Christmas time in Ireland is like a tide. It flows in with thousands of Irish emigrants returning home and ebbs as the same people return to their lives abroad.
All human life eventually ends up at the airport and so it was on the bank holiday Monday after New Year’s Day at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport with long queues of people filing into departures.
The large silver Christmas trees are still up. It’s still technically Christmas until January 6th but a melancholy air was palpable – long embraces and tearful farewells.
Christmas is a time for taking stock for emigrants about the lives they have and the ones left behind.
For many parents the departures after Christmas also bring ambivalent feelings. On the way hand they will miss their children; on the other they want them to be happy wherever they are.
"It's heart breaking," said Misty Doran, originally from the United States who said goodbye to her daughters Laurel (21) who is in university in Texas and Addison (14) who is returning to her father who lives in Virginia.
“She [Laurel] left before Covid and she couldn’t be here before now because of it. The flights kept getting cancelled,” said Ms Doran.
“She thought the grass was greener over the other side so she went to university in the United States. She has spent her entire university career on a computer at home because they would not let students come to campus. She is a concept artist for gaming and the company she wants to work for is in Dublin. Her hope is that when she has finished the next two semesters, she wants to come back to Ireland.”
John Hastings and his wife Eilish said goodbye to their daughter Stephanie Hastings who was returning to Vancouver to work in biotechnology.
“We probably saw more of her because of Covid,” said her mother. “She couldn’t go socialising with her other friends. We were so thrilled to have her. She loves Vancouver; she would crack up with Covid in Ireland. It is a lot stricter here. She thought it was 24/7 coverage of Covid here. In Vancouver they just get on with their lives. They are young and they socialise.”
The families of Róisín Heaney from Portlaoise, Co Laois, and Kevin McGillycuddy from Blessington, Co Wicklow, gathered to see them off back to Toronto.
The couple plan to come back to Ireland in August to get married. It will be their fifth attempt in Ireland, the other four were cancelled by Covid-19.
Sean Guinan from Tuam, Co Galway, and his Canadian-born wife Lee were also returning to Toronto. "Our Christmas was very quiet. It was the first time for me to introduce Lee to most of my family and everything was shut down," said Mr Guinan.
“We made plans five months ago to come over for Christmas and we followed every precaution we could. It made sense that everything is shut down here, but it is disappointing.”
Ren Hodnett from Midleton, Co Cork, said goodbye to her partner Brian Li. The couple live in San Diego, California, and she will be joining him at the weekend.
“I was home for Christmas and it was the first time I was home in two years because of the pandemic,” she said.
“That was really tough, but I do love it there – the sunshine, the beach and the people are fantastic. The work opportunities are great. Missing home is the hardest part, especially not being able to fly home as often as I wanted to.”
Ms Hodnett said there is less of an emphasis in California on Covid-19. “Once people were vaccinated, it became a lot more relaxed. People stopped checking daily cases. We are able to live our lives a bit more openly.”