Tuesday 21 November 2017

Colette Fitzpatrick on Women's Christmas: 'There seems to be a bit of looking down their nose by some women at this tradition'

Colette Fitzpatrick will be celebrating Nollaig na mBan with her friends tonight
Colette Fitzpatrick will be celebrating Nollaig na mBan with her friends tonight

Colette Fitzpatrick

Let's get this much straight. It's Women's Little Christmas, not Little Women's Christmas. What's that? A Louisa May Alcott novel where the little women head out for a few Harveys Bristol Creams?

Back to Women's little Christmas. Or Nollaig na mBan. It's celebrated on the 12th day of Christmas. Today. The feast of the Epiphany.

It's supposed to be the day when the Three Wise Men visit the crib and the decorations come down. In the Ireland of yesteryear, it was the day when women clocked off after all the hard work over Christmas.

The men were to look after themselves as women got together to gab over cups of tea and sherry, sometimes even giving each other presents.

It was about women and for women - mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunties and friends.

The tradition has always been a more rural one and particularly strong in parts of Cork, Kerry and the West. Sometimes there was a prayer to St Brigid.

The church paid little due to female saints, but women themselves, in some parts of the country, said a prayer to St Brigid to bring luck in the new year.

Although Nollaig na mBan seems to have enjoyed a bit of a revival in recent years, there's very little written about it.

Rather, it was a custom that women seemed to hand down through generations themselves or heard about from each other.

I imagine it's when they shared funny stories or confessions or talked about tragedies in their lives - one of those nights when you got a sense of older women once being young, free and full of dreams.

Despite the recent revival of Nollaig na mBan, there does seem to be a bit of looking down their nose by some women at this tradition.

Some believe it reinforces stereotypes about women being chained to cookers for Christmas. Look around. Many were. Many were glad it was over.

I get that one night isn't enough to acknowledge women. Of course it's not, but why not scrap Mother's Day and Father's Day and International Women's Day and International Men's Day and Breast Cancer awareness day and anti-drink driving day and, well, you get my point.

I'm off out with my girl gang tonight. I imagine we'll whoop with laughter. We'll gossip. Catch up. There may be tears. There may be news. It might be good. It might be bad. But we need this time together. Just us. No men. No kids. Just for a few hours.

In Little Women, the women take care of each other. And for me, Women's Little Christmas is about reconnecting with my female friends.

In my world, Women's Little Christmas is not a tired tradition. It's a nod to women and solidarity among women, where they can celebrate female friendship and recognise what they mean to each other. I'm in. Pass me a Harveys Bristol Cream, please.

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