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January 05, 2024
Nollaig na mBan like International Women’s Day is a date that all women should have in their diary. Pronounced as “Null-igg na Mon” it translates as women’s Christmas but it is also the 12th day of Christmas. Epiphany, sometimes also called Little Christmas it is celebrated in various ways round the world. However, in Ireland this unique and ancient tradition is a day for women.
The custom of Nollaig na mban was that women made social calls to the homes of their friends and neighbours and enjoyed tea and the last of the Christmas cake. Women worked hard all year, particularly in rural parts of Ireland, and Christmas Day was no different. Traditionally on Nollaig na nBan women would have the day off and the men would handle all the chores.
Unlike many traditions that are dying out Nollaig na mBan is having a bit of a revival. The custom of celebrating Nollaig na mBan was always stronger in the west of Ireland, particularly in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) areas. As the tradition of speaking Irish faded, so too did the celebration of Nollaig na mBan. However, it is making a well deserved comeback.
In certain parts of the country its a day where women get together, lunch, go to the pub and just gather. In Cork pubs in recent years they have reported nearly all female customers on Nollaig na mban.
This day, like international Women's Day remind us of the strength of women. On this particular day its the strength of Irish women. It is widely recognised that women, even those who work full time, are doing the majority of what came to be called the 'second shift' or 'invisible workload' - the work round the house.
In my opinion it is a tradition worth reviving. Any day to acknowledge the awesomeness of women it a great day. So get together with the girls and celebrate yourself.
Nollaig Shona na mBan
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