‘I look forward to climbing into the cosy bed that smells of home’

Readers tell us what it is like to return to childhood homes from abroad at Christmas

Thousands of Irish people are making their way back to Ireland from abroad this week to spend Christmas with family and friends. Many of them will return to sleep in their old childhood bedrooms, which may still be exactly as they left them.

We asked readers to tell us what it is like to come back to the house they grew up in for Christmas. Here is a selection of responses.

Mel Jago, Germany: ‘I look forward to climbing into the big cosy bed that smells of home’

We have spent one Christmas in Germany since moving here three and a half years ago. It was awful, and on that day I decided never to be away from my home in south Dublin for Christmas again.

I have two sisters and one brother, and we all had our own rooms; mine is the first door you meet at the top of the stairs. I love being in this space. It relaxes me and calms me, makes me feel safe.

The arrivals hall in Dublin Airport's T2 is awash with festive cheer as family and friends welcome their loved ones home for Christmas

My bed is situated under the eaves of the roof, so now standing at 5ft11, I have to stoop to avoid bumping my head. When I moved out my sister poached the room, but even she says it will always be mine.

Since moving away I have had a little boy, and climbing into the big cosy bed that smells of home with him, to read stories and hang out with his aunty there, is a special, cosy time that I look forward to every year.

Rhona Furey, New Jersey: ‘I go to sleep staring at pictures of characters from Neighbours’

Having grown up in a house full of kids, coming home for Christmas is a lottery every year. My old bedroom has been an en-suite bathroom for the past 10 years, so there’s no chance of me getting my old futon back. Every second year, my sister comes home from Australia with her two kids, which leads to bedroom-sharing between adults who are used to their own space.

The box room, where I spent a few years of my childhood in bunk beds with my brother, has gone through various phases. The bunks were taken out when there was no longer a need for them, and the room was painted dark purple to become a lair for the brother in his teenage years. But the bunks were put back in last year and the walls painted white, as the room came full circle to be used as a bedroom for up to three grandchildren.

Another room, which I have now adopted as my own, has a sticker collection of Neighbours characters still stuck to the wall beside the bed. I go to sleep staring at pictures of Mrs Mangle and Jim Robinson, with Jason Donovan stuck in the middle of the speaker on the radio alarm clock. Soft toys gifted by various family members are stored above the bed, alongside trophies from sporting achievements consigned to memory.

There is a desk for studying in every room, along with ancient timetables of subjects long forgotten. The bookshelves above hold a variety of textbooks from Explorations to Peig. There is a mug full of pens and pencils and hair ties - everything you might need if you had to sit back down to study for English paper 2.

Every room in our house had a sink installed when we were growing up. With one bathroom, five children and two adults getting ready to leave the house at the same time every morning, bathroom time had to be trimmed to a minimum. Washing faces and brushing teeth could be done easily in our bedrooms. It’s still the place I put my toothbrush and toothpaste when I unpack my bag when I get home. Some old habits die hard.

The rest of the house looks much the same now as it did. My parents entertain my young niece a lot at their house, so there are children’s toys strewn about the place and most of the breakables are put up high out of reach, just as they were when five rambunctious teenagers were living there.

We still sit down for dinner together in the evening - a family ritual that has always been adhered to - and if you sit still for long enough at any other time of the day in the kitchen, you will undoubtedly be given a cup of tea and a sandwich / biscuit / slice of cake regardless of whether you wanted it or not.

Given we all now live in far flung parts of the world - Hong Kong, Australia, Boston and New Jersey - we don’t often get to visit our old home. This makes Christmas extra special.

Sarah Jane Colhoun, Melbourne: ‘My bedroom will always be “mine”’

My old bedroom is beside the kitchen, right behind the fire. As a child I used to be able to hear my mum getting a glass of water before bed, or my dad having a late snack after coming in from the cows. I’d know if either of my brothers was acting up, as they were in the next room along.

The walls were painted the hideous colours that I liked at the time, dotted with photos of friends and other mementos from teenage life.

It might have been the week I went to Australia for the first time, as a backpacker then, that my brother decided my room was undefended and there for the taking. So he took it. He tried to make it his own, pushing my stuff into drawers and putting up his own photos and pictures, mostly of heavy metal groups and drummers he admired.

In later years I would claim it back for the occasional brief visit home. I always did a quick check that “my stuff” was ok, hidden away in the drawers and cupboards.

