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Victoria White: Men have had their Christmas, now it's the women's turn

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Women's Christmas

Women's Christmas

Women's Christmas

Now for the real Christmas. Your Christmas. The women's Christmas.

It's hard to believe, with all the talk of women's rights abuses down the years in this country, but we Irish are the people who gave the world Nollaig na mBan.

Since anyone can remember, it's been a tradition in Ireland for women to get together and celebrate the end of the Christmas work on the Feast of Epiphany, January 6.

It probably started simply with a few women saying, "Feck this for a game of soldiers" and heading to the pub.

The hubbies were probably left looking at the pot over the fire with a puzzled air until they got hungry enough to try serving themselves.

And hey presto, they realised it doesn't take a genius to be a housewife. Hell, you don't even have to be a wife.

Meanwhile the wives were getting down and dirty in the nearby snug.

Telling sisters and friends all sorts of home truths about what happens or doesn't happen in the bedroom and getting tearful about their worries over this or that child.

Having the time of their lives. After a year of ceaseless toil, topped off with a Christmas of hard labour.

The next year they were probably thinking of that day in the pub from Hallowe'en on, as they wrung the necks of geese and blackened their stoves.

pence

Saving a few pence here and there that they'd get from selling eggs, or find stuck behind the clock.

And on January 6 they'd be out of the house like larks, leaving the hubbies looking after the place.

If any of the men tried to object, the women probably said something like: "Sorry, honey, but you've had your Nollaig, now it's my Nollaig."

And so Nollaig na mBan was born. And we've kept it going. Thousands of Irish women still meet on the Feast of the Epiphany, which falls next Tuesday, for a special chin-wag.

The tradition's particularly strong in the south of the country - but more than a few will enjoy it in the capital as well.

The actress Sheila Flitton has written about the Nollaig na mBans of her Cork childhood.

This was an occasion which saw droves of women in shawls descending on the snugs of pubs and drinking bottles of stout mopped up with corned beef sandwiches which were always provided by the establishment.

The corned beef sandwiches were probably an exercise in damage limitation on the part of the pub because the women would soon be stotious and going full throttle singing "The Banks".

Sounds fantastic. But Flitton's up-to-the-minute Nollaig na mBan is a restaurant affair, in a hotel overlooking the River Lee with her sisters and women friends. And that sounds even better. Because, let's face it, we've come far enough that women can go to the pub any day of the week if they have the price of a pint or a glass of wine.

But going out to eat is still a treat most of us save for special occasions.

We've come so far that women go out to restaurants together, something which would have been unheard of in my mother's day.

Back then, you needed a man to go to a restaurant. The man paid.

restaurants

The man made it important enough to spend the cash.

Chatting with the girls was done over the garden fence. Expensive conversations happened with men over tables they provided.

That's all changed. If you looked around restaurants before Christmas they were packed with women out together. On Nollaig na mBan many restaurants are full with women.

It's still expensive. But lots of us can still put away the cash for a pizza out to honour the importance of women in our lives.

This year I'm heading out with three women friends and all of us bloody deserve it.

Between the four of us we had a kidney transplant, a bereavement and a special needs teen with no work placement to deal with in 2014.

God knows what 2015 holds.

But at least it will start with four pizzas, a few glasses of house red and four of the most unhealthy desserts we can find on the menu.


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