January 6th – Irish Women’s Little Christmas

Women’s Little Christmas

Nollaig na mBan (pronunciation Null-ug na Mon) is ‘Women’s Little Christmas’ or the Feast of the Epiphany as it is more commonly known—marking the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, a Christian feast day celebrating the the visit of the Three Kings or Wise Men to the baby Jesus in his manger in Bethlehem, with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Taking Down the Decorations

Women’s Little Christmas Eve is the day when some will add the wise men to their nativity displays. This would be the final decoration added in the home, done on January 5th, and at the end of the day on January 6th, these, and all of the other decorations would be taken down. Some Roman Catholic families chose to keep their tree up until February 2nd, according to the traditions of Candlemas, which marks the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

The Burning of the Holly

In ancient times, in more modest Irish homes, holly was the only decoration used, and so it was taken down from the mantle, and burned on January 6th for good luck. It was symbolic to leave the holly up until Women’s Little Christmas.

Holly was thought to have important spiritual attributes, and the Druids believed it could guard against dark witchcraft and evil spirits. The Irish believed that its spikes could capture evil spirits and prevent them from entering a house. Holly placed around the home was thought to be a safe haven for the little people, who traditionally guarded the house from more sinister forces.

It was a tradition if holly was the first evergreen plant to be brought into the house at Christmastime, then the man would have the upper hand and rule the roost for the coming year. For that reason, women usually instructed that the ivy be collected first, then the holly. The timing of taking down the holly was very important. Once brought inside it must not be discarded or taken down until after 6th of January. Throwing out a symbol of good fortune too soon could mean that you were looking for trouble.

Visiting with Friends and Neighbours

Women’s Little Christmas, on January 6th each year, was the day that women rested and relaxed after a busy season of cooking and festivities. In rural and small-town Catholic Ireland, women gathered in each other’s homes, or down at the local pub, for a few hours of fun, while men looked after the home and the children. As all were seated, a pact was made, to leave the worries and cares of the old year, outside the door. 

Some women stayed in their neighbourhood, and did rounds of visiting in the afternoon. Fruit loaf and tea, or a shot of something stronger, served at someone’s house, and was the day that women did something for themselves, and had a rest after all of their Christmas work.

….And what would a Women’s Little Christmas be without a nice warm Irish Toddy to finish the day?

Irish Toddy Recipe

Irish Toddy

1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar

Boiling water

1 measure of Irish Whiskey (Bushmills or Jameson)

3 cloves

1 slice or wedge of lemon

You may use any whiskey you desire, or for an authentic Irish toddy, use Bushmills or Jameson Irish Whiskey

Add sugar, and dissolve in a splash of the hot water.

Add the whiskey, cloves (if desired) a slice of lemon, and fill up with boiling water.

It is customary to give a New Year’s toast on Women’s Little Christmas, with an Irish blessing:

Irish New Year’s Blessing

“In the New Year

May your right hand

Always be stretched out in friendship

And never in want

http://www.staffordwilson.com

You May Be Irish If….

Irish pub

 

The Top Ten Ways to tell if you’re Irish:

1. You have the ‘gift of gab’. There is an ancient rock near Cork, Ireland at Blarney Castle and they say that anyone who kisses the stone will have the gift of gab. If you are truly of Irish descent, then there’s likely no pressing need to make the journey, as you surely already possess the talent of talking rings around most other people.

2. You are musical. Maybe you play an instrument or perhaps you just sing in the shower, but the gift of music is in your Irish blood and you will not be able to resist tapping your toe or strumming your fingers on the table when someone gets their fiddle out and plays a tune.

3. You have strong convictions. Whether the topic is religion, politics or your favourite sports team there will be no point in challenging your beliefs which you hold dearly, and you will argue about these beliefs passionately and convincingly.

4. You have a gift for writing and story-telling. You will be the one at the pub or social gathering that will keep the crowd entertained with your vivid and colourful tales. There may even be a bit of exaggeration thrown in for good measure, but it just makes your story all the more interesting.

5. You’ve got lovely skin and pleasing features. You may have porcelain, pale skin, or you may have freckles that outnumber the days of the year, but your features will be pleasantly proportioned and your eyes bright, with a genuine smile that lights up your face.

6. Your dinner is not complete without some spuds at the table. Whether it’s home-fries for breakfast, French fries for lunch, or baked, mashed or boiled for supper, the humble potato is a regular, healthy staple in your diet and you wouldn’t think of going a day without it.

7. You will likely have a few Irish names in your family tree because people of Irish descent are proud of their heritage and often pass down the names of their ancestors: Sean, Shane, Annie, Maggie, Michael, Patrick, Francis, Kelly, Bridget, Daniel, Aiden, Liam, Eileen, Irene, Brian, Barry, Collin, Ryan, Katie, Thomas, Matthew, Molly, William, Robert, Mark, Elizabeth, Peter, Sinead, Eva, Fay, Julia and so on…

8. You are better at swearing than most people. Partly because of your natural gift of gab and partly because of your quick wit, the swear-words seem to roll freely off of your tongue. You have even been known to make up your own, or stick a word in the middle for good measure, like “abso-bleedin’-lutely”.

