IT was the first Christmas that Candice Gannon spent without her beloved daughter Ellie – but the young mother has promised to "stay strong" for the sake of Ellie's sister.
Ellie turned eight last Friday and has always been known to her family as a " Christmas baby".
Ms Gannon said she cried all morning as this year had been a "nightmare".
Ellie was allegedly taken by her father, Ms Gannon's former partner Filipe de Silva (35), during a two-week holiday to the Algarve in Portugal in July.
Since then, Ms Gannon, who is married to Dublin businessman Philip Gannon, has been desperately searching for her daughter – who she last saw as she waved goodbye at Dublin Airport.
A Portuguese family court ordered Mr de Silva to return Ellie on September 6, but he has gone into hiding.
Ms Gannon has spoken to her daughter just once since then and said Ellie did not sound like her normal self.
"The hardest thing is that Candice hasn't been able to be in her Christmas play or go ice skating or do any of the normal things that children do at Christmas," she said.
Ms Gannon told the Irish Independent that her other daughter, Olivia (2), could sense the anxiety.
"She's really upset. She keeps seeing pictures and saying she's found Ellie.
"We were at the ice skating rink and she saw a girl with brown hair and said, 'there's Ellie'."
She is very concerned that Mr de Silva has disappeared. If he is on the run, she believes he is unlikely to be providing a proper Christmas for Ellie.
Ms Gannon will travel to Portugal in January to resume the search. Her biggest fear is that Mr de Silva has taken their daughter to Brazil or Africa, where he has business interests.
Ellie was living in Madeira with her mother, stepfather and Olivia, after Ms Gannon won full custody in 2010, following a prolonged court battle.
Ellie was handed over to her father on July 15 for a two-week holiday in his Algarve hometown of Vilamoura, but he failed to return Ellie on the agreed date of July 31.
Ms Gannon (28) met Mr de Silva on holiday when she was 19 and the couple separated when their daughter was three months old.
Portuguese police have not issued a warrant for Mr de Silva's arrest for child abduction.
Ms Gannon hopes that through raising awareness, someone will eventually help reunite her with her daughter.
For more information, go to www.reuniteellie.com