Did you know, that on January 6, Irish women are “allowed” to down tools and take the day off? It’s true!
January 6 is celebrated throughout the world as the Feast of the Epiphany, when the 3 Kings visit the baby Jesus. On the Aran Islands, for example, the night before the feast, each house lights 12 candles on the kitchen table to welcome the kings. It is also usually the day when the decorations come down and Christmas is officially over. But in Ireland, and especially rural Ireland, Womens Christmas, or Nollag na mBan was the day when the Irish mammy got to put her feet up and the husband took over the household duties. This was because of all her hard work in getting the Christmas organised you see…
In days gone by, woman truly were the backbone of the home and worked devoutly to keep the house running without any modern paraphernalia like washing machines and dishwashers.
On Womens Christmas, the ladies would gather in someone’s house or even a local pub and share some cherished hours of freedom, swap stories and songs over tea, sandwiches and possibly even porter. All this while their husbands cooked dinner and entertained the children. Bliss.
In today’s Ireland, when both men and women have an equal share in the household chores, is it a bit unfair to single out the ladies for a rest? Maybe so, but it is still a lovely custom to observe, and it has evolved with the times to be a day when the females of the house from grannies to (girl) babies get to spend time together. Some have family (girlie) suppers, others meet girlfriends for brunch and Prosecco. It is even growing in popularity with the Irish living abroad and now widely celebrated in Irish communities in the US, Canada, Britain and Australia.
And the Spice Girls thought they invented Girl Power, not at all, Mna na hEireann (the Women of Ireland) were doing it for the girls for centuries .Fair play to ye, girls.