Off the fence
SISTERS, female friends, ladies, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Particularly tomorrow. After all it is Wednesday, January 6, Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Little Christmas).
Go on girls, get those aprons off. Put your feet up. And for 24 hours treat that special man in your life like your personal valet – even slave. Breakfast in bed sounds good. Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with freshly ground coffee, perhaps. Then, how about a snooze, while turning the pages of a favourite book or magazine ...
Even though this ancient festival of Nollaig na mBan may now be shrouded in the mists of time and its simple significance no longer relevant for the majority of modern Irish women, perhaps it is time to put a present-day prism on the female festivities.
The origins of Nollaig na mBan reach far into the bowels of Irish rural history. The fattened turkey no longer gobbles in a cobbled yard awaiting matriarchal execution.
Indeed, the praties are no longer dug from a ridge in the vegetable plot, with the spectre of blight and famine hanging in the salt-soaked air.
According to Kevin Danaher’s classic book ‘The Year in Ireland: A Calendar’, Nollaig na mBan is defined by the notion that ‘Christmas Day was marked by beef and whiskey and men’s fare, while on Little Christmas Day the dainties preferred by women – cake, tea and wine – were more in evidence’.
Moreover, academic Alan Titley has observed that in the past many Irish rural women would have raised five or six turkeys to sell at the Christmas market.
They then kept their earnings to spend on the Christmas festivities – like egg money – and if there was anything left over they deservedly indulged themselves.
Admittedly, the suffragettes of the early 20th century and the women’s liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s ensured that the fairer gender now experiences more equitable circumstances.
But let’s be frank, the vast majority of women still do most of the Christmas cooking and the preparations for the 12-day festival. Okay, if you happen to be one of the minority of males who basted the turkey and made the jelly for the trifle please inform The Mayo News.
According to Professor Daithí Ó hÓgáin, there was an old belief that as Christmas came to a conclusion at midnight on Nollaig na mBan, three colour transformations always took place: the water in the well became wine; the rushes became silk and the sandstone became gold.
Oh! and with this year’s blue moon on New Year’s Eve, you’d never know, it could be a sign that the good males all over this county are about to experience an epiphany and rush home this evening (Tuesday) to marinade the meat and make the pastry for those last mince pies of the season.