Happy Nollaig na mBán

This blog first featured in the Women’s Lives section of the Donegal Democrat in January 2015, By Samantha O’R

While waiting to be served in a shop I overheard two young women talking about how they had survived Christmas.

One woman had a young child in a buggy. He was smiling and happy with the attention being given to him by his mother and her friend.

In the discussions about managing over Christmas, I heard that both women spent Christmas at their mothers’, with one of the women saying “Sure where else would you go.”

This statement got me thinking. I was immediately struck by the thought /feeling/question: do mothers in particular get put upon at Christmas time without being asked?

Is there an assumption that mothers will automatically accept all-comers without prior arrangements or request. I know it is the season of goodwill and giving hospitality to visitors and family is a noble thing/gesture to do. But somehow the expectation is there; food, drink, accommodation, presents, babysitting, etc.

Perhaps young women would consider asking their mothers before Christmas “would it be okay to spend Christmas with them” as a courtesy and a consideration rather than as a given.

Little Christmas exemplifies the need for all women to get together for their own celebration after the sometimes burden and mayhem of big Christmas.

In celebration of the feast of the Epiphany in Ireland, January 6th is marked by Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Little Christmas. It is the tradition in Ireland that on this day for the women to get together and enjoy their own Christmas, while the men folk stay at home and handle all the chores. It is also common for children to buy their mothers and grandmothers presents on this day, though this custom is gradually being overtaken by Mother’s Day.

Although Nollaig na mBan is slowly dying out in many parts of Ireland, in Co. Cork, the tradition is still very strong. Many bars and restaurants in Cork City report a near 100% female clientele on this day, as the Corkonian women meet up with girl friends, sisters, aunts and mothers to celebrate their own little Christmas with Nollaig na mBan.

In Sligo, women got together in Osta Café and Wine Bar for the celebration and proceeds from fundraising on the night donated to Domestic Violence Service Sligo. Women in Ballyshannon also took the opportunity to mark this occasion and leave the menfolk at home.

In Donegal Town, Anne Leonard, who is part of the Walking Women of Donegal and The Mountcharles Heritage Group decided ‘to the take the bull by the horns’ this year and organise one.

“It was only last year when the Walking Women’s group first heard about it and agreed we must do something for 2014,” she said.

“So when nothing was happening I decided to get the ball rolling. I texted women I knew ‘I’m going if anyone wants to join me, let me know’.”

Over 35 women attended a sit down meal in the Abbey Hotel. A raffle was also organised and the €220 raised has been donated to Childline.

Little Christmas Donegal Town

Some of the Ladies who attended the Women’s Little Christmas Donegal Event in 2015

Eileen McGonigle said: “It was great fun and great to connect with women you hadn’t met for a long time as well as getting to know others better.” So good was the night that the Abbey Hotel already has a booking for 6th January 2015. Anne said: “It was a marvellous night, we had women travel from Ballyshannon and Glencolmcille. I hope we will have more women to celebrate with us next year.”

What a lovely way to start the year celebrating with other women and appreciating each other’s company.

We know that Christmas can be a stressful time but perhaps mothers at Christmas need a little bit of consideration before everyone descends on the home with a view that everything will be done and an attitude of “Sure where else would you go”. Alternatives on a postcard please!