It’s a tradition that’s been in Ireland for many years and has found itself coming back into the mainstream in recent years with a newfound, modern meaning. Traditionally, Nollaig na mBan which means ‘Women’s Christmas’ and is also known as ‘Little Christmas,’ was a day when women who had been working without rest in the home over the Christmas holiday preparing meals, looking after children and entertaining guests, would take a day off and leave the household duties to others.
The idea of women being granted one day off after twelve non-stop days of catering to everyone else’s needs is something which doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) have a place in society now, but the principle remains that women should take this day to relax, to spend it with friends or family, and go out of their way to treat themselves more than on any other day. This tradition was not only about physically taking a break, but also noting and celebrating the work that has been done before moving on to the next challenge. As times changed and women’s lives became less solely focused on work in the home, the tradition of Nollaig na mBan began to fade in many parts of the country.
Of course, there are still notable imbalances in the way that domestic and caring duties are divided within households in Ireland, not to mention the issues faced by women in terms of discrimination, pay gaps, the denial of rights or the many other challenges that women face on a daily basis. I think this makes it all the more special that a day exists where women celebrate what is good, and enjoy a time that is theirs.
For the past couple of years, Oireachtas na Gaeilge has encouraged groups of women all over the country to organise events and get-togethers, both formal and informal, to celebrate this day and revive this tradition in parts of the country were it isn’t as strong any longer.
The newly re-emerging Nollaig na mBan is an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary with friends or to make an ordinary night a little bit special. As far as I can see, it’s become more of a celebration for women. It’s now about celebrating each other, ourselves and ensuring that at least a little time is given to ourselves and to our enjoyment – maybe something that should be more often included in new year’s resolutions?
Tonight, there will be events all over the country as women gather to celebrate this old tradition with a modern twist. Women’s lives in Ireland have changed drastically over the years and this tradition is a beautiful way of celebrating the work of women everywhere down through the generations.
Info on events being organised as Gaeilge to celebrate Nollaig na mBan can be found at: http://www.antoireachtas.ie/nuacht/oiche-nollag-na-mban-2017.html
Nollaig na mBan shona daoibh go léir!