Nollaig na mBan, pronounced “Nullig na Mon” or Women’s Christmas in the Irish language, is celebrated in Ireland on January 6th. This day heralds the end of Christmas celebrations and in Christian traditions, the feast of the Epiphany and the arrival of the 3 Wise Men.
The tradition of celebrating Nollaig na mBan was always stronger in the west of Ireland, particularly in Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) areas. As the tradition of speaking Irish faded, so too did the celebration of Nollaig na mBan. Particularly in rural parts of Ireland, women worked hard all year and didn’t stop on Christmas day either. They prepared the Christmas feast in addition to their farm work, without help from any of the men! The 12th day of Christmas was their day to celebrate themselves, their strength & each other.
Rural men would joke that Nollain na mBan was “Nollaig gan mhaith” or a No good Christmas, as all of the special Christmas food would have run out by then. Nonetheless, women would prepare some food to share and celebrate that day by visiting each other’s homes and drinking tea or port. It was a day they could do something for themselves after all the hard work of Christmas.
I love this tradition. It might seem a big old fashioned and sexist and perhaps this is why the tradition died out for a time in Ireland. After all, modern men and women tend to share the work of Christmas entertaining. These days, Nollaig na mBan is marked around Ireland for different reasons: it has become more a celebration of friendship and sisterhood, rather than a break from a long period of hard work.
Whatever the reason, this day offers an opportunity to pause, to reflect on all of the work we’ve done in the last 12 days (or maybe the last year!) and celebrate each other.
Tomorrow, I will gather with women friends to celebrate our Nollaig na mBan. I will also be celebrating my own femininity, creativity and resilience. The last 4 years of fertility investigations and treatment have been challenging beyond words. Looking back, I can see how I have grown and how I have been changed by the experience. I am kinder. I have learned even more patience and tolerance. I am flexible and resourceful, in ways I never thought possible. Taking an evening to celebrate that is really worthwhile in my book.
If we never stop to cherish our achievements, life can become all hard slog and no joy.
How can you celebrate yourself and the women in your life? You may not live in Ireland, but I invite you to celebrate Nollaig na mBan along with me. Gather your women friends, share some tea & cake (or whatever you’re having yourself) light candles for your sisters around the world and celebrate all that you have been through this past year.
Take this time to reflect and honour your own journey. Share here in the comments how you celebrated and tomorrow, I’ll be lighting some candles for you.
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With blessings from Dublin,