Little Christmas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Little Christmas
Also calledIreland
Women's Christmas
Women's Little Christmas
Nollaig na mBan
Là Challuinn
Là na Bliadhna Ùire
Old Christmas
Armenian Christmas
Observed byAmish
Christians in Ireland and the Irish diaspora, particularly women
Scottish Highlanders
Newfoundland and Labrador
TypeChristian, Irish and Scottish
Significancevisit of the Three Kings to Jesus, former date of Christmas
Observancesreligious services, gift giving, family gatherings, meeting friends
Date6 January in Ireland, 1 January in the Scottish Highlands
Related toChristmas, 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.[1]


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.[2]

For this reason, in some parts of the world, the Feast of the Epiphany, which is traditionally observed on 6 January, is sometimes referred to as Old Christmas or Old Christmas Day.[3][4]

For example, among some Anabaptists, such as the Amish, Old Christmas is celebrated, as the Julian calendar was retained for liturgical feasts.[5]

Observance by country[edit]

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,[6] while Epiphany is known as Là Féill nan Rìgh, the feast-day of the Kings.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] The name Little Christmas is also found in other languages including Slovene (mali Božič), Galician (Nadalinho), and Ukrainian.

In Scandinavia, where the main celebration of Christmas is on Christmas Eve, the evening of 23 December is known as little Christmas Eve (Danish: lillejuleaften).[9][10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

Women's Christmas[edit]

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.[13][14] Goose was the traditional meat served on Women's Christmas.[15] 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",[16] describes both some sources of information and the spirit of this occasion.

Other meanings[edit]

A "Little Christmas" is also a figure in Irish set dancing.[17] 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.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "School terms in primary and post-primary schools". Archived from the original on 30 October 2013.
  2. ^ "How December 25 Became Christmas". Biblical Archaeology Society. 10 December 2019.
  3. ^ John Harland (May 2003). Lancashire Folklore. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 216–. ISBN 978-0-7661-5672-2. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  4. ^ George Augustus Sala (1869). Rome and Venice: with other wanderings in Italy, in 1866-7. Tinsley brothers. pp. 397. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  5. ^ "Why do Amish celebrate "Old" Christmas?". Dutchman News. 17 December 2009.
  6. ^ a b Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2001).
  7. ^ Cheshire notes and queries. Swain and Co., Ltd. 1882. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  8. ^ Arthur William Moore (1971). The folk-lore of the Isle of Man. Forgotten Books. pp. 150–. ISBN 978-1-60506-183-2. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  9. ^ American-Scandinavian Foundation (1917). Scandinavian review. American-Scandinavian Foundation. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  10. ^ Norwegian Migration to America. Ardent Media. pp. 216–. GGKEY:AEZFNU47LJ2. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  11. ^ "Advent to Epiphany: Celebrating The Christmas Cycle – Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on 29 June 2016.
  12. ^ "Candlemas". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 April 2014. Any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down.
  13. ^ "Little Women's Christmas". Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  14. ^ "The roots and traditions of Nollaig na mBan". RTÉ. 6 January 2020. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  15. ^ Hickey, Margaret (2018). Ireland's green larder : the definitive history of Irish food and drink ([Paperback edition] ed.). London: Unbound. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-78352-799-1. OCLC 1085196202.
  16. ^ "On the women's day of Christmas". The Irish Times. 8 January 1998.
  17. ^ "Kelfenora set figures". Archived from the original on 9 January 2004.
  18. ^ Labasheeda Set 3rd Figure Reel-Little Christmas. 23 September 2007 – via YouTube.

External links[edit]