A Traditional Custom in January

Nollaig Bheag

Brige Woodward

A less common name for this feast is “Nollaig na mBan”.

Little Christmas “Nollaig Bheag” is one of the traditional names in Ireland for 6th January. In the rest of the world it is more commonly known as the feast of the Epiphany, as Christmas day fell on this day under the Julian calendar, whereas under the Gregorian calendar it falls on December 25th. A less common name for this feast is “Nollaig na mBan”. Whatever name we know it as, it marks the end of the Christmas period and also the last day of Christmas holidays for school children.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'A Traditional Custom in January' page

Traditionally on this day in Ireland, women would finally get a much earned rest from cooking and looking after everyone. The men folk would handle all the chores in the house and children would buy a gift for their mothers and grandmothers, though this custom has now been taken over by Mother’s Day. Women would often gather together and hold parties or go out together with mothers, sisters, aunts and friends and enjoy a few hours of fun and laughter away from their families at home.

Nollaig na mBan is slowly dying out in many parts of Ireland, however in Cork and the South West coast the tradition is still very strong. This is a wonderful holiday tradition which reminds us about the strength of Irish women, especially mothers.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'A Traditional Custom in January' page

Do you have memories of this celebration in years gone by? Was this celebrated around Mayo? Let us know your comments.

This page was added by Brige Woodward on 19/01/2012.
Comments about this page

Hi, my Mum was brought up in Co Kildare and moved to England around 1939 to train as a Nurse. my Dad was born and bread in Cork, and moved to England around the same time.

I can remember as a child my Mum celebrating little Christmas (not be going out with friends etc) and we would not take the Christmas decorations down until the next day. I can only guess that this day was also celebrated in Co. Kildare (Athy) when she was growing up, although equally it could have been mixed up with Epiphany. However, I am grateful she taught me about this day and passed on a tradition.

By Fran Kenny
On 06/01/2014

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