Irish abroad on Christmas 2021: ‘We were going home, but everything is cancelled’

Irish Times readers around the world tell us how the holiday season's looking for them

'It's been a long and heartbreaking two years, and again we won't be able to travel back to Ireland for Christmas
Hong Kong
We are a young family of four living in Hong Kong for over 10 years. My husband and I are both from Co Tyrone and our two children were both born in Hong Kong. We haven't been back in Ireland since August 2019. It's been a long and heartbreaking two years and again this Christmas, we won't be able to travel back to Ireland for Christmas. The stringent quarantine policy upon arrival back into Hong Kong has made it impossible for us to even consider travelling back for the Christmas holidays.

It's just heartbreaking that we haven't seen our families back in Ireland for over two years now. The children are growing up so fast and it makes my heart ache to think that they haven't been able to spend time with family the past two years. Loved ones are also missing out on this special time of their childhood. It's time we'll never get back!

In saying all that, we are extremely lucky that we have amazing friends and a fantastic support network in Hong Kong. Right now we're looking ahead to summer 2022 and hoping things will have improved by then and we can all be reunited in Ireland. The day will definitely come – hopefully sooner rather than later – and it will be absolutely joyous.

'I'm looking forward to good home-cooking and creamy Beamish'
Preah Vihear, Cambodia
I originally moved to Cambodia to work with an NGO on the 12th of December, 2012. This was originally supposed to be for nine months, however, it is now coming up on nine years. I would usually make it home every year but the last time I was back was December 2019 – just before Covid hit. I will be going home, coincidentally enough, also on the 12th of December this year to spend time with my parents! Unfortunately my sister is stuck in Australia and will not make it home. I'm looking forward to good home-cooking and creamy Beamish!

'It's just not the same without my Donegal mammy's Christmas dinner'
Bali, Indonesia
I have been living in Bali for almost six years now and had planned to visit home for Christmas 2021. However, due to financial setbacks due to Covid, this year will be my seventh Christmas away from my family. It never gets easier being away from home and missing life events, such as my beloved grandmother's funeral recently. Thankfully I have a partner here and a close circle of friends that I can spend the holidays with, but it's just not the same without my Donegal mammy's Christmas dinner. Covid has made me re-evaluate my plans and I hope to be closer to home in the coming years.

'That first hug from the mammies will be the moment we know we're safe'
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Myself and my partner, Ryan, have been in Canada for almost seven years. In all those years we have not had the chance to go home for Christmas mainly because of the career path I chose. For a lot of people the past two years has made them reflect on what is important in this life and what actually gives them joy – we are no exception. We have had incredible Christmases here in Canada with great friends in the mountains and snow but that will never compare to a Christmas at home. This year we are living for the 21st of December to experience that rush of emotion of boarding that flight knowing the next day we will be with our families. We'll be in front of the fire laughing and chatting like not a single day has passed over the two years since we've seen them last. That first hug from the mammies will be the moment we know we're safe.

'It will be an emotional Christmas for all'
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
My husband and 18-month-old daughter will be visiting for the first time in six years. It will be the first time that my daughter gets to meet her grandparents and uncles so it means an incredible amount to us to get back for Christmas. My husband and I also got married in August and haven't seen any of his family – they watched the wedding on a Zoom call. It will be an emotional Christmas for all.

'People are hurting and nobody is talking about it'
Rodney, Auckland, New Zealand
I haven't been home in two years and haven't had a Christmas in Ireland in six years. We were planning on going home at Christmas to see wedding venues but everything is cancelled now. Absolutely heartbreaking for us. We both have family we haven't met yet. My mother got diagnosed with Parkinson's and I haven't been able to see her. We even have postponed all the wedding plans, now looking at venues in New Zealand. Our borders are still closed here so the concern is that if we leave we won't be able to get back in. New Zealand has been portrayed as having it under control and eliminating it a few times before, but lots of people are suffering and struggling. Kiwis can't get home and residents are afraid to leave for fear of not being let back in. People are hurting and nobody is talking about it.

'I'm mostly looking forward to catching up with friends I've not seen in almost four years'
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I will be returning to Ireland on December 28th for 10 days after spending the previous 10 days in Portugal with my parents for some hopeful winter sun. 2020 was the first year since 2014 that I've spent apart from my family. As it was for many, it was tough being separated. Luckily I spent an amazing Christmas 2019 with my family. The last time I visited Ireland and saw friends was in March 2018 and that was only for a few days. I'm mostly looking forward to catching up with friends I've not seen in almost four years. I have friends located in different parts of Ireland so I plan on touring around a little and seeing other parts I've not seen in a very long time. I'm remaining optimistic travel can still occur with little restrictions for the coming months and more travel plans can be arranged.

