Families' bittersweet joy at being reunited with loved ones
THE tears shed in sadness at their leaving turned to tears of joy as young emigrants continued to flood home to spend Christmas in the loving embrace of their families.
But the joyous reunions at airports across the country were tinged with sadness because they know they will be leaving our shores again next week.
Sheila Fagan, from Crumlin in Dublin, was there to greet her daughter Julia (22), who was returning from Almeria in Spain.
Although Julia spent four years studying neuroscience in UCD, she was unable to find a job in Ireland.
"They'll give her work but no money," said her mother of the four months' work experience her daughter got in Tallaght Hospital.
Julia spent some time travelling but then moved to Spain to teach English.
"At the moment it's going well but I'd like the option of being able to come home," said Julia after she was greeted by her mother and aunt and uncle, Eamon O'Brien and Kay Sheridan.
Her older sister Louise (29) is living in New Zealand -- and is unlikely to move home. "She's been gone six years now," said Sheila.
Reluctant emigrant Michael Dunphy (28), from Tramore, Co Waterford, returned home from Doha in Qatar, along with his girlfriend Doireann Bregazzi-Nevin (23), from Rathfarnham in Dublin.
They are both PE teachers -- and this is the second time they have been forced abroad.
He said they had previously worked in England but with no hope of finding work in Ireland they decided to move to the Middle East.
"It's something different and a new challenge, that's how we're looking at it now."
Doireann was also met by her neighbour Eva Caulwell (23) in the airport. She was there to meet her brother Conor (29), who was arriving back from Canada with his Canadian girlfriend Vanessa Maliki-Sanchez.
"He was home for our parents' 60th birthdays during the summer but we reckon he'll be staying on there (in Canada) for a while," she said.
Arriving from India via Heathrow was Emma O'Hara (36), from Kilbarrack in Dublin. She has been working with a charity in Calcutta for the past two years -- and her first task when she arrived back was to dash to the passport office to apply for a new passport.
"My passport is in date but I've run out of pages so I don't have any room for more visas," she said.
One happy returnee was Amit Ahuja, who was greeted by his wife Ailish Foy and sons Jay (6), Ben (3) and Conor (18 months).
He said he didn't usually have a welcoming committee to greet him at the airport but "it's a nice early Christmas present", he said.