I’ve lived away from home since that first year in Australia, almost 15 years ago now, in different jobs in Ireland, England, South Africa and now Melbourne. Nowadays my brother has the house to himself. Our family has grown up, changed, moved. His drums are in the sitting room, his metalwork pieces hang on the walls. The place is going to feel very different when I visit this Christmas, but it will always be home, and my bedroom will always be “mine”.

Keira Maher, UK: ‘My old room is only place on earth where I am guaranteed a good night’s sleep’

This Christmas will be my fourth returning home from abroad. I have been in Oman for three of those years, but this Christmas I’m on my way back from the UK.

My room has certainly changed since the start of my jet setting days. The pictures of Robbie Williams and Westlife are gone from the walls, as are the postcards from Interrailing trips that were once stuck to the door. Leaving cert exam papers no longer haunt me from underneath my bed.

It has essentially become a box room; a place where my mother hoards things which “may come in handy one day”. Each Christmas and summer (because I am a good daughter) when I come home, I discover new objects inhabiting it, like old laptops, a bag of old clothes on the way to the charity shop, or a step-ladder deposited there after a spot of painting.

As the days get closer to Christmas, I look forward even more to coming home again to family and friends. A big stove fire will be roaring in the sitting room. The Christmas tree will be up and ready for the big day. I’ll be back in my old room too, the only place on earth where I am guaranteed a good night’s sleep; something to do with home comforts, I’m sure.

Victoria Janssens, Hong Kong: ‘All three generations of our newly extended family will be spending Christmas under the one roof’

I emigrated from Ireland in early 2012 to Hong Kong. I am writing this from the airport as I wait to embark on the 18-hour journey home for what is going to be a very special Christmas.

My sister Eva is studying in Florence and arrived back to Dublin last night. My brother Leo is studying in Madrid and arrives home on the 23rd. Then on Christmas Eve, my other sister Iseult will make a slightly shorter but equally special journey from Co Meath back to our family home. This arrival is particularly special, as she will be bringing her husband and their seven-week-old daughter, the first grandchild in our family.

All three generations of our newly extended family will be spending Christmas under the one roof, and all four children will be back in our childhood beds. Christmas morning will follow a similar pattern to that of our childhood, with Eva waking us up at the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought. Christmas dinner will be a feast orchestrated by Mum, starting with the traditional debate about when the turkey needs to go on and whether it will fit in the oven. Potato peelers and table setters will be recruited and a team of tasters will make sure everything turns out just right.

Our bedrooms have not changed much since we each left home, and I am sure the crisp sheets have been waiting for our arrival for weeks. We will all enjoy rediscovering the things and questionable outfits left behind in our rooms.

Waking up there tomorrow morning, I will gaze out the window for longer than usual, taking in the calm of the Irish countryside. This view is a stark contrast to that from my bedroom in Hong Kong and of the urban chaos which I call home. I will fall asleep gazing at the night sky and noting that the moon is the “right way up” again.

Aoife Flynn, Abu Dhabi: ‘My winter wardrobe is still in my bedroom, ready for my return’

This is my fourth year away from Ireland and my bedroom is exactly as I left it. Being a teacher means I get to return to Ireland twice a year; for Christmas and for part of the summer holidays. The clothes I wear in Abu Dhabi are very different because of the heat so my winter wardrobe is still in my bedroom, ready for my return. It’s a comfort knowing everything is still there.

Eadaoin Flynn, Portugal: ‘My room has a view of the fields across the road’

My parents moved from Dublin to Bree in Co Wexford when they retired, so I don’t sleep in my childhood room when I come back to Ireland for Christmas. But over the years, Wexford has come to seem like home to me in a way Dublin never did, and I usually sleep in the same bed when I return. My room has a view of the fields across the road, and in the evenings you can see the lights of Enniscorthy in the distance.

Right now I’m living in Portugal (where I work as an English teacher), in a very small flat with a single bed and no central heating. I’ve been dreaming over the last few weeks of this Friday 23rd when I can return to Wexford and sleep as long as I want in my comfy double bed, with Lyric FM on the radio and Mam bringing me a cup of tea in the mornings.

I’ve spent Christmas abroad a couple of times now and it just doesn’t feel right. Something always brings me back to Ireland, even if it’s only for a few days.