Nollaig na mBan is the Irish name for Women’s Christmas which also goes by the name of Nollaig Beag which is Little Christmas in the Irish language. It fact there are many names for Women’s Christmas, which falls on the 6th day of January every year. In olden Irish it was called Nollaig na Mná, Nollaig Bog or Nollaig Saor. January 6th is also recognized as the Feast of the Epipheny. In Ireland, the Christmas season ends on this day although some ancient calendars gave January 6 as Christmas Day itself, hence its other name as Old Christmas Day.
Women's Little Christmas
This is yet another name for Little Christmas but what does it all mean in modern times. For the women of Ireland it means a day free from the chores and from minding children. They are free and it falls upon the men in the household to manage affairs for a single day. Women celebrate by taking time out with other female friends and family. January 6 is a much needed rest day after all the Christmas festivities where the women cooked Christmas turkey, roast Irish potatoes, hams, cakes, plum puddings, mince pies and a plethora of other goodies for the special season. Little wonder that they needed a rest after such activity. One day is a very small thing to ask for when one has worked for 364 days of the year.
Little Christmas Tradition
The Little Christmas tradition is still very strong in Ireland and Irish men as well as Irish women uphold its meaning. Many women hold ‘get togethers’ and parties and oftentimes leave the family home to go out and celebrate the special day. It is a present giving day too; and sisters, mothers, nieces and aunts all swap gifts. Spare Christmas stamps are used to allow distant female relatives send each other their Women’s Christmas blessings. Men (even young boys) do not partake in any gift giving other than to take on routine duties and run the home for the day. As 6th January also signals the end of Christmas (12th day of Christmas) it falls to the men of the house to take down the Christmas tree and decorations. Irish women have never been known to rest upon their laurels but they can be excused for putting their feet up on January 6th and long may they continue this tradition.
Old Christmas Day
It is a very old Irish tradition and in years gone by men had to forsake the pub for the day and some women went to the self same pubs where their husbands drank and had a Guinness or two to celebrate the one free day in the year that was theirs, and theirs alone. Women were the backbone of Irish society and raised the family almost single handedly. Irish families were often very large and very poor, especially pre the Irish Famine, when over 12 million people lived in Ireland and the women were hard pressed to raise their families properly. Traditionally the Irish mother or Irishwoman was the homemaker and the man of the house went out to work, except for this one day when he took over all the household tasks.
Old Women’s Christmas tradition
Despite the fact that the tradition is very old, and some say that it is outdated, and modern women of Ireland have no need for such trivialities, it lives on. For Mná na h-Éireann (women of Ireland) it is so important to keep this tradition alive as it is part of Irish culture. Many young women still celebrate on this day in Ireland, when the men are forgotten and take second place to the women of Ireland. More power to their elbow, I say!