January 6 marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas. Commonly known as Feast of the Epiphany or Little Christmas, in Ireland the date is also known as Women’s Little Christmas.
On this day, the final of the Christmas season, women would get a much deserved rest after catering to family and friends during the holidays.
Speak Irish: Nollaig na mBan (null-ug na Mon) means Women’s Christmas
How to Celebrate Women’s Little Christmas
Traditionally it is considered bad luck to take down Christmas decorations before January 6 – so leave that task to the gentlemen and enjoy a well-earned respite with the ladies in your life!
In Ireland you’ll find Women’s Christmas Breakfasts, women filling restaurants and pubs, or even small gatherings over tea and cakes in private homes.
Here are a few ideas to celebrate Women’s Little Christmas wherever you are!
Host a Women’s Christmas Tea (or Open House)
While you’re prepping everything for your Christmas celebrations make some extra and tuck them in the back of the freezer. Invite friends to visit January 6 for a bit of a ‘catch up’ over tea or bubbly, accompanied by the treats you saved back, lovely nibbles from a local shop, or fine Irish fare ordered online. If you can, have men or kids on hand to act as waitstaff.
Meet Friends at the Pub
Gather with the ladies at a local pub for a meal, drinks, and chin wag. A good Irish pub should know the tradition and be able to help you create a fun, lively experience. If your local isn’t Irish let them know what you are planning and ask how they can help, or if you can bring in some things to make your gathering festive.
Host an Extravagant Dinner
Coordinate with a favorite restaurant for a fabulous women’s only holiday meal! Coordinate a prix fixe multi-course menu with different options and invite all the ladies you know! Think big! Mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, friends, friends of friends… The more the merrier!
Take Time for Yourself
Had too much together time and really just want to enjoy a peaceful afternoon? Spoil yourself a little! Pick a few of your favorite things, then sit back and savor them in the way that make you happiest!
Whatever you do, whether big and extravagant or small and personal, don’t overlook Women’s Little Christmas, a wonderful Irish tradition that needs to catch on everywhere!
Want to make your own Christmas crackers to stuff with personal goodies? I recommend a Christmas cracker kit so you get the ‘snap’, but you can also just use toilet paper rolls and wrapping paper (instructions here).
Cultural Irish Gifts for Christmas
There is no better way to understand Ireland than to learn a bit of the language. Bitesize Irish has easy to follow ‘bitesize’ lessons designed to help you speak, read, and understand the Irish language.
As you delve into the lessons you’ll understand why the Irish have such a fanciful way of speaking. Did you know there is no word for ‘no’ in the Irish language?
Become an Irish land owner! This is a super fun gift for the person who has everything.- except a title! Yes, with the purchase of this gift your recipient becomes a ‘Squireen’, an official title that can be added to anything…
Are you as Irish as you think you are? Find out with a DNA testing kit!
Choose Ancestry DNA if you want to create a family tree and dig into your roots. Add an Ancestry membership for the full experience.
Choose 23andMe if you want to dig into your health and traits. It’s kind of amazing the quirky things that are passed down from our ancestors!
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Give Gifts from Ireland
This is one of my favorite places to visit when in Ireland. The natural perfumes, colognes, soaps, and creams are truly fabulous.
Great options: Man of Aran for him and Ilaun or Summer Harvest for her – available as fragrance, lotion, and castile soap. I swear by the Rosehip Oil facial serum for keeping fine lines and deep wrinkles moisturized and less noticeable.
The wonderful bar soaps are terrific hostess gifts or stocking stuffers.
It’s a timeless classic- the original Aran Sweater direct from the Aran islands just off the west coast of Ireland.
The Aran Sweater Market still crafts their woolens on Inis Mor. And though their designs have gone beyond the traditional Fisherman’s Sweater, you’ll feel wrapped in the history and traditions of Ireland no matter which item you wear.
This monthly subscription box is perfect for someone who loves Ireland! Each month’s box is specially curated, featuring designers and artisans from across the country.
The items change monthly, but past boxes have included jewelry, candles, soaps, woolens, calendars, and other wonderful Irish finds!
Available as a ‘once off’, monthly subscription, or in 3 and 6 month subscriptions.
Order soon to get the Christmas Box or begin a subscription in January.
Do you fancy an Irish Breakfast or maybe a traditional afternoon tea? Maybe you just want to taste some Irish treats like Tayto, Butler’s chocolates, or Ballymaloe Country Relish. Whatever your desire, there’s an Irish Food Hamper to fit your taste!
