Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Nollaig na mban.

Hello! Happy New Year and Merry Nollaig na mban!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are easing slowly back into the post-Christmas routine. After days and days of torrential rain when it seems as though the hours of daylight diminished to a few sparse minutes, it seems fitting that this morning should rise into a beautiful crisp sun-shiny winter morning. Today in Ireland is Nollaig na mban or Little Christmas/ Women's Christmas where it was traditional (in the West mostly I believe) for the women to take the day off from the grind of the household tasks and celebrate with friends and relations leaving the men behind. I must admit until moving here I had never heard of this custom, we never celebrated it in my own family in the North. This year I had forgotten about it until listening to the radio this morning.

Of - course the relevancy of this custom is somewhat suspect - shouldn't the division of domestic and the caring tasks be fairly distributed by now? However, in a world where the issues of equality and concerns of the feminist movement are still acutely relevant; I think that  Nollaig na mban still deserves special notice,  it is important to both celebrate the power of our femininity, the strength of the women who contribute/ have contributed to our lives and generally nourish our spiritual and physical selves. My little girl was very interested in celebrating Nollaig na mban unfortunately she had to be packed off to school this morning but in the future we shall take it as a day just for ourselves or get together with friends and family.

I am going to put my feet up, drink some coffee and reacquaint myself with the lives of some incredible Irish women. This year is the centenary of the 1916 Rising, the nascent emergence of Ireland as an independent nation and the beginnings of a century of great change in the lives of many women. Some women did not wait for change they pioneered it.

Maud Gonne: Political Activist, Irish Nationalist, Spiritualist, Actor and Muse of W.B. Yates. The Woman's Peace Committee. The Women's Prisoner's Defence League.

Countess Markievicz: Revolutionary, Socialist, Suffragette, first woman to be elected to the British Parliament, formed the 1st Dail Eireann, Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, Artist, founded Fianna Eireann, joined Irish Citizen Army, key activist in the Rising and on the Republican side in the Civil War.
Hannah Sheehy Skeffington: Teacher, Suffragette, Irish Nationalist, Political activist, founding member of the Irish Women Worker's Union, assistant editor of An Phoblacht.

1916 was also the birth year of a very important woman in my life, a woman who did not break out of the conventions that the patriarchy and indeed sectarianism that (Northern) Irish Society had set down for her but a remarkable person nevertheless, at times infuriating but with a fierce love for all her family. She held a profound faith but had a sharp realism about the sexist confines of Catholicism . She left school at 14 and became a mill girl but wrote secret lines of poetry and reminisced fondly about being told that she could draw very well. She brought up six children and partly one grand-daughter for whom she would buy great piles of second-hand books out of her sparse pension.

J.H. 1916-2010.

Happy Women's Christmas to you all! 2015 was a very good year for our family and I am really looking forward to whatever 2016 will bring. What are you hoping for this year? Who was inspired you thus far? Bye for now - here's hoping my blogging will be a tad more regular. ;)


  1. Great post my dear. I lament the lack of inspiring women in politics here whenever we have a discussion about it. I always find it easier to pick out amazing women from the past than I do the present. My all time fave heroine is Aethelflaed, King Alfred's daughter. She led her army into battle when her husband (the King of Mercia) was too infirm to do so and ruled the Kingdom. She was also well educated, literate etc. An amazing woman. x

    1. Thanks CT.I wonder if it is so hard to get into politics now as a woman that they simply toe the party line rather than being truly original? Aethelflaed is a fantastic example of sheer grit -early medieval history is fascinating stuff.