
Around 660,000 passengers are expected to travel through the airport over the course of the Christmas season up to Thursday, January 2 -- an increase of 4pc over the same figure last year.
There were plenty of firsts as Rachel Haughney (25), from Carlow, was overjoyed to meet her nine-month-old nephew Reagan for the very first time.
Rachel's friend Nicola Nolan (27) helped organise the trip home, and only told Jessica yesterday that they were going to meet Rachel at the airport when they were in the car en-route.
"I moved to Melbourne in February and I am working there as a social worker. I am just looking forward to seeing everyone," she said.
Meanwhile, Ciara Meyler (29), from Bunclody in Wexford, flew in from Perth, where she works in marketing, and was greeted by her sister Aisling (24) and friend Linda Cumiskey (23). She said she was really looking forward to meeting her nephew Daniel (1) for the first time.
"I am home till the 8th, and I'm going to enjoy seeing my family. And I am looking forward to some Irish food, like brown bread and cooked ham," she said.
"It's my first time home in a year and a half," she added.
Meanwhile, also in arrivals hall, proud mum Barbara Connolly was looking to having both her children home for Christmas at the same time.
Her son Steven Pierce (25) flew in from Luton -- he is in the UK completing a masters in air transport management. And shortly after Steven touched down, her daughter Sarah (30) flew in from Toronto.
"This is a big celebration. I have been waiting for this for a long time," said Barbara. "I moved to a new house in Brittas Bay in Wicklow and Sarah has never seen it," she added.
John Troute (29), from Athy, Co Kildare, had a long trip home from Auckland, New Zealand where he works as a lawyer.
"I'm home for two weeks," he said as he held his little eight-month-old nephew Kevin.
At the airport to greet him were his dad Harry, brother Peter, sister Anne, brother-in-law Mark, and girlfriend Alva.
He said he was looking forward to a great traditional Irish Christmas.
There was a huge turnout to greet Dublin friends Siobhan Fitzgerald (28), from Artane, and Claire McCarthy (28), from Killester, who both emigrated to Perth.
Claire's dad Eamon created a welcome banner with a huge picture of her as a one-year-old baby.
"I am looking forward to spending time with my family," she said.
Also in the arrivals hall, Brian O'Toole (27), from Bray, Co Wicklow, was thrilled as his daughter Kaci (7) ran straight into his arms when he came through the arrivals gate to give him a massive hug.
He is working in Perth, Australia, and originally moved over there two years ago. "I was home last Christmas," he said.
Ross Finnegan (25), from Duleek, Co Meath, who works as a carpenter in Sydney, also got a big welcome from daughter Emilie (3), from Drogheda, who had been waiting with a special sign 'Welcome Home Daddy'.
"She can't wait to see her daddy," said her mum Caroline Shelbourne, as little Emilie beamed from ear to ear.