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Nollaig na MBán


Nollaig na MBán (womens Christmas) otherwise known as little Christmas/the feast of the Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas and celebrated on the 6th December in Ireland.


It is a day where the women of Ireland swap the traditional roles of looking after the home and children and leave it to the men folk, while they get to relax with friends and neighbours over the last of the Christmas cake and tea (and more often something a little stronger!)😉🥃💃🥂


Women in Ireland would have been the ones solelyto cook, clean, buy in the goods and prepare everything for Christmas usually for a large family so this was recognised by the country celebrating a day in their honour.


The 6th December also held a lot of other traditions and customs in Ireland.

It was believed that this was the day to take down Christmas decorations and the do so earlier was considered bad luck.


It was thought that well water would turn to wine at midnight, but beware anyone foolish enough to test the theory or they would suffer the wrath!

Even more fascinating was the belief that farm animals would be given the power of human speech for that night only, but again a terrible fate waited the fool who would listen.


To me this donates a constant thread of the mix of Pagan/Catholic belief that runs through all of Irish history still to this day.

We Irish never forgot our belief in the fairies and the otherworld no matter how many priests and cruxifes told us otherwise.


I wonder what brave soul it was that figured out the well water turned into wine and of course it makes total sense that farm animals were talking to them, but how did they survive to tell the tale?! 😆


Another interesting custom was the cake of mud/clay.

This Irish death divination ritual was very similar to the ones on Oíche Samhain and similar to one we used to do with my own father at Halloween.

Each family member would light a candle on the mud cake and whatever order the candles would die out would be the order of death in the family.


Life and death were so intertwined in Irish traditions these sort of ideas were commonplace and not seen as morbid or strange as today.

Candles in the windows were also especially important on this night and the women of the house would light twelve candles for the twelfth day of Christmas.

A candle in the window at Trohanny Cottage 🕯

After the decorations were taken down it was also considered good luck to burn any Holly sprigs and Goose was considered the meat of choice on the day.


By the mid twentieth century the tradition of Nollaig na mBan had mostly died out except for Cork and Kerry where it still held strong.

Whether it is just for commercial value or a recognition of a lovely old Irish tradition the day is having somewhat of a resurgence.


So today I'm raising a glass to my fellow countrywomen and putting my feet up..

After I've finished the farmwork that is 😅💪

How I'm planning to spend my Nollaig na mBán evening!! 🤣

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