Rex USA 1 / 10

Free at last! Nearly a year after checking into the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Conn., Teresa Giudice began the trip back to her home in New Jersey after being let go at 5:01 a.m. on Dec. 23, her attorney James J. Leonard, Jr. confirmed to People.

"She is thrilled that she is finally going home," said a source. "Prison was tough for her," says the source, "but she made the best of it."

Ultimately, Teresa was released about three months earlier than expected. How's that for a Christmas present?

The "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star was imprisoned after pleading guilty to fraud. In 2013, Teresa and her husband Joe were charged in a 39-count indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on loan applications and bankruptcy fraud. Court papers said the couple submitted fraudulent mortgage and other loan applications from 2001 through 2008 and made phony claims about their employment status and salaries.

Joe also failed to file tax returns for the years 2004 through 2008. The government has said he earned about $1 million during that time frame.

In October 2014, Judge Esther Salas sentenced Joe and Teresa to serve time for 41 month and 15 months, respectively, for their crimes. The court, however, said Joe and Teresa would serve their time separately so that one parent can be with their four daughters. Joe is expected to begin his 41 month stint in March.

But, for now, the family will celebrate.

"Just being out is going to be a relief in itself and it's a couple of days right before Christmas," Joe told E! in October while anticipating his wife's release. "We got the holidays. We're probably going to take a trip or two with the family. I'd stay in the States ... [maybe] some island close by."

He's also looking forward to having his wife back in their bed.

"Now I don't have to worry about the kids sleeping in my bedroom anymore or mommy sleeping with them," he said. "That's all over. It's done with."

Teresa, ever a savvy businesswoman, certainly made the most of her time in the slammer, penning a soon-to-be-released book about her experience titled "Turning the Tables: From Housewife to Inmate and Back Again."

That's all in the future. The family is more interested in focusing on the now, because come March, the new normal will involve family functions without Joe.

"I think it's gonna be a really nice Christmas this year," Teresa's sister-in-law Melissa Gorga told People. "I just think it's gonna be a lot of new beginnings, hopefully just a fresh start, especially for [Teresa]."

"I get more happy about her children seeing her," Melissa said. "Everyone can't wait for that reunion for them … it'll be beautiful for her to be actually home with her family."