Just months ago, Border families were facing the prospect of having empty chairs at the Christmas table.
The twin cities, enduring their first major outbreak, were nearing 80 per cent double-dose targets but state borders with Victoria, Queensland and South Australia remained restricted.
With those states' premiers now moving away from jurisdictional shut-outs, loved ones will be reuniting tomorrow.
When you consider that this time last year, Victorian police officers were spending Christmas beside checkpoints on the Hume Freeway, that is something to celebrate.
However, there will be those who did everything right but will still have empty chairs at the table.
Ten people died at Mercy Place alone during the Border's outbreak.
Twelve people across the Murrumbidgee Local Health District died between October and December and other deaths have been recorded since.
While acknowledging what has been lost and the challenges that remain ahead, the Border community can reflect on their strength in living a once-in-a-century pandemic.
Victoria and NSW appear to now be "in this together", having made joint declarations to "live with COVID" and do away with border restrictions.
Albury and Border Rescue Squad Captain Paul Marshall said Santa would be visiting Border families no matter what COVID hurdles might be thrown his way.
"It's been a really difficult couple of years for Border people," he said.
"We've spent so many months in lockdown, not being able to see family either across the border or in Melbourne and Sydney.
"People should take this time to reflect on their resilience throughout this time," he said.
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Mr Marshall said Santa would no doubt have something special this year for the boys and girls whose schools were closed, and the region's healthcare workers and volunteers, who have supported the community though tough times.
"Have a great Christmas and remember to play it safe on the water," he said.
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