On this day it is the tradition in Ireland for the women to get together and enjoy their own Christmas, while the men folk stay at home and handle all the chores. It is also common for children to help their mothers and grandmothers with household chores and extra help.
The Nollaig na mBan tradition has regenerated tremendously in many parts of Ireland and on the west coast, the tradition is still very strong. Many establishments note that they are quite full with happy women celebrating this day, as they meet up with girl friends, sisters, aunts and mothers to celebrate their own little Christmas with Nollaig na mBan.
Approximate pronunciation guide
Nollaig – nul-laig
na mBan – nah mon/man (depending on the dialect)
séimhiú – shay-vu
sona – son-ah
shona – hon-ah
‘Oíche Nollaig na mBan’
From Selected Poems: Seán Ó Ríordáin, translation by Theo Dorgan
Bhí fuinneamh sa stoirm a éalaigh aréir,
Aréir oíche Nollaig na mBan,
As gealt-teach iargúlta tá laistiar den ré
Is do scréach tríd an spéir chughainn ’na gealt,
Gur ghíosc geataí comharsan mar ghogallach gé,
Gur bhúir abhainn shlaghdánach mar tharbh,
Gur múchadh mo choinneal mar bhuille ar mo bhéal
A las ’na splanc obann an fhearg.
Ba mhaith liom go dtiocfadh an stoirm sin féin
An oíche go mbeadsa go lag
Ag filleadh abhaile ó rince an tsaoil
Is solas an pheaca ag dul as,
Go líonfaí gach neomat le liúrigh ón spéir,
Go ndéanfaí den domhan scuaine scread,
Is ná cloisfinn an ciúnas ag gluaiseacht fám dhéin,
Ná inneall an ghluaisteáin ag stad.
There was power in the storm that escaped last night,
last night on Women’s Christmas,
from the desolate madhouse behind the moon
and screamed through the sky at us, lunatic,
making neighbours’ gates screech like geese
and the hoarse river roar like a bull,
quenching my candle like a blow to the mouth
that sparks a quick flash of rage.
I’d like if that storm would come again,
a night I’d be feeling weak
coming home from the dance of life
and the light of sin dwindling,
that every moment be full of the screaming sky,
that the world be a storm of screams,
and I wouldn’t hear the silence coming over me,
the car’s engine come to a stop.