The Epiphany to some, the twelfth day of Christmas to others, but going back generations, today marks Women's Little Christmas, or Nollaig na mBan - a day when the women of the house, especially in West Cork, rested, visited friends, drank tea, ate currant cake, and even went to the pub.
Also in today's feature:
- - from sea swims to groundbreaking talks to virtual concerts, see how modern women have reclaimed the day and made it about other women in the process.
- - Activist and feminist Ailbhe Smyth talk's about the men's issue of domestic violence and about how non-offending men can take responsibility for a crime they haven’t committed.
We have Cork to thank for Nollaig na mBan, and Kerry, Dingle in particular, too. Women's Little Christmas, on January 6, was celebrated mostly in the south west, with some parts of Ireland claiming to never have heard about the custom.
The actual custom was about letting women rest up on the twelfth day of Christmas, having served up a feast on December 25, men's Christmas. If a man was to help out on Christmas Day he could face the wrath of being called an "auld woman".
Women visited one another's homes on January 6, having tea and sharing the last of the Christmas cake, others went to public houses, and assumed the social roles ordinarily played by men.
But by the 1950s, the entire tradition had mostly died out, until the last few years where it is undergoing a revival thanks to social media, hashtags, algorithmic trends and hotels offering afternoon tea deals in the dead days of early January.
But before Instagram, how did our Cork and Kerry ancestors actually mark this gender specific day? There are many Irish folk rituals associated with January 6, the day known as Nollaig na mBan, according to historian Dr Marion McGarry.
The day was seen as a "reward" for hard work over the Christmas period, where women were freed from all housework and roles reversed between men and women, says the historian.
In West Kerry it was common for women to raise half a dozen turkeys and sell them at the Christmas market to pay for provisions, and if there was anything left over after Christmas they would spend it on themselves come January 6.
Leftovers is synonymous with Women's Little Christmas - with it even making it into the Irish language - a common phrase being "Nollaig na mBan, Nollaig gan mhaith", meaning "Women's Christmas, no good Christmas", referring to the lack of supplies by the time January 6 came around.
The biggest tradition did not involve the pub or spending money, but "visiting" where women went to one another's homes for a cup of tea, a slice of currant cake and conversation.
While much of the history about Nollaig na mBan might be accurate, if you're to go by James Joyce's famous short story 'The Dead' set on January 6, not all women had the day off as "Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet".
While Kerry and Cork seem to be where it was celebrated most, there is evidence that it was marked in Galway too, with women taking walks together on January 6.
In looking for hard evidence about the traditions, or reality of Nollaig na mBan, there is written evidence of the men of west Cork making things as "pleasant as possible" for women, courtesy of Dúchas - the project that's digitising the Irish National Folklore Collection, one of the largest folklore collections in the world.
"The Women's Christmas is so called in West Cork because the men try to make everything as pleasant as possible for the women so that they can enjoy a peaceful and happy time, the women having worked so hard to make the real Christmas day a happy one for everyone else," reads a handwritten testimony about the custom on Dúchas.ie.
Some of our grandmothers and great grandmothers may have rested up on January 6, enjoying the Christmas leftovers amongst friends, but in our revival of the old Irish custom, modern women have reclaimed the day and made it about other women in the process.
This year there are more events than ever for Nollaig na mBan, ranging from sea swims to breast care, and from groundbreaking talks to virtual concerts.
Here is a round-up of some events and fundraisers taking place today for Nollaig na mBan.
Five speakers will take to the stage from 2pm today, to share ideas worth spreading as part of the world-famous and globally-renowned TED and TEDx talk community. Previous TED speakers include Brené Brown, Bill Gates and Simon Sinek.
Hosted by Aine Linehan under TEDxMerrionSquareWomen the free event, which you must register for to get tickets on Eventbrite, includes speakers such as communications expert Sally Murphy, former financial services director turned menopause coach Catherine O'Keeffe and psychologist Susannah Healy.
The idea is that experts share novel ideas in a never-before-heard speech, so you attend the events with an element of surprise - only discovering the topic of each speakers' talk as they start. Known to go viral, these speeches are one-of-a-kind and go through a rigorous editing process.
To book see: eventbrite.ie
A pandemic staple, especially amongst women, sea swimming past New Year's Day is being used to raise awareness and funds for women experiencing domestic abuse and coercive control.
Snámh4Mná is a national event, as led by journalist Dearbhail McDonald, encouraging all swimmers to take a dip in the sea today and donate to your local women's refuge, Women's Aid or SAFE Ireland.
Instead of going it alone, the ask is that you recruit a friend, a sibling or a neighbour to swim with you and to try and increase the money raised.
The event which is in its second year also asks people to share a post-swim selfie from wherever you are in Ireland.
To donate to Women's Aid see: https://www.womensaid.ie/donate/ or follow the hashtag #Snamh4Mna on social media
Women's Circle Menstrual educator and yoga teacher Kitty Maguire is hosting a two-hour online gathering tonight from 7.30pm called 'Nollaig na mBan - The Epiphany'.
The night will include breast care and massage techniques to help "nourish your lymphatic system". The techniques learned are to help support the hormonal imbalances people experience during their menstrual cycle, while breastfeeding or during their "peri-menopause adventure".
Anyone attending online is encouraged to bring pens and pencils to journal with, tea to sip and blankets and candles to create a cosy space at home.
"When women and people born with a vulva sit in a circle to honour their inner wisdom, dreams and desires, we create new belief systems and pave a potent path for ourselves and those who follow in our footsteps," says Kitty.
Tickets range from €6 to €26.
See @kitty_maguire_menstrual_mentor on Instagram for more details
Let’s Help Direct Provision: Let’s Match Mums — is doing a collaboration with Kindora, the quality resale website for baby goods. The initiative is seeking to raise €20,000 worth of buggies and accessories for mums living in direct provision centres in Ireland.
See: @letsmatchmums on Instagram
The National Breast Cancer Research Institute is running a fundraising drive for Nollaig na mBán by encouraging people to organise a walk, swim, online quiz or virtual concert to take place today. See breastcancerresearch.ie
- Ailbhe Smyth is taking part in the Irish Writers Centre’s annual Nollaig na mBan event at 7pm this evening. The theme of the event is ‘Emergence, Empowerment, Evolution’. For more information, go to: irishwriterscentre.ie