WBAI Celebrates Irish Tradition of Nollaig na mBan

By: Caroleann Gallagher

Nollaig na mBan (pronunciation Null-ug na Mon), which can be translated from Irish (Gaelic) as “Little Women’s Christmas,” is one of Ireland’s biggest traditions and is observed on January 6. In the Christian religion, January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the manifestation of the son of God on Earth and also marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas, giving way to the ‘Little Christmas’ nickname.

On this day, women traditionally got a much-needed rest after catering to everyone over the holidays. In rural and small-town Catholic Ireland, especially, women would gather in each other’s homes or local pubs for a few stolen hours of gaiety while the men looked after the brood. An article from a National newspaper in Ireland in 1998 joked that “even God rested on the seventh day, but Irish mammies did not stop until the twelfth”.

WBAI Director Caroleann Gallagher hails from Ireland and introduced us all to this lovely tradition on January 12, 2023, when she held an event as part of her Legally Moms Committee at The Dearborn.

For Caroleann, this wonderful tradition serves as a reminder to us about the strength of women, especially mothers. “A lot goes into making the holidays just so. A lot of that burden falls to Moms and the women of the home. This day is a day to reflect on that and take a moment to say Thank you.” 

Caroleann recalls, “The women who went before us were the backbone of our families and they seldom if ever received praise or credit for rearing large families and making everything in the home work. Those are the women who would have celebrated Nollaig na MBan and would have relished in a few hours of chat and cheer with their fellow comrades from their towns and neighborhoods. Despite our evolution, the heart and soul of mothers remain unaltered and this day recognizes how much work, effort and thought is put into the holiday festivities and making it memorable for all those around us.

Caroleann read out a heartwarming poem at the event which is a wonderful reminder that all the stress and work that goes into the holidays – is worth it.

IT will be YOU!

They don’t know it yet but when they are grown and start their own Christmas traditions, it will be YOU they mirror.

Your family recipes will grace their holly dressed table and the classic punch you spiked will come out after lunch.

They’ll search for the same candle scent you burned to get that nostalgic smell that is woven into their memories.

They will play the Carols that feel like home, that feel like YOU.

Their children’s handmade snowmen and reindeer will be hung with pride, just like theirs were.

Carrots will be nibbled on Christmas Eve the same way you did it all those years ago.

Morning elves, phantom sleigh bells and Santa photos will create the same joy and excitement for their kids that YOU created for them.

When they think of Christmas, it will be YOU. It will be YOU they emulate, YOU they remember, YOU they want to be for their kids.

YOU’re their memories.

YOU’re their Magic.

YOU’re their Christmas.

Words by Janessa Docking.

This article was originally published in the WBAI Spring 2023 Newsletter on page 49.