Sunday 20 January 2019

Today is Nollaig na mBan: What is it and how is it being celebrated?

Mrs Robinson, who was UN high commissioner for human rights from 1997 to 2002. Photo: Damien Eagers
Mrs Robinson, who was UN high commissioner for human rights from 1997 to 2002. Photo: Damien Eagers
Alison Spittle. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Women across Ireland will be celebrating “Nollaig na mBan” today, by passing off house work to the men, and saying goodbye to the christmas decorations.

What is it?

Originally celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day, the 6th of January is a christian feast which marks the visit of the three wise men to Bethlehem after the birth of Christ.

The traditional Irish celebration focuses more on the role of the woman in the household, reliving her of the household chores and leaving the work up to the men for the day.

It is a day when women would head to the pub and “inhabit this man’s domain without shame” according to Irish actress and writer Sheila Flitton. Women would chat, relax in each others company and enjoy a day without housework.

How is it celebrated today?

Many Irish people associate the 6th of January with the end of the Christmas season, and the tree and decorations are taken down for another year.

In the modern day where the housework is generally divided more equally, the tradition is celebrated by acknowledging the role and accomplishments of women in our society.

Why is it special this year?

The celebration also known as “Little Christmas”, or “Women’s Christmas” has special significance this year, as 2018 marks 100 years since women in Ireland were given the vote after years of suffrage.

2018 is a year which will tackle many issues which concern women in Ireland today, including a national strategy to tackle the gender wage gap.

Two referenda concerned with women's’ rights will be put to the public, the repeal of the eighth amendment which gives equal status to the mother and the unborn, and article 41.2.1 which recognises the woman’s place in the home.

How is this being marked?

Leo Varadkar used the occasion as an opportunity to launch a Fine Gael initiative to draft a new Women’s Charter and host a year-long programme of events.

The 2018 programme aims to “to highlight the work of women in the party; to recognise the contribution women make to the success of the party; and to engage women in setting the vision of gender equality for the future”.

What is there to do?

The Illuminate Herstory is “annual global light festival celebrating women and equality” which illuminates castles, museums, theatres, libraries, offices and homes with images which celebrate women and girls. It runs over 4 nights from the 5th to the 8th of January.

Ogilvy Dublin, a global advertising & marketing agency, will light up their building at 6 Ely Place with “incredible women who have made their mark in Ireland”, featuring former president Mary Robinson, human rights activist Sally O'Neill, former Irish rugby captain Joy Neville, and other notable Irish women, Tina Roche, Rena Buckley, and Johanne Powell.

The Irish Writers Centre will host a night of entertainment tonight, emceed by Sinéad Gleeson will be joined by writers Alison Spittle, Nuala O'Connor, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Grace Dyas and Anna Carey with music by Loah.

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