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 by 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 (the 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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Written by Niamh
Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.