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HOLIDAYS

In Ireland, Little Christmas Is a Day for Women to Celebrate the End of the Holiday Season—at the Nearest Pub

Mike Rampton
ViewApart/iStock via Getty Images
ViewApart/iStock via Getty Images / ViewApart/iStock via Getty Images
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When it comes to tradition, a cherry-picked approach normally makes sense. Take the fun rituals and customs, leave the offensive stereotypes and archaic divisions of household labor.

The holiday season, and Christmas in particular, is obviously laden with hugely enjoyable traditions—but the one where Mom does everything while Dad just throws back beers while sitting on the couch should probably stay in the past. However, another tradition that grew out of that seems worth holding onto.

In Ireland, every January 6 marks Nollaig na mBan (roughly pronounced “Null-ug na Mon”), which translates from Gaelic as “Women’s Christmas." The idea is that, due to women having done all the work of the holiday season, once it’s over, they get to put their feet up.

January 6 marks the end of the festive season in a lot of Christian countries—the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is known as the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the Magi visiting the baby Jesus and acknowledging him as the son of God. In England, it’s known as Twelfth Night, while in Spanish-speaking countries it is Día de Los Reyes (literally “Kings’ Day," usually translated as Three Kings’ Day). Among other things, it marks the day by which Christmas decorations need to be taken down.

On Nollaig na mBan—more so in rural parts of Ireland than in larger towns—this also historically involved men taking on household duties for the day, looking after children and cooking meals while women headed to the pub, usually off-limits, to down a few pints of Guinness.

While most of the more obscure customs of Nollaig na mBan—such as the idea that farm animals briefly gained the ability to speak, but bad luck would befall anyone who heard them, or that rubbing a herring’s tail on a child’s eyes would boost their immunity for the year—have died out, ladies-only promotions in restaurants and bars remain common on January 6 even today.

Given that there is still an enormously unfair gender imbalance in terms of household chores, a day of getting hammered in the name of tradition isn’t going to change that—but it also can’t hurt. Cheers!

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