- This article is about the traditional celebration of Christmas in early January. For the Tasmanian island, see: Little Christmas Island
Women's Little Christmas
Nollaig na mBan
Là na Bliadhna Ùire
|Observed by||Christians in Ireland and the Irish diaspora, particularly women
|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|
Little Christmas (Irish: Nollaig Bheag) is one of the traditional names in Ireland for 6 January, it is also widely known in the rest of the world as the Feast of the Epiphany. It is sometime thought that it is called this because under the older Julian calendar, Christmas Day celebrations fell on that day whereas under the Gregorian calendar it falls on 25 December. However the eastern tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus on 6 January precedes the creation of the Gregorian Calendar by hundreds of years. By the year 1500 AD eastern Churches were celebrating Christmas on 6 January and western churches were celebrating it on 25 December even though both were using the Julian Calendar. 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.
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 celebrate 'Little Christmas' on the twenty-fifth day of every month, except for December, when the twenty-fifth day is of course celebrated as Christmas Day.
In some parts of England, such as Lancashire, this day is also known as Little Christmas. 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 Scandinavia, where the main celebration of Christmas is on Christmas Eve, the evening of the 23rd is known as little Christmas eve (Danish: lillejuleaften). In Norway and Sweden, Little Christmas Day refers to 13 January (Norwegian: Tyvendedagen; Swedish: Tjugondedag), twenty days after Christmas, and is regarded as the day when ornaments must be removed from Christmas trees and any leftover food must be eaten.
In some parts of the Spanish-speaking world, Christmas Day is strictly religious, and gifts are exchanged on the feast of the Epiphany, when the wise men (or Magi) brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Tradition names them Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The custom of blessing homes on Epiphany developed because the feast commemorates the time that the three kings visited the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The 12 days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day (December 25) and end on January 5, eve of the traditional date of the Epiphany.
Little Christmas is also called Women's Christmas (Irish: Nollaig na mBan), and sometimes Women's Little Christmas. The tradition, still very strong in Cork and Kerry is so called because of the Irish men taking on all the household duties for the day. Most women hold parties or go out to celebrate the day with their friends, sisters, mothers, and aunts. Bars and restaurants serve mostly women and girls on this night. Children often buy presents for their mothers and grandmothers.
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.
- McGowan, Andrew, "How December 25 Became Christmas"
- School terms in primary and post-primary schools
- Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2001).
- Cheshire notes and queries. Swain and Co., Ltd. 1882. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- 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.
- American-Scandinavian Foundation (1917). Scandinavian review. American-Scandinavian Foundation. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- Norwegian Migration to America. Ardent Media. pp. 216–. GGKEY:AEZFNU47LJ2. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- Varadaraja Raman (June 2005). Variety in Religion and Science: Daily Reflections. iUniverse. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-0-595-35840-3. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- John Harland (May 2003). Lancashire Folklore. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 216–. ISBN 978-0-7661-5672-2. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- George Augustus Sala (1869). Rome and Venice: with other wanderings in Italy, in 1866-7. Tinsley brothers. pp. 397–. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- Little Women's Christmas
- ireland.com – The Irish Times, 8 January 1998 On the women's day of Christmas
- Kelfenora set figures
- YouTube video of the Labasheeda Set 3rd Figure Reel-Little Christmas
- Sheila Flitton, an Irish actress and playwright, speaks about Little Christmas, its origins, and how it is celebrated today.