Irish Tradition: Little Christmas and Women’s Christmas Celebrated on the Epiphany

Image: rjnagle via Flickr / The

Little Christmas (Irish: Nollaig Bheag) is one of the traditional names in Ireland for January 6 – more commonly known in the rest of the world as the Feast of the Epiphany. It is so called because under the older Julian calendar, Christmas Day celebrations fell on that day – under the Gregorian calendar it falls on December 25. It is the traditional end of the Christmas season – the twelfth day of Christmas – and the last day of the Christmas holidays for both primary and secondary schools in Ireland.

Little Christmas is also called Women’s Christmas  and sometimes Women’s Little Christmas. The tradition, still very strong in Cork and Kerry – is so called because of the tradition of Irish men taking on the very untraditional role of doing 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.

Irish actress and playwright Sheila Fitton shares her “Woman’s Christmas” tradition and experience here:

4 Responses to Irish Tradition: Little Christmas and Women’s Christmas Celebrated on the Epiphany

  1. Daniel Patrick Murphy says:

    Ghost of Little Christmas Past

    Shape Shifting

    And their voices keep wandering
    Waiting for the solstice of their soul,
    Waiting to be touched by season’s turn,
    Waiting to traipse over gentle terrain.
    Unkempt in the valley’s wild scents,

    Crossing the streams rambling tolls,
    Crossing the river’s sly riddle,
    They cross until night’s chains
    Break in the sun’s slow stroll.

    The Grandfather’s unspeaking tongue,
    His widow clutching her dread,
    Waits till the cruel age cleanses itself,
    Waits through the harsh hours’ fling,
    Waits till the crossing sheds the night.

    And meandering daylight treads
    On some babbling misty walk,
    With the limbs of a restless host
    Singing low songs for the dead.

    –Daniel Patrick Murphy

  2. Anonymous says:

    January 6 is also Little Christmas in the Greek Orthodox tradition and for the same reason – Calendar. There’s actually a break-away sect (no negativity here) that still observes the old calendar – like anyone knows Christ’s real birthday. It’s enough to celebrate Christmas on the best guessed day. I’ve forgot the Women’s Christmas – I’ll make coffee this breakfast. I wish my wife drank coffee – but it’s the thought that counts. :)