Nollaig na mBan – Happy Women’s Christmas or the Feast of the Epiphany

Although it’s been years since I had faith, I never take my decorations down until today – the official end of Christmas.

On the 6th of January each year, Catholics celebrate the end of the 12 days of Christmas – today is the day that the Three Wise Men reached the end of their journey. They arrived in Bethlehem and anointed (baptised) the little baby Jesus. Then they packed up all the Christmas decorations and headed on their respective way. Presumably, Mary and the little one on the Donkey.

That might not be entirely theologically sound. It’s been a little while since I brushed up on the traditions around the date. But the story certainly translates what today represents for me.

In addition to the epiphany – in Ireland – we celebrate Nollaig na mBan – which translates as Women’s Christmas (or Little Christmas). As a celebration for all the work that women have put in throughout the year and specifically the festive season – they are officially given the day off!

From my mum this morning

The menfolk take care of the food (I believe traditionally goose, though I don’t think we ever did that), the house and even the younglings. Just for a day, mind, but still.

In my memory, this meant that today was the day that we would pack up the Christmas decorations (with a sense of relief at having some space again) and my mum would meet up with her best friend and they would go for a walk on the canal (could it be that’s where I get it from?) and usually ended up in a cafe or in front of the fire for a cuppa and a slice of Christmas cake. Often the sisters would get together in the afternoon for a chat.

For others, it was a more raucous affair. It entirely possible that some women would even go so far as to visit the pub!

From my best friend

Obviously, this year, celebrations will look a little different, but here to you Ladies!


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