When I was a child, my mother would join her friends, Mary Murphy, Nelly Tarpy and others to “go visiting” on January 6th for the holiday known as Nollaig na mBan – Women’s Christmas. In those days, the women did all the housework as well as working in the fields beside their husbands. January 6th was a day off, a day when the men took over the household duties. It was unheard of in those days for men to help with cooking or any household work but on this one day they did a bit. While the women shared tea, cakes and sometimes wine, news such as the date when someone’s baby was expected would be discussed. The women would offer to take turns with family cooking when a newborn came into the world.
Margaret Johnson, who shares delicious recipes in this newspaper, reminded us in a recent issue that although the custom of celebrating the tradition of Nollaig na mBan died out in some areas it has in recent years been revived in Ireland. Women’s groups mark the day with