CHRISTMAS is most certainly about coming together as a family. In the age of emigration, though, sadly many families across Fermanagh will have an empty chair at the dinner table tomorrow.
Spending Christmas away in a foreign land can be tough for both those living abroad and their families back home.
Unfortunately here at the Herald we can’t bring all your loved ones home for Christmas, so instead we’ve offered our readers overseas the chance to send their festive greetings to the folks back home.
Their messages came in from right across the globe, from Turkey to Dubai to Australia and the US, from Fermanagh folk who have been gone for decades, as well as those who are spending their first Christmas away from home.
For some, this year won’t just be their first Christmas away from their family, but the first time they’ve lived away from home at all.
Niamh McAndrew from Belleek, for example, will be marking her first three months in Cambodia this festive season, having recently completed her A Levels. The former St Davog’s pupil is currently teaching children English at an NGO in the Pursat province, which she joked was “a bit like Fermanagh” in that it was very rural with little tourism.
Niamh said it would be “extremely difficult” being away from her parents Martin and Rita, younger siblings, extended family and grandparents, but that the adventure was worth it.
“When Christmas comes I will miss my Granny Ina and Granda Joe immensely as my Christmas memories with them are so special,” said Niamh.
“But while it’s difficult for my family not to have me there I know that they appreciate the significance of this period in my life, and I’m beyond grateful for that support.”
That’s the thing, while we may miss our loved ones who are far from home this Christmas, they are all on their own journeys. And sure look at the weather most of them are getting!
“Another year away from home at Christmas. It still doesn’t get any easier but while it’s snowing at home I’ve the warm sun,” laughed Sarah-Louise McCaffrey from Lisnaskea, who now lives in Australia.
No matter how idyllic your adopted country is, however, there really is no place like home.
“This Christmas away will be one of the first I’ve spent away from home and whilst we are very lucky to be spending it in Mauritius, we would love to be at home in Devenish Crescent surrounded by family,” said Enniskillen woman Dee Grant, who currently lives with her husband Nic in Johannesburg.
Ann Kirwan, New York
From the Big Apple Ann Kirwan sent: “I want to wish my mum Eva Condron and my family, friends and neighbours a Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year, we love and miss you all. Ann, Mark and Conor New York xxx”
Rachel Ellis, Sri Lanka
Kesh woman Rachel had the following touching message for her family: “Even though physically I am not celebrating Christmas with you this year, know I will always be there in soulful spirit. To Mum and Dad (Nokel and Shazza), Jordan and Anita, Grant and Sasha, and most importantly my darlings Freya and Harry, Belle, Poppy and Horatio – Merry Christmas! I love you to Lanka and back. “Special love sent to Granny Ellis on your Birthday and Christmas this year of all years – BE GOOD! Lots of love, Rachel xx”
Leanna Magee, Scotland
Lisnaskea woman Leanna can’t make it home for Christmas this year because she’s working, but she sent the following message to her parents who will be missing her. “Hi Mammy and Daddy, wishing you both a very Happy Christmas, wishing with all my heart we could all be together this year. I’m not there to tell you all the presents and how much they where! Anyway see you in February! Love always, Leanna xxx”