They are the emotional scenes that we are well used to seeing at Christmas time: loved ones greeting each other at airports, ready to celebrate the happiest time of the year.
But, as with so much else in 2020, Covid-19 has thrown it all into doubt for Northern Ireland expats preparing for their big Christmas homecoming.
However, developments in the past week, with agreement from the four UK nations and regions on how Christmas will operate (meaning that three households can mix for five days from December 23-27) have given some peace of mind for those hoping to be reunited with their families.
The latest ruling means that families can travel from one part of the UK to another and those travelling to and from Northern Ireland will be permitted to travel for an additional day either side of the window.
"Bubble" members will not be required to follow social-distancing while they are together, although they are advised to exercise caution if there are vulnerable people involved.
Both the First Minister, Arlene Foster, and Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, expressed concern at doubts being cast over cross-border travel at Christmas. Mrs O'Neill also expressed hope that more alignment could be achieved with the Republic.
"I think it's important and I raised this in all conversations - we need to look across the two islands for a common approach to the Christmas message," she said. "It's important that people aren't any more confused than they are."
She said the upcoming meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council would provide another opportunity to discuss the matter.
But while families across Northern Ireland can now plan their Christmas celebrations, there is still an anxious wait for many with loved ones hoping to travel home from abroad.
Chris Hughes (33), from Dunmurry, is currently working as a producer and director in Dubai. He recently travelled home to attend the funeral of his grandmother, but still can't be certain he'll be able to fly home for Christmas on December 17.
"The bottom line is life just isn't the way we want it to be at the minute - we just have to take it day by day," he said. "I'm in this weird position where I don't want to do anything which could bring risk or harm to anyone. But that also means my heart will just be broken if I can't spend time with my family at Christmas - especially as I'm out here working on my own."
Although the Government have now issued further clarity on Christmas travel arrangements, he said it was still a "torturous" wait to reach the airport.
"I actually had to go home a few weeks ago after my wee nanny, a woman who helped raise me, passed away. My family had talked about setting up a camera in the church. But I just thought there's some things that you would swim home for. I followed every precaution and morally I felt I wasn't putting anyone at risk."
He said he took confidence from strict Covid controls in the UAE, requiring anyone leaving the country to present a negative Covid test.
"What bothers me is you don't have to present anything like that if you arrive in Belfast. It should be common sense. It would only cost you around £40 and take an hour. If I was coming in from London to Belfast, though, you can just bounce on a plane. So, the UAE are actually making sure that other countries aren't at risk by checking people leaving."
Meabh Kennedy (19), from Newcastle, Co Down, is a first-year physics student at Edinburgh University. She had initially hoped to make two trips home during December to allow for her exams, but a second flight back to Belfast was cancelled without any reason being given. Now, she will be home on December 4 for a much longer Christmas break.
"I'm looking forward to getting home to see my family," she said. "I have online exams and my last exam is on December 17, so I'm just going to do them at home."
John Halliday (39), from Belfast, works as a chief engineer on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. He's holding out hope of being allowed to travel home to spend Christmas with his wife, Nicola.
"I'm hoping to get a flight home around the start of December, but my flights from Mexico City have already been cancelled for the third time in a month."
He said his company was doing everything possible, but the wait was "nerve-wracking".
"I'm basically on call 24 hours a day, so once you're done, you really want to get home. I think it's tougher on my wife to be honest. I'm quite used to the travelling, but she's really hoping for a date when I can be home and I can't give her a date."
John was previously stranded in Mexico for three months earlier this year during the first lockdown. Although a vaccine is now on the way, he said there was still plenty of room for improvement in how the virus was being managed at home.
"After the first lockdown, I was probably one of the first people to arrive home. I would fly into either Dublin or Belfast and all I had to do was sign a self-declaration form. To be honest, no one every checked up on me. I did stick to the quarantine, for my family and the wider public. I don't want to bring a virus back with me, but there were no checks."
Henry McDonald's daughter, Ellen (19), is studying in Glasgow University and her family are now anxiously trying to arrange her journey home to George Best Belfast City Airport.
"Things aren't very clear at the moment. Loganair do operate a direct flight to Belfast, but we're hoping to book something soon," said Henry. "My daughter was one of the 160 students who contracted Covid at university halls. It was very worrying, but she'll be fine. She's only a first year, so it's been a very tough first term."
Anne Dunlop (52), from Castledawson, will have a busier airport run than most next month, with her husband and three of her children all due to arrive home separately.
Her husband, Nick Tinsley (59), is due to fly home from his construction job in Bahrain on December 20, while daughter Maud (21) is returning from the University of Kent, son Rex (20) from the University of Edinburgh and daughter Florence (18), who is studying at Stirling University.
"My poor husband hasn't been home since last Christmas, because of the coronavirus," Anne said. "All his leave was cancelled and he faced having to self-isolate for two weeks when he got back home from Bahrain, so it didn't seem worth his while. That's been lifted now, which is great. We like doing things and getting out for walks, so we can really enjoy ourselves.
"Bahrain is extremely strict. I've been over to see him a couple of times and had to wear a tracker bracelet and self-isolate while I was there. I also had to have a negative test to be allowed to leave the country. Because Bahrain have been so strict with their citizens, the numbers (of infections) have come down."
She added: "My children will come home when they're allowed to. My eldest daughter, Maud, is coming home on December 7 from England. I've still no idea, though, on what will happen with the other two in Scotland. I'll see them when I see them, I suppose.
"It's been a very difficult term for Florence, as she's in first year, when it's supposed to be this whole new experience. It just wasn't what they were expecting. It's very difficult having to do this online studying. But we know that this whole situation won't last forever now that there's three vaccines. We'll be delighted to return to normal, but we just have to sit it out. I'm really looking forward to this Christmas."
A spokesperson for Belfast International Airport said they were prepared for a high volume of Christmas traffic.
"Unfortunately, the traditional Christmas homecoming at the airport won't be like previous years, but we are expecting an increase in flights and passengers as many students and workers make their way home for the festive period.
"We have implemented all the health measures that are required to be in place at the airport, including, social distancing, wearing of face coverings, hand sanitiser stations etc. We are working closely with the Public Health Agency and stand ready to implement any further measures as required."
A spokesperson for George Best Belfast City Airport said: "The safety and well-being of our passengers and staff is of paramount importance and we will continue to follow all relevant directives for airports in relation to Covid-19."