January 6th, also known as ‘Little Christmas’, ‘The Epiphany’ and Twelfth Night, often tends to be one of the busiest days in the calendar at this time of year.
In Ireland the date signifies Nollaig na mBan, and was traditionally seen as an opportunity for women of Irish households to take a break and catch up with friends for some rest and relaxation following all their hard work throughout the Christmas season. Ireland being Ireland, they were also then expected to take down the Christmas decorations and clean the house afterwards.
In the main, it’s a day to kick back, enjoy and celebrate the women in your life, and recent years have seen a revival of many of the best aspects of the tradition, in a move that sees the day increasingly marked with small parties and cultural gatherings celebrating women happening throughout the city.
So from literary events and festivals, to ideas to putting together your own DIY events, check out our pick of some of the things happening in the city to mark the day this year. #nollaignamban
As part of this year’s celebrations, the Irish Writers Centre will showcase the extraordinary achievements of women writers in Ireland at the 2024 edition of their annual Nollaig na mBan celebration.
This year’s theme is Bodies of Work, a celebration of incredible Irish women writers working in different literary forms. Acting as MC, award-winning poet Jessica Traynor will guide the audience through a variety of different literary genres that Irish women writers have showcased throughout their careers including fiction, poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction and more.
Participating writers on the night include Ola Majekodunmi, Jan Carson, Christine Dwyer Hickey and Sinead Creedon with musical entertainment from the inspiring Ellie O’Neill.
As ever the event also features their annual New Year’s Kris Kindle extravaganza. Those attending are encouraged to bring along a much-loved book by a woman writer, wrap it and label or tag it with a description of no more than three lines. Those who bring a book, go home with one too!
7.00pm–9.30pm, Saturday 6 January, 2024 at the Irish Writers Centre Dublin 1.
Over in the North East Inner City there’s a packed programme of arts, exhibitions, live performance of music, poetry and more to be enjoyed at a very special community festival to mark the day.
The festival kicks off with a sold out interview between Aoife Barry and author Katriona O’Sullivan, followed by the much anticipated Award Ceremony celebrating twelve inspirational women for their efforts to improve the day to day lives of those living in their local communities.
Musical legends Mary Coughlan and Maria Doyle Kennedy continue the celebrations as they lead their bands in two great concerts, while Honor Heffernan and friends will sing out the evening in what is sure to be a great end to a fabulous day.
A collective of some of Ireland’s most gifted female artists, Irish Women in Harmony come together through mutual artistic support and in their overarching mission – amplifying awareness for women and children in crisis situations.
How are you spending your Nollaig na mBan?
Join us on Sat Jan 6th in @smockalley for a special night with Irish Women in Harmony, Louise Nealon + more.
— First Fortnight (@firstfortnight) December 30, 2023
They will also be joined on the evening by Barbara Brennan, an inspirational woman with over fourteen years experience in changing the culture of mental health at all levels of society.
Hosted by Sharon Mannion, the oganisers promise ‘a wonderful occasion for reconnecting with old friends and forging new connections during an evening of celebration’.
Tickets €25/€20 concession.
Nollaig na mBan also sees a fine collection of Irish musicians come together at the Button Factory to perform Nirvana’s classic album in full, in an event to raise much needed funding for Women’s Aid, an organisation that exists to create an equal Ireland with zero tolerance of domestic abuse, and all forms of violence against women.
The core band features talents including Caoimhe Hopkinson on bass, Lar Kaye on guitar and Lewis Hedigan (Drums) and other guests to be announced. The band will be joined by a different vocalist for each song, and singers performing on the night include Maria Kelly, Niamh Farrell of Ham Sandwich, Mark Prendergast of Kodaline/Man Alive, Roy Duffy (Squarehead) and Conor Adams of All Tvvins.
Tickets: €28.00(Incl. Booking Fee)
Do it Yourself – Takeout and Craic With Your Women Friends
Traditionally the day was something of an organic occasion, and in time-honoured fashion many women will be putting together their own DIY event for the day that’s in it. Whether the preference is for takeout and gin with your gal pals, lunch, afternoon tea, spa treatments, or dinner in a fancy restaurant, there are plenty of ways to enjoy some fun while admiring the last of the twinkling lights of the festive season.
To Watch or Read – The Dead by James Joyce
We always enjoy an annual read of this classic on January 6th, and if your plans include a quiet night in, we recommend a viewing of John Huston’s beautifully filmed cinematic version from 1987 starring Angelica Huston and Donal McCann, with a gorgeous rendition of The Lass of Aughrim by Frank Patterson.
The Dead immortalises many of the Irish traditions associated with the end of the Christmas festivities, as the characters gather for a sumptuous meal around a beautifully decorated table featuring a fat brown goose, a great ham and a round of spiced beef. Dublin writer James Joyce paints a picture of the city as the snow begins to fall, in a story taking in a cab ride through the streets of Dublin, nostalgic songs and themes of love and loss along the way.
You could do worse that immerse yourself in its spell this weekend.
Words: Martina Murray