Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Nollaig Na mBan


One of my friends bakes her shortbread on her grandmother's stone circle with the old design embossed on it. I just love this connection. Here she is serving it.

I mark the years in my Nollaig na mBan celebrations now. It gives a good slap to the back of December and on to a new year with my women friends.

It reminds me of the loveliness of the Nollaig na Mbans of my childhood years with my mother and aunts and greataunts and grandmother packing our 'front room' in front of the fire. With the laden tea trolley. It is a continuation, an honouring of the female traditions which I am sure were passed down from pre-Christianity in the times of the goddesses in Ireland. I miss my family at such events, my own progeny and Grandgirl, my beloved nieces, my darling sister - though she is with me in spirit as she celebrates it in Cork. And of course my Toronto and Irish friends.

There was much laughter in my diningroom. I allowed the guests this year to bring food. Newfoundlanders feel very naked without staggering under a hamper of food as they come in a friend's front door. And now I will be eating for weeks on the bounty that was laid on my table surrounded by flowers and chocolate and scented female gifts - candles, lotions and soaps. I am reminded of the fragility of our lives, how many that came to my Nollaigs in prior years are no longer with us. I count them by the candles I light. But I do not share this private ritual as a pall might descend.

I was amazed at the number who liked my photo of the event on FB, over 40 at last count, many are suggesting they are going to start their own Nollaig celebration next year. I am delighted, for we need to spread this far and wide. For the women who went before us and the women coming up behind us.

For this annual celebration is a beautiful, loving link to each other.

23 comments:

  1. If I had such a gathering, it would be so small that it would not even form a que at the bus stop. I envy you all your women friends but it must be a lot of work to maintain them all. See how I see friendship as labor? I am glad it was a success and that you were able to recapture the mood of your youth. And then all that lovely food you are stuck with!

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  2. Isn't it odd Irene, I always feel that my friends give me far more than I ever give them, with rare exception.

    And I'm not talking material stuff at all. Their time, their care their compassion and interest.

    I feel the solidarity of the sisterhood even as I write this. I just hung up the phone from one who was there on Sunday offering to edit my work as she has an advanced degree in English.

    XO
    WWW

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  3. I am sure thar you have an advanced degree in friendship, WWW.

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  4. Aw *shuffles feet*, aren't you the "plamaser" as my people say. :)

    XO
    WWW

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  5. It has to be a good thing to keep such benign traditions alive and thriving. I wonder if there's any loose link between your celebration and the old English Distaff Day tradition (mentioned in my post for 7 January)? That related to the female side of things too, and marked the day after the traditional 12 days of Christmas.

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  6. How wonderful
    I probably am like Irene.
    Friends through the years mostly
    older and now gone.
    Moved back to my woods location
    and alone most of the time.
    But I kind of like it.
    I still feel loved....

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  7. The Nollaig na mBan tradition was never strong for me growing up, but I love to hear of others' experience of it.

    A friend in Dublin mentioned it in a short radio column you might enjoy; it's in this show if you scroll forward to about 1:10:15. She's a writer, and a rock of sense.

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  8. Wonderful! We have yearly holiday gatherings that are in this spirit, but not all-woman events.
    I would love to follow you on Facebook. If you are interested, my name is Marianna Scheffer.

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  9. Only last year did I learn of this holiday celebration.

    If I am moved to my new location near my daughter's, I would love to have such a gathering.

    Thank you for sharing.

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  10. if I am moved by the coming Christmas, I will celebrate this with my daughter's.

    This was not clear in my previous comment.

    Thank you.

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  11. A wonderful tradition unspoilt by the commercialism of the previous few weeks. I do miss it. I did try here in Northern Ireland a couple of times, with different groups, but somehow it didn't take off. Schools are back on 2nd of Jan so everyone considers the holidays over and just want to get back to normal routine. Shame really.

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  12. T:
    I think it exists in many cultures - this the honouring of women took place, of by and with each other.
    it could well be connected to the festival you wrote about.
    XO
    WWW

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  13. I asked my sister about this last time we spoke and she said it was a tradition strongest in the south west---Go figure! You being from Cork...I leave the tree up until what we called "Little Christmas," but have never heard of it being a special womens' day. But now I know and I think I'll be doing it each year from now on! The older I get the more I value my connections with other women. Glad you had such a nice time---just glum I wasn't there! And that's no plamas!

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  14. Ah, that's wonderful. Women friends are a blessing.

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  15. Thanks for the link Stan, women have still got a long way to go in many areas of the world and the country of my birth is still very much in the dark ages.
    XO
    WWW

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  16. Magnolia:
    I am so happy to hear of this!
    And welcome to my blog!
    XO
    WWW

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  17. GM:
    Maybe you need to keep trying or have it at Ellie's??
    XO
    WWW

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  18. SJG:

    nullug na mahn

    Literally Christmas of women.

    XO
    WWW

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  19. Molly:
    Your sister is correct, it seemed to hold fast in Cork for some reason and died off in other areas as women got busier and more sophisticated. I often wonder how many more traditions died in the name of modernization. You would enjoy the link to RTE that Stan sent me.
    I am overjoyed to hear of your continuation of the festival next year. The more the merrier and I wish you lived nearer.
    XO
    WWW

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  20. SAW:
    We don't celebrate each other often enough!!
    XO
    WWW

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  21. OWJ:
    As you should.
    Because you are.
    XO
    WWW

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