Women’s Little Christmas on January 6th has always been a strong tradition in West Cork. Four local women tell Emma Connolly how they’ll mark the day and what hopes and plans they have for 2019
Miss Ireland, Aoife
I HAVE marked Women’s Little Christmas for as long as I can remember. It has always been a reminder that the Christmas festivities are officially over for another year. When I was younger, we would mark the day by taking my grandmother out for Sunday lunch. I remember trying to convince my brother that it was actually called Little Women’s Christmas and that it was about celebrating little women like me!
More recently, we have started a tradition on the O’Sullivan side of my family where all of the women (aunts, cousins, nieces, in-laws etc) would all go out for a meal and drinks.
My dad’s side of the family is quite large so there could be up to 40 of us, of all ages, out celebrating together.
Traditionally, it was a day off for women after a busy Christmas but for me it has always been about getting together and celebrating the women in our family. I think that this is the more modern approach to the tradition. With more and more Cork businesses having special deals and offers to mark the occasion, I do believe that the tradition is well and truly alive.
For 2019, if there was one thing for women I’d like to change, it is less judgement of what a woman chooses to wear.
‘When a woman chooses to dress a certain way, people feel entitled to judge. Yet it seems like this same wardrobe judgement rarely happens to men.
Jessie Kennedy, musician,
writer, and owner of
The Coffee Shop, Union Hall
I REALISE that I haven’t celebrated Nollaig na mBan in years now. The Irish customs associated with it seem to have faded – at least within my family and friends. It would be fun to revive some of the traditions again for this coming year, in particular the eating, drinking and doing nothing for the day idea!
I think that celebrating the occasion with the women in our families, and in the circle of girlfriends who support us all year round, is a lovely thing to do.
In 2019 what I’d like to see more of is women of all ages rejoicing in each other’s achievements, strength and real beauty. 2018 marks the centenary of women being allowed to vote in this country – it’s not that long ago.
We must ensure that our younger and future generations are taught about the many amazing Irish women (as well as the men) that have shaped, and continue to shape, our country.
And the women through the centuries who have worked and continue to work for change, sustainability and empowerment in all of our futures. And the women working in their homes who have also made change and kept the country together.
I wouldn’t have achieved anything so far in my life without the support and love from the strong and inspiring women that I am blessed to know. I couldn’t do one day’s work without my wonderful mother-in-law helping us with childcare. I would never have the courage to pursue my dreams and interests without my stepmother, best friends, mentors, aunts, daughter, sisters, grannies, telling me to go for it. Every woman I know needs other strong women in her life to lean on.
If I could have anyone from any time at my imaginary Women’s Christmas party, my guests would include: Mary Robinson, Stevie Nicks, Ada Lovelace, Beryl Markham, Maya Angelou, the Clerke sisters, Kate Bush, Juanita Carbery and Frida Kahlo.
We should crack open the champagne and celebrate each other on this, and every Women’s Christmas. Nollaig na mBan Shona daoibh go leir!
Alice Taylor, author,
THE 12 days of Christmas were a welcome intermission in the unfolding drama of the hard working year on the farm.
This intermission began on Christmas Day and finished on Little Christmas Day. These were the two bookends that held the Christmas holiday season together.
They gave a beginning and an end to Christmas, and schools closed just before Christmas and did not reopen until the 7th of January.
Three geese were held back from the Christmas market, one for Christmas Day, one for New Year’s Day and the third for Little Christmas Day.
After the great excitement of the celebrations of Christmas Day things calmed down and a period of rest ensued and immigrants home for Christmas visited and neighbours called to see each other during the day. The dinner on Little Christmas Day was no less an occasion than on Christmas Day and my father reminded us that this was my mother’s special day. With five girls in the family, we thought that this was a wonderful idea. It was the grand finale of the Christmas season. We were reluctant to see Christmas go, but felt that we had given it our all and were rested and ready to return to normal. Once Little Christmas Day had departed it was time to take down the decorations.
Many years later when I had a home of my own, I brought these Christmas traditions with me and my husband always made Little Christmas special with a well-chosen gift.
Now more than then, we need where possible, to take time out and enjoy the 12 days of Christmas.
Feeling the urge to stampede back into action before Little Christmas is a reflection of our fast track society. The 12 days of Christmas are a welcome reprieve in our hurried hassled world and we should hold fast to the gift of Little Christmas.
At this time when a new consciousness about women’s rights has awakened, we should treasure and celebrate Women’s Christmas.
I will mark the day this year the same way I’ve done for a few years – with my daughter and her family at a lunch with my niece and her family.
Caroline Murphy, owner
of the award-winning
West Cork Eggs
WOMEN’S Little Christmas is not something that was celebrated in London, where I’m originally from. I think that the idea to give the woman of the house a day off after all her hard work over Christmas is a brilliant idea!
Christmas is such a special time of year but it takes an awful lot of work to make it magical as I’m sure many women will agree.
There is the food, the presents, getting the house clean, making sure
that school plays are attended, the list is endless! So by the time the 6th of January comes around I certainly am ready to stop, take a breath and have some time out.
This year I am attending the Cork Simon Women’s Little Christmas Dinner 2019 at the Celtic Ross Hotel.
I attended the event for the first time last year with three friends and we had an absolute ball.
This year we are all going again and I’m sure, as I discovered last year, there will be lots of other women there that I know but very rarely get a chance to socialise with. Not only is this event raising funds for a very worthy cause, it is a day to get together with friends and have a lot of fun and count our blessings.
I believe that the tradition of Women’s Christmas should very much be continued and in time I would like to think it is something I will celebrate with my daughters as they get older.
I also hope that women will continue (or start) to believe in themselves, support each other and help each other achieve our dreams.
I believe that old traditions are very important to maintain.
Not only must we respect our past, but those women of long ago were smart enough to know that we deserve the odd day off.
Maybe we should do it more than once a year!