For traditional Christmas flavors try The Season Selection with Starry Mince Pies, an Irish Whiskey Cake, and plenty of chocolates.
Wouldn’t you like to find Ireland in your stocking?
For a truly special Ireland vacation purchase tickets for A Celtic Experience, a small group luxury tour of Ireland. This 8 night tour includes luxury accommodations (2 nights in a castle!), spectacular dining, immersive history, time to explore on your own, and a private driver guide. Cost is €2600 per person and group is limited to 10 people.
Excited to plan your own Ireland vacation but need tips on how to do it? Then the Planning the Ireland Vacation of Your Dreams digital book is for you! Designed to guide you through every step of your Ireland vacation- from planning when to go through filing the VAT as you leave.
Making barmbrack for Halloween is a tasty Irish custom that just might give you a little insight into the coming year!
A Little Background on Halloween in Ireland
Did you know that October 31 is the last day of the Celtic calendar?
November 1 marked the beginning of the new year for the Celts. It was a time when the harvest was done and the Earth was preparing to rest and regenerate for spring.
On the final night of the year the festival of Samhain (sow-in) began, marking the move from the light half of the year into the darker half. It was also the time of year when the veil between the world of the living and the spirit world was at its thinnest.
Many of our modern Halloween traditions come from Celtic customs Read More
Making Barmbrack for Halloween
The name barmbrack is from the Irish bairín breac, which means ‘speckled loaf’.
But what makes barmbrack stand out from other sweet breads or fruit loaves is the fortune telling properties of the cake.
Before the loaf was baked 5 small items were added to the batter: a pea, a twig, a piece of cloth, a small coin, and a ring. Each of these had a significant meaning. If your slice had the pea you would not marry in the next year. The stick foretold of an unhappy union. The cloth brought bad luck for the coming year. If your slice of barmbrack had the coin you would enjoy good fortune. And to receive the ring meant you would marry before the year’s end.
If you were to buy barmbrack from a store in Ireland today it would only include the ring, but if you make it I would at least add in the coin, as well.
Two Barmbrack Recipes for Halloween
There are many recipes for barmbrack, some with yeast and some without. I have included one of each.
INGREDIENTS 3/4 C golden raisins 3/4 C currants 1/3 C crystallized cherries 1/3 C candied peel 1 C light brown sugar 2 C self rising flour 1 C cold strong tea 1 t Allspice (mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove)
DIRECTIONS Soak the raisins and currents in cold tea overnight. Heat oven to 350F and line a 1 lb loaf pan with greased parchment paper. Add all the remaining ingredient to the raisins, currents, and cold tea. Stir well and pour into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for apprx 1 1/2 hours or until cooked through.
Keeps well in a covered tin for about a week. Best when served warm and buttered.
INGREDIENTS 3 1/2 cups plain flour (450g) 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg 2 teaspoons (1 sachet) dried yeast (7g) 4 tablespoons butter (75g) 1/3 cup castor sugar (75g) 1 cup milk (250ml) 1 beaten egg 1 cup raisins (150g) 3/4 cup currants (100g) 1/4 cup chopped dried fruit peel (50g) Some melted butter for greasing
DIRECTIONS Warm the milk, add the butter and let it melt in the warm milk.
Mix the yeast with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Add half the warmed milk mixture. Add the beaten egg.
Sift the cinnamon with the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour the yeast and liquid mixture into it. Sprinkle a little flour over the liquid and leave it in a warm place for 20 minutes until the yeast froths up.
Add in the remainder of the liquid and mix the whole lot into a dough. Turn it out onto a floured board, sprinkle with the sugar, raisins, currants and chopped peel and knead them into the dough.
Put the dough into a butter-greased large bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.
Knead it back again and then shape into your greased bread tin. Brush the top with melted butter and cover until doubled in bulk again.
Bake for 40 minutes in a pre-heated hot oven at 400°F (200°C /Gas mark 6) until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
To give it a nice glaze, stir 1 tablespoon sugar into 2 fl oz boiling water (50ml) and brush this over the top of the loaf when it comes out of the oven and is still hot. Leave to cool before cutting.
OPTIONAL If you don’t like raisins or currents experiment with other dried fruits like cranberries, blueberries, or chopped dates. You can also replace the crystallized cherries in the first recipe with candied ginger.