During the christmas break, my neighbour popped round to invite me to a gathering. To be precise, she was inviting me to celebrate 'Nollaig na mBan', which translated means 'Women's Little Christmas'. On the 6th January myself and around fifteen other women came together in celebration. Some people knew each other but many of us were meeting for the first time. Words on our printed invitation given to us by our lovely host, gave us a wonderful incite into the history and sentiment behind our gathering, which pitched the evening beautifully. Here are some of the words:
Nollaig na mBan or Little Women's Christmas is an old custom that's still celebrated by women all over Ireland. It goes back to the days when large families were the norm. Men never lifted a finger in the house to help, and were never expected to.
But each year, after the christmas holiday, tired women finally got a break - for one day, at least. On January 6th (the same day as the Epiphany) men would take over of the housework, offering women a chance to go out to relax with each other.
The words that stayed in my mind both before turning up that night and through the duration of the evening were these, 'offering women a chance to go out and relax with each other'. It was an incredibly special evening, one where you find yourselves looking around the room and sensing that something out of the ordinary is taking place. The exchange of histories, the sharing of family traditions and stories, talking about hobbies and re-finding oneself through re-finding certain activities or events. One of the things that I found really interesting was that on many occasions, conversations came back to what our struggles were, what drew happiness from us and about how comfortable and strong we felt to be joined together for this celebration. Put quite simply, we listened to one another sharing our story, sharing our song. It felt both revealing and vulnerable, comfortable and comforting. One compadre in attendance at the end of the evening shared with us all, how meaningful it felt to be gathered together and how much she realised she had missed that kind of relationship with other women, and how important these relationships are.
I was personally very moved when different women began to share songs that meant something to them. To sing aloud in a living room with all eyes focused on you whilst you sing words that truly mean something to you is very powerful. I was asked to sing and I was surprised at how much my heart pounded with nerves. 'Do you sing?' a few began to ask me. 'Yeah … yes, I do' I suddenly heard myself replying. I did sing, but my butterflies only let me remember a few lines of my song before the words escaped me and my friends smiled and allowed me to retreat! I still get goosebumps when I remember each song that was sung that night, even my own. And although I'd wished i'd nailed it and performed beautifully and precisely, somehow the message was clear. It was just fine. What I gave in that moment, in those few lines, was received and enjoyed and celebrated. That acceptance and those smiles flashing at me, like pretty paparazzi camera lights as I looked around the room, my eyes opening and closing trying to re-call lyrics. That acceptance I will cherish and store. That acceptance will nurture me through the year. That acceptance has given me a renewed hope about what it means to gather together, what is means to be united by gender and by a desire to grow and nurture relationships. It made me think of my word for the year 'Root' and how important it is to give time to relationships, a reminder to make sure that the roots of a relationship are tended to, that the relationship is then able to receive all the nutrients that it needs so that it can bear fruit and flourish and fulfil its purpose. This is my desire.