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Nollaig na mBan faoi mhaise dhaoibh! (Happy Women’s Christmas)

So you thought that was Christmas? You took your decorations down? Oh, dear friends, Christmas isn’t over yet! It’s Women’s Christmas today, or Nollaig na mBan (in the Irish language).

Christmas doesn’t finish until midnight tonight, and the tradition in Ireland is that today is a day for women to indulge and celebrate, and even for some, to be waited on for their men. Traditionally it was because women were working like crazy over Christmas and were allowed a day off, now it is more of an excuse for women to get together. It is said that women in rural Ireland used to rear turkeys to raise money for Christmas, and would spend any leftovers on today’s celebration.

We’re not the only ones with a celebration today. It is Epiphany, the day when the wise men arrive at the manger (according to Christian tradition). We would have ours – literally – making their way across the window sill over Christmas to arrive at the crib today. We took it very seriously and raised eyes when we saw wise men in the crib on Christmas Day elsewhere.

In France to celebrate Epiphany they eat Galette des Rois (translates as King Cake), made of puff pastry and frangipane. The tradition of King Cake extends through many countries including Spain (who have Roscón de Reyes) & Greece (Vasilopita), they even had a similar twelfth night tradition involving a cake or pie in England. In French and English custom a bean and a pea was included, the receivers of which became king or queen for the evening. In Italy, on the eve of epiphany gifts are delivered to children by Befana, with wine and morsels of food left out for her the night before. Not unlike our Santa Claus, really!

So, what have I planned? I have decided to hold a Women’s Christmas in proper Christmas fashion. We’re having turkey –  I haven’t had turkey in years as none of my family enjoy it. This one is from Copas and comes highly recommended by my friend Ailbhe so I am hugely looking forward to it.

I’ve also got a very important part of my feast, and that is the traditional spiced beef from Cork. I make my own often (recipe is in Comfort & Spice and North South Food cooked it for their Christmas dinner. This one I brought back from home, and it is from award winning butcher & black pudding king Jack McCarthy in Kanturk in North Cork. His is a spiced beef with cider and guinness, so that should be fabulous.

There will also be a festive chocolate dessert of chocolate mousse with chestnuts, I just love a good chocolate mousse and can’t resist the festive twist.

Other than that it will just be a nice relaxed evening waving in the New Year and taking advantage of any reason to have a little knees up. Austerity can wait for another few days.

Nollaig na mBan faoi mhaise dhaoibh!

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I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

15 Comments

  1. Have a wonderful day! I think after this year, the spiced beef is going to be a new family tradition for us! In fact it might have become an Easter dish too!

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  2. So looking forward to it and more so now with spiced beef, fab! Can’t believe we southside Dubliners missed out on Little Christmas! Knew the name and day but never had the ‘lady craic’, so to speak! *blushes*

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  3. As far as I am concerned you can’t have too many traditions that involve food. Next year I need to focus of getting invited to a Nollaig na mBan celebration next year. Chocolate mousse with chestnuts – oh yes!

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  4. Niamh, I’ve just started following your blog and LOVE it, both as a foodie and as an ex-pat Irish woman ( I lived in London for 12 fabulous years and still miss it like a limb after 6 years away). Your entry today was so interesting. My mother has been giving out to me for taking down the tree etc before the wise men came, but I had no idea how other countries celebrated the Epiphany with food. Lovely. Failing to celebrate Women’s Christmas extends to Meath, Ailbhe – I’d never heard of the tradition. But, hell, I’m going to adopt it from now on! Any excuse to celebrate in January!

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  5. I love Epiphany…my wise men have roamed all throughout the house and have reached the nativity! We will bless the house today and have mince pie…the spices represent the gifts from the Magi. Nollaig na mBan is huge where I live. I will take down all the decorations today, except for the nativity…I’ll leave that up until Feb 2nd~Candlemass. Then I’ll go and celebrate w/friends. Have a lovely Nollaig na mBan!!!! Enjoy. Merry Christmas.

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  6. Pingback: It’s Not Over Until the Ladies Have Had Their Day Off! | Love, Me

  7. Happy Womens Lil Xmas to you too Niamh. Myself & my oldest friend traditionally whined Joni Mitchell songs on this night as students in Cork in the ’90’s. We continue to bring the tradition to a few local pubs in the midlands in Ireland, where we are off to shortly. Prompt pub & pool table clearer. ;-)

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  8. lovely post Niamh – great to see how Nollaig na mBan is celebrated in other countries. Have a great night tonight – would love to be there :-)

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  9. Happy Women’s Christmas then! I too have just started reading your blog and thoroughly enjoy it! Keep up the good work! Just a small note though: “Vassilópita” is traditionally made and cut in New Year’s Eve in Greece and Cyprus, not on Epiphany day. On Epiphany day we make loukoumades
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loukoumades :)

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  10. Like in France and Spain, in Portugal we also celerate “Dia dos Reis” today, and eat the traditional “Bolo Rei” (king cake). Christmas decorations are only removed tomorrow. For us the Christmas season only ends tonight.

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  11. They say you learn something new every day and this is a new one for me…Happy Women’s Christmas…it’s the years that I have spent living abroad! Must remember for next year!

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  12. Pingback: Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Xmas): In Pictures |

  13. Niamh, your blog is so fantastic, I just love it – so informative! I can’t believe I missed out on this wonderful tradition this year. Although we did have the Greek aspects covered. I’ll definitely be adding it to my diary for 2013. The festivities may have more of a summer twist on this side of the pond!!

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  14. Loved hearing about your 3 wise kings on their journey – we had a similar tradition! Nollag na mban faoi mhaise dhuit freisin from a fellow Corkonian living in London town! x

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