Celebrating Nollaig na mBan

We’ve always celebrated Nollaig na mBan in my family. Whether it was the influence of my Limerick-born granny or my Clare-raised mother, we spent every 6th of January of my childhood in Ennis, having lunch with my Granny, her lovely neighbours who were such good friends to her and like grandaunts to me, and my aunt and female cousins.

So living in Cork, where ‘Little Women’s Christmas’ (women of all sizes welcome, despite the annoyingly conflated name) is bigger than Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day put together, has always provided a great selection of entertainment for the day.

This year I’ll be hosting Cork Simon’s Lunch for Nollaig na mBan for the second time, and enjoying the company of women of all ages in a raucous, glittering day that will be great fun, with a purpose. I’m delighted to be presenting Mary O’Rourke, or Mammy, as she is affectionately known by most of the country. We’ve worked together at a few events and she is always great craic, but with a core of steel (we agree to disagree on the subject of gender quotas, and probably on quite a few other things).

It was the reference to our guest speaker as ‘Mammy’ by all and sundry that has really made me reflect on what is different about Nollaig na mBan for me this year. I’ve written before about what a rollercoaster 2016 was for our family, but since last year’s Nollaig na mBan, a lot has changed for us. It’s the first one I’ll celebrate as a mother, the first without my Granny, and the first at which my mother is a granny. The wheel turns.

Loss is a constant vibration that intensifies at the times we celebrated together. This year, while remembering and celebrating my granny, I’ll be celebrating with the women who will fulfil that incredibly important role in my son’s life, and hopefully making a new family tradition.

Marian and Esther, my mother and mother-in-law.

Marian and Esther, my mother and mother-in-law.

Nollaig na mBan seems to be growing, largely commercialised by pubs and restaurants eager to cash in, but is it still a family occasion or do you celebrate with friends? If you’re from outside Cork and Kerry, have you heard of it? Is it a celebration worth adopting?




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