'It will be a great celebration when we get there'
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Our family of five hasn't been home in four years. We were due to go last year but, due to Covid, we couldn't leave Australia. We have missed lots of births and deaths and can't wait to meet our new niece and nephews and catch up with family and friends. We have been in the most locked-down city in the world so we can't wait to escape. I'm nervous that we might get Covid or be exposed before we go and then not be able to get on the flight. My kids are so excited to be going to Ireland for Christmas – they miss their cousins and their Nana and Papa. It will be a great celebration when we get there.

'This year I'll visit his grave overlooking Galway Bay'
Toulouse, Occitania, France
We have been instructed to use up all our outstanding holidays by my employer so I'm heading home on the 10th to visit Mam and my sister in Galway. It's Pa's birthday on the 11th and the second anniversary of his death on the 18th. Last year I popped down to Lourdes. This year I'll visit his grave overlooking Galway Bay.

'This year marks 20 years since I moved to Switzerland to teach but Ireland will always be home'
Vaud, Switzerland
I hope to be able to travel to Ireland for Christmas this year after being unable to get home last year. Fingers and toes crossed. It will be the second Christmas without my dad who passed away of cancer. Switzerland is lovely in winter and summer but there is no replacement for family and friends at Christmas time. This year marks 20 years since I moved to Switzerland to teach but Ireland will always be home.

'I miss home and all my people madly'
Oakland, California, United States
We are coming home this Christmas for a month. It will be two years since my parents have seen my five year old. We are all dying for it. Luckily she will be fully vaxxed before we travel. I made a quick trip home when I got fully vaccinated last March but it has been a long two years. I miss home and all my people madly.

'We are nervous but excited'
Clearwater, Florida, United States
We haven't been home since PC (pre-Covid). During that time my sister was diagnosed with cancer and had to do all her treatment alone. I wasn't able to go home and be with her during her treatment. We are booked to go home for two weeks in early December to see our family in Belfast. Because we are going up North we need to take Covid tests there on day two and then more before we head back to the States. I'm a little worried about the cost for the four of us but it will be worth it to see family. Even though we are vaccinated, we are terrified one of us will test positive and be isolated the whole time! We are nervous but excited. We are dying for some Tayto and cold weather!

'To see family and introduce our baby boys will be the greatest gift of all'
Darwin, Australia
Twelve years overseas, four years since I've been home. Now coming home on November 16th with two little boys, one of which no one has met because of Covid. To see family and introduce our baby boys will be the greatest gift of all. Mother in law diagnosed with cancer meant bringing forward our one-way trip home. Couldn't be more excited for those doors opening in Dublin Airport to tears, hugs and heart-wrenching joy.

'I have been dreaming of waking up Christmas morning in my parents' house in Cork'
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
I have been dreaming of waking up Christmas morning in my parents' house in Cork. I want to hear my dad complaining that my sister Niamh and I are waking him too early and I want to see my Mom open the living room door and look at us opening presents still with the same excitement she did when we were children. I want to eat Ferrero Rochers for breakfast and fill up on After Eights while she gives out that 'we'll ruin our dinner'. I want to see my nephew, who I haven't met yet due to Covid, enjoy his second Christmas and be absolutely spoiled rotten by all of his aunties. I want to hug my parents, play Monopoly with my cousins and walk down a glowing Patrick Street in the freezing cold on Christmas Eve searching for the inevitable last-minute gifts. However, an Irish Christmas is not on the cards for Irish people in Perth this year.

I moved to Perth in 2019 to work as a doctor, as many of my friends also did. We agonised over coming home at the start of the pandemic but decided to stay. We have been incredibly lucky without much exposure at all to Covid or lockdowns and we are all very grateful for that. But we are now into our third year of not having seen our families and friends back home. We hugged our parents in Cork or Dublin Airport in 2019 and we haven't been able to do that since.

Western Australia's border continues to be closed, and we are counting down the days until we can touch down on Irish soil again without the risk of not being able to return to all that we have built for ourselves here. Until that time, I will continue to spend Christmas with my friends, who are now like family, here. We will continue our tradition of a pint – or few – of Guinness on Christmas Eve, a swim in Cottesloe Beach on Christmas morning and the inevitable food coma in the afternoon from everyone's attempt to recreate their mother's Christmas dinner. And when the time comes we will all be on the first flights home, and it will be as good as we dreamt it.