Women's Little Christmas is an Irish tradition that goes back to the 1900s or further. It takes place on Epiphany, 6th January, especially in Cork and Kerry.
What is Women's Little Christmas?
Women's Little Christmas is an evening when women take over the pubs, clubs and restaurants of Cork. It is a brave man who ventures out on this evening as large groups of women have a good time, make lots of noise and consume lots of alcohol.
Gender roles in Irish families are still, generally speaking, the stereotypical roles from the 19th Century, with men rarely doing anything around the home. Things are changing but very slowly. Women's Little Christmas a hundred years ago was the one day of the year that women could go to the local pub, without being branded as a loose woman.
After the twelve days of Christmas toil and trouble, it was the women's reward. Their men would mind the babies for this one evening in the year, while their women had a glass of stout in the village pub.
Epiphany, the day when the three magi are supposed to have arrived at Bethlehem with their gifts, was a Holiday of Obligation, when everyone went to Mass. Most people no longer keep to the old traditions and few go to Mass on 6th January these days.
Women of all ages still celebrate Women's Little Christmas in Cork, though some call it Little Women's Christmas. It is no longer the only evening women are allowed out, Irish society has changed a lot, but it is the evening when women plan to go out without their men.
Modern Women's Little Christmas
Groups of young women take over pubs, bars and nightclubs in Cork city, but in towns throughout County Cork and Kerry. Family groups may meet for drinks and a meal in a restaurant, sometimes you will see four generations of women out together for a good evening. Lunchtime groups of women in the large hotels like the Gresham Metropole Hotel and the Clarion Hotel are common, though mixed and male groups can also be seen at lunchtime.
The best way to imagine the atmosphere in Cork for Women's Little Christmas is to imagine every pub and restaurant full of Hen Parties. Every woman has a great time; the only men you will see are taxi drivers and bar staff.
Local newspapers are full of photographs over the next week of women celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Men. Like many special days it has become very commercialised and the increasing popularity of the evening can be put down to newspaper photographs and the different venues advertising their special Women's Little Christmas Events.
Over the Celtic Tiger Years everyone in Ireland enjoyed increasing amounts of disposable income and Women's Little Christmas has grown in the same way as takeaway food restaurants grew. Even in today's harsher economic times many Irish people still find the money to spend on evenings out, so this unique evening is likely to grow rather than decline in popularity over the next ten years.