Here's Why Nollaig Na Mban Can Help Us Be Women First And Mothers, Wives, Carers Second

On the eve of Nollaig Na Mban, Little Christmas, let's reinvent what the traditional celebration means. Shifting focus from housework to an achievable feminist agenda for 2018, Jessie Collins shares her personal manifesto.


There are few Irish traditions that could be in any way construed as feminist but Nollaig Na Mban is possibly one we can claim as our own, and perhaps with a little tweaking, could actually become great again.

Originating on the Feast of the Epiphany, the 6th of January was traditionally not just the day when the decorations came down, but a time for women to abandon the house, having been through weeks of Christmas toil, and head to the pub while the men in their lives stayed at home and hopefully, picked up the slack. Whether the latter half of that arrangement transpired is hard to ascertain, but at least women the country over got a chance to consciously uncouple from the sink and replace their others halves at the local watering hole.

Once at the pub, tradition would decree that they picked over the bones of Christmas just-passed, i.e probably did some much-needed venting about how much was laid on their plate, while also planning for the year ahead, namely, how do I not end up doing everything this year again.

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Fast forward to modern times and the festival has taken on a new life, with a chance for women just to congregate and share stories, perhaps over wine, or cake or breakfast. Granted, no woman wants the notion of having their one day off a year from chores marked as a cause for celebration, yet, shifting it from a focus on housework, gives us the opportunity to reinvent the festival as an opportunity to reset the feminist agenda, and for that reason there seems to be as much need of this precious day as ever before.

So, on this Women’s Christmas, here are my hopes and aspirations for a positive, feminist 2018:

A female leader we can all get behind

If there is an election this year, our miserable ratio of women in Irish politics will hopefully get a short sharp shock. If a presidential election also comes to pass, we can think of at least four great women that would do the job with gusto. Globally, I think most of us, including men, would be happy if Angela Merkel could potentially go on for at least another four years.

Women being seen as women first, mothers, wives, carers second

That includes Repeal the Eighth, as well as the obsession with women who remain child-free, and or/single, or with women’s ability to reproduce at all. Men, you are welcome to this scrutiny, should you so wish, but we wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  

Having to be nice

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We have had to live with a year, a very long year, of global consequences resulting from an electorate choosing the most unqualified man in the history to be the leader of the free world, over the most qualified, who happened to be a woman. Yes, there was a myriad of reasons for this perhaps, but a pervasive sexism was all-too apparent, with women still being seen as ‘shrill’ when they get passionate, or having to put their mothering credentials out there to get elected. If 2018 can bring us anything, let it be the chance to be less appeasing, less ingratiating, and the courage to be brave.

Penalising for lack of equal pay

According to CSO figures released at the end of last year, the gender pay gap has increased by 2 percent, with women like TV3’s Sinead Desmond, allegedly, still falling foul of the yawning cavern of the financial expanse between fellow male colleagues. The time for complacency on this must now be up. Mandatory reporting isn’t going to cut it. This is a financial issue, which needs to be met with a monetary response. We need to follow in the footsteps of Iceland.

And given you are going to be underpaid by at least a 25% again this year, compared to your male counterparts, I’d suggest taking Nollaig na Mban as just one of the paybacks for years of free toil. And remember, 2018 also marks 100 years of women getting the vote, and the election of the first female MP, an Irish woman, Countess Markievicz who famously advised us to “Dress suitably in short skirts and sitting boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver.” Minus the revolver, perhaps that is something we can all get on board with. Tá an t-am anois, go n-éirí an bóthar leat.

Photo Credit Stable Ireland

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