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An Irish-American Small Christmas and Women's Christmas: Nollaig Bheag and Nollaig na mBan

Updated on April 13, 2011

My Family Memories of Small Christmas

As a child in Ireland, my Grandmother and Mother both celebrated "Small Christmas" on the Feast of the Epiphany. When we moved to the U.S.A. when I was thirteen, my mother continued to speak of this little-known holiday.

What is "Small Christmas"? There is little documentation about this holiday. Most of the traditions have been passed down orally through the generations.

The Twelve days of the Irish Christmas season mark the twelve days between the birth of Christ and the arrival of the "Three Wise Men", the Magi.

Twelfth Night is the Feast of the Epiphany which represents the manifestation of Jesus Christ in human-form to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi

If you know the story of Christmas, you will remember that the Magi came to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem bearing gifts. The Epiphany is the end of the Christmas season.

Women's Christmas (Gaelic) Nollaig Na Mna

Interwoven with the name "small" or "little" Christmas is the tradition of "Women's Christmas" on January 6th.

This tradition has been passed down from generation to generation orally through the women of the family. Rural areas in Cork and Kerry held strong to this holiday.

According to tradition, "Women's Christmas" is a day when men take over the household and child-care duties and the women gather together to celebrate.

A recent renewal in interest in this holiday has brought "Girls Night Out" to a new level. Like Mother's Day, woman are given gifts from their families and are relieved of their household and child-care duties. Mothers, daughters, Aunts, Grandmothers and friends enjoy each other's company.

Women who plan Christmas for their families know that the stress is sometimes not appreciated.

I find that this day is a public recognition of the important contributions that women make toward creating a beautiful Christmas celebration for their families and friends.

We often hold resentment for the amount of work that it takes to make Christmas special for our families.

A public recognition in the form of a day off from these responsibilities is emotionally healthy for the entire family.

This celebration gives a concrete way for families to express their appreciation for their wives, girlfriends and mothers.

I say, let's embrace this holiday as a wonderful way to end the season of giving.

How Do You Celebrate Women's Christmas and Small Christmas?

  • Get together with the women in your life and celebrate each other. Visit with friends and family. Lunch together and enjoy each other's company.

  • Get dressed up and gather together for a night on the town! Women's Christmas should be the ultimate "Girl's Night Out".

  • Give small gifts for the women in your life who made your Christmas special.

  • Leave the housework and child-care to the men in your life.

  • Take the decorations down in the morning and prepare the children for the end of the school holidays.

Do you have any memories of "Small Christmas"?

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