Here’s my article from the Irish Examiner’s Feelgood for the day that is in it. Welcome to Nollaig na mBan, Women’s little Christmas, something I’d never heard off until I came to Cork.
There are times when living as an exile in Cork I miss my home county of Dublin, hearing the Dublin accent every day, enjoying Dublin wit, strolling down Grafton street or jumping on a Dart or the Luas.
However, there is one day in every year when moving to Cork was the best thing I ever did.
Until I moved here, I’d never heard of such a day. Living in my Dublin bubble I didn’t care much about anything that went on outside ‘The Pale’ and in truth if someone had spoken of ‘Women’s Little Christmas’ I’d most likely have dismissed it as ‘something they do in the country.’
For anyone not in the know this day historically was one in which men gave the poor exhausted women of Ireland a break. They cooked the dinner and took over household chores. Thankfully, the women of Cork and some other counties have modified that tradition somewhat and instead of staying home celebrating the wonder of their men cooking and cleaning they go out in their hundreds, for lunch, dinner, a show or a few drinks.
As a young Dub arriving here in my twenties my feminist side raged at the idea of such a day. Why could women and men not go out together? Who would want to go to an all women’s night out anyway? Surely us women were liberated and didn’t need a special night just for us?
Yes, I was full of arguments until a friend invited me to join her rather huge family of in-laws for my first ever Women’s Little Christmas. Secretly I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. A country singer and her band in a large room in a bar is not exactly something a true Dub was reared to appreciate.
How wrong I was. In fact I enjoyed it so much I wondered was I really a true blue Dub? I discovered within my DNA lay something, which when accompanied with a drink or two allowed me not only recall ever country song the lovely lady blasted out, but the desire to sing them at the top of my voice, swaying hand in hand with the hundred women gathered. I was also gifted at waltzing.
From that night on Women’s Little Christmas was permanently marked in my calendar. Each year the entertainment changed, but the fun prevailed. The year I attended a night whose headline act was a tribute to Joe Dolan I accepted there was no hope for me.
As the years passed I’d look around at mothers, daughters and daughters-in-law all having the best of fun together on this most special of nights and hoped that in time this would be a tradition my own daughters and I would enjoy.Unfortunately as they are still at the ‘how sad to go out with your mother’ stage, that day has yet to arrive.
In recent years my friend and I have begun to celebrate this night with our other family, the girlfriends we have shared twenty five years of friendship with. Six of us abandon our families in unseemly haste and descend on West Cork for the night. There is food, drink, dancing and unfortunately after a certain hour there is singing.
With so much discussion recently about gender roles and the stereotyping of women and men I wonder will this day become a thing of the past? While I wave my feminist flag and demand equal rights I ask myself would we be so tolerant of a day dedicated to men?
For fear such an opinion gathers weight may I suggest a compromise? Instead of losing our day perhaps men gain one? We will have Women’s Little Christmas and Men can have Men’s Mini Easter?
Photo credit..London Irish Graduate Network