9. Nothing brings out your poetic nature, natural ability to talk non-stop, or your talent for swearing like a few pints at the pub. A drink or two or three tends to make your exaggerations a bit more colourful, your storytelling even more fascinating, and your talent for music and dancing shines even brighter.

10. You are loyal. Your strong convictions and unshakeable beliefs are the most visible when it comes to your family and friends. If someone insults your friend then they’ve likely got a fight on their hands that they won’t win. If someone says something unkind about your family then they will have a nasty surprise coming to them that they didn’t bargain for. You are fiercely loyal to all you hold dear.

So, what are the Irish really like? Perhaps the best description comes from the popular historian, Carl Wittke:

“The so-called Irish temperament is a mixture of flaming ego, hot temper, stubbornness, great personal charm and warmth, and a wit that shines through adversity. An irrepressible buoyancy, a vivacious spirit, a kindliness and tolerance for the common frailties of man and a feeling that ‘it is time enough to bid the devil good morning when you meet him’ are character traits which North Americans have associated with their Irish neighbors for more than a century.”

Whether you are of Irish descent or merely admire this nation known for its great writers, poets and story-tellers, I will leave you with a traditional Irish blessing and hope that you have the ‘luck o’ the Irish’ wherever life takes you! Sláinte (cheers!)

An Old Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

 

You May be Irish if…

Irish pub

The Top Ten Ways to tell if you’re Irish:

1. You have the ‘gift of gab’. There is an ancient rock near Cork, Ireland at Blarney Castle and they say that anyone who kisses the stone will have the gift of gab. If you are truly of Irish descent, then there’s likely no pressing need to make the journey, as you surely already possess the talent of talking rings around most other people.

2. You are musical. Maybe you play an instrument or perhaps you just sing in the shower, but the gift of music is in your Irish blood and you will not be able to resist tapping your toe or strumming your fingers on the table when someone gets their fiddle out and plays a tune.

3. You have strong convictions. Whether the topic is religion, politics or your favourite sports team there will be no point in challenging your beliefs which you hold dearly, and you will argue about these beliefs passionately and convincingly.

4. You have a gift for writing and story-telling. You will be the one at the pub or social gathering that will keep the crowd entertained with your vivid and colourful tales. There may even be a bit of exaggeration thrown in for good measure, but it just makes your story all the more interesting.

5. You’ve got lovely skin and pleasing features. You may have porcelain, pale skin, or you may have freckles that outnumber the days of the year, but your features will be pleasantly proportioned and your eyes bright, with a genuine smile that lights up your face.

6. Your dinner is not complete without some spuds at the table. Whether it’s home-fries for breakfast, French fries for lunch, or baked, mashed or boiled for supper, the humble potato is a regular, healthy staple in your diet and you wouldn’t think of going a day without it.

7. You will likely have a few Irish names in your family tree because people of Irish descent are proud of their heritage and often pass down the names of their ancestors: Sean, Shane, Annie, Maggie, Michael, Patrick, Francis, Kelly, Bridget, Daniel, Aiden, Liam, Eileen, Irene, Brian, Barry, Collin, Ryan, Katie, Thomas, Matthew, Molly, William, Robert, Mark, Elizabeth, Peter, Sinead, Eva, Fay, Julia and so on…

8. You are better at swearing than most people. Partly because of your natural gift of gab and partly because of your quick wit, the swear-words seem to roll freely off of your tongue. You have even been known to make up your own, or stick a word in the middle for good measure, like “abso-bleedin’-lutely”.

9. Nothing brings out your poetic nature, natural ability to talk non-stop, or your talent for swearing like a few pints at the pub. A drink or two or three tends to make your exaggerations a bit more colourful, your storytelling even more fascinating, and your talent for music and dancing shines even brighter.

10. You are loyal. Your strong convictions and unshakeable beliefs are the most visible when it comes to your family and friends. If someone insults your friend then they’ve likely got a fight on their hands that they won’t win. If someone says something unkind about your family then they will have a nasty surprise coming to them that they didn’t bargain for. You are fiercely loyal to all you hold dear.

So, what are the Irish really like? Perhaps the best description comes from the popular historian, Carl Wittke:

“The so-called Irish temperament is a mixture of flaming ego, hot temper, stubbornness, great personal charm and warmth, and a wit that shines through adversity. An irrepressible buoyancy, a vivacious spirit, a kindliness and tolerance for the common frailties of man and a feeling that ‘it is time enough to bid the devil good morning when you meet him’ are character traits which North Americans have associated with their Irish neighbors for more than a century.”

Whether you are of Irish descent or merely admire this nation known for its great writers, poets and story-tellers, I will leave you with a traditional Irish blessing and hope that you have the ‘luck o’ the Irish’ wherever life takes you! Sláinte (cheers!)

An Old Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

http://www.staffordwilson.com