Women's Little Christmas
Nollaig na mBan
Là na Bliadhna Ùire
Christians in Ireland and the Irish diaspora, particularly women
Newfoundland and Labrador
|Type||Christian, Irish and Scottish|
|Significance||visit of the Three Kings to Jesus, former date of Christmas|
|Observances||religious services, gift giving, family gatherings, meeting friends|
|Date||6 January in Ireland, 1 January in the Scottish Highlands|
|Related to||Christmas, Epiphany, Christmastide, Epiphanytide|
Little Christmas (Irish: Nollaig na mBan, lit. 'Women's Christmas'), also known as Old Christmas, is one of the traditional names among Irish Christians and Amish Christians for 6 January, which is also known more widely as the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated after the conclusion of the twelve days of Christmastide. It is the traditional end of the Christmas season and until 2013 was the last day of the Christmas holidays for both primary and secondary schools in Ireland.
Owing to differences in liturgical calendars, as early as the fourth century, the churches of the eastern Roman Empire were celebrating Christmas on 6 January, while those of the western Roman Empire were celebrating it on 25 December.
Observance by country
In the Scottish Highlands the term Little Christmas (Scottish Gaelic: Nollaig Bheag) is applied to New Year's Day, also known as Là Challuinn, or Là na Bliadhna Ùire, while Epiphany is known as Là Féill nan Rìgh, the feast-day of the Kings. The Transalpine Redemptorists who live on Papa Stronsay in Scotland, celebrate 'Little Christmas' on the twenty-fifth day of every month, except for December, when the twenty-fifth day is celebrated as Christmas Day. The custom of blessing homes on Epiphany developed because the feast commemorates the time that the three kings visited the home of the Holy Family.
In the late 19th Century, the day was also known as Little Christmas in some parts of England, such as Lancashire. In the Isle of Man, New Year's Day on 1 January was formerly called Laa Nolick beg in Manx, or Little Christmas Day, while 6 January was referred to as Old Christmas Day. The name Little Christmas is also found in other languages including Slovene (mali Božič), Galician (Nadalinho), and Ukrainian.
In some parts of the Spanish-speaking world, the emphasis of Christmas Day is on family dinner reunion and church attendance, while gifts are exchanged on the Feast of the Epiphany, when according to tradition the Three Wise Men (or Magi) brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Child Jesus. Tradition names them Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. It is an important celebration in Spanish-speaking countries, mainly dedicated to children, who receive their gifts on the morning of 6 January. In some countries, like Spain, it is a public holiday that marks the end of the Christmas season which started on Christmas Eve (24 December).
In the Western Christian world, the two traditional days when Christmas decorations are removed are Twelfth Night (the night before the Feast of the Epiphany) and if they are not taken down on that day, Candlemas, the latter of which ends the Christmas-Epiphany season in some denominations.
In Ireland, Little Christmas is also called Women's Christmas (Irish: Nollaig na mBan), and sometimes Women's Little Christmas. The tradition, still strong in Cork and Kerry, is so called because Irish men take on household duties for the day. Goose was the traditional meat served on Women's Christmas. Some women hold parties or go out to celebrate the day with their friends, sisters, mothers and aunts. As a result, parties of women and girls are common in bars and restaurants on this night.
In Ireland and Puerto Rico, it is the traditional day to remove the Christmas tree and decorations. The tradition is not well documented, but one article from The Irish Times (January 1998), entitled "On the woman's day of Christmas", describes both some sources of information and the spirit of this occasion.
A "Little Christmas" is also a figure in Irish set dancing. It refers to a figure where half the set, four dancers, join together with hands linked behind partners lower back, and the whole figure proceeds to rotate in a clockwise motion, usually for eight bars.
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Any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down.
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- Labasheeda Set 3rd Figure Reel-Little Christmas. 23 September 2007 – via YouTube.