Emigration has cast a shadow over these Irish peoples’ Christmases

No matter how exciting their lives overseas, Christmas is a time when most emigrants dream of home. Arlene Harris talks to emigrants in Ireland and overseas

Emigration has cast a shadow over these Irish peoples’ Christmases

Up and down the country and all over the world people will be making plans, buying gifts and packing their bags as they get ready to head home for Christmas.

There is something about the festive season which makes everyone think fondly of home and whether the occasion is fun and festive or fraught and fretful, there is no place like home on Christmas Day.

We caught up with a number of people who won’t make it home this Christmas to find out what they will miss and what message they would like to pass on to their families.

COLD COMFORTS

Ron Watson lives in Roma, Western Queensland in Australia with his wife Bronwen and their daughter Ava.

He moved Down Under almost a decade ago so his partner could be near her family, but really feels the distance at this time of year.

“Roma, a small town, is 500km west of Brisbane and very different from central Dublin, where most of my family still live.

"I currently work in the oil and gas industry and came to Australia in 2005 because Bronwyn wanted to move home.

“What I miss most about Christmas is the cold. I know a lot of people will think I am mad but Christmas in an environment like a furnace is not pleasant.

"I also miss the fact that everybody embraces the Christmas spirit in Ireland . And I miss the full dinner with all the trimmings — you can’t have it here because it’s too hot.

“This year I will be on call for work so I will be having a very quiet Christmas but I plan to make up for it at New Year.

"Ava is now 6 and my family in Dublin are dad and mam, Peter and Betty Watson, my brothers Noel, Peter and Patrick, my sister Elizabeth and my great friend Tony Hulgrain who every year buys my Mam and Dad a fantastic Christmas present from me and delivers it, I can’t thank him enough.

“My message to all my family and friends in Ireland is that I hope they have a fantastic time. We will be thinking of all them all and we miss them all — a lot.”

WILD GEESE

Adam Fulham from Tallaght in Dublin has been living in Santiago, Chile for over a year.

He misses his parents, Noeleen and Niall and his brother Daniel and says while a personal invitation from the Chilean president was a good reason to go to the country, there are many things he will miss from home.

“In the academic year of 2011/2012, I spent my third year of college in Spain and it was the best time of my life, so my plan was to move back there once I finished my degree in ITT Dublin,” he says.

“But everything changed one day when I met a Chilean woman.

“The woman was Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile.

"She came to Dublin to give a talk on women’s rights and I met her afterwards. I told her about my plans to return to Spain and she said while Spain was a great country, I should improve my Spanish in a new country, a new continent.

"So I came to Chile because its President invited me.

“There are between 150 and 200 Irish people living here now. We’re a really close community who all know each other pretty well.

"I founded Chile’s Irish Expat Association ‘The Wild Geese Society’ in October. It kicked off with unofficial events back in June and has been a great experience ever since.

“We just hosted our first Irish Business Meeting and also have an Irish Culture Festival coming up. After that we hope to ‘green’ famous buildings and monuments across the country for St Patrick’s Day in March. So we’ll see what happens.

“As Christmas gets near, I will miss my family and friends most of all. But also all the little Irish things about the season — from ‘Fairytale of New York’ playing on the radio, to tins of Cadbury Roses and the Late Late Toy Show on RTÉ.

“Christmas in Chile is very different to that of Ireland, as it happens in the middle of summer. I spent mine last year with Irish people so hope to do the same thing this year round.

“I would like to say Merry Christmas to everyone at home from South America. Have a good one in Ireland, and remember that some tea is always welcome in the post.”

HANKERING FOR HAM

Barry Gallagher works in the building industry in Melbourne, Australia.

While he enjoys the weather Down Under, he misses his family during the Christmas period as the Australian version is very different.

“It’s easy to enjoy the warm weather here but it’s strange for it to be warm while listening to Christmas carols which evoke festivities with snow, mulled wine and holly.

"I am lucky to have two great cousins here to celebrate Christmas with. It’s usually an outdoor event with everyone bringing something to munch. And with up to 16 people around the table, there is great banter.

“But I miss the Christmases where Mum would put together wonderful soul food.

"Sadly she isn’t around anymore but I miss the rest of my family in different ways.

"I remember as a kid, being amazed that Santa Claus had the same beautiful handwriting as Dad.

"We went to mass on Christmas Eve and neighbours came around afterwards with the smells of baked ham wafting through the house.

“At times, I miss everyone and nothing can replace a hug from my friend Marie.

"Oddly I also miss certain foods. It’s easy to get Lyons or Barry’s tea here and thankfully Tayto crisps. But when I went home for my sisters’ wedding a few years ago, I was hanging for a ham sandwich.”

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Mary Katherine Anderson will be in Ireland this Christmas but unfortunately, her loved ones will be on the other side of the Atlantic in the US.

The hypnotherapist moved here a few years ago after she met and fell in love with an Irish man and while the festivities are not that different from what she is used to, she will miss seeing her family.

“I moved to Ireland to be with my wonderful partner who I met in Nashville when I was singing in a club in a contest. He had gone over to get music published and came into the club. We met and here I am.

“It’s hard being away from home at Christmas.

"Sometimes I miss the snow, but only if I don’t have to get out in it — I also miss meeting with my sisters and nieces and nephews over the holidays.

"Usually I would cook and we would go out to a festive event and play games for hours on end.

"I miss sitting with my mom and watching parades and all the holiday movies we could stand. And I really miss popcorn balls — my mom always made the best popcorn balls.

“Christmas in Ireland will be very nice and very similar — two weeks of seeing family, having nice dinners, plenty of fun and enjoying each other’s company. There will also be various Christmas events.

"But if I could give any message to my family back home I would say ‘I love you all — have a wonderful, beautiful holiday and I will be thinking of you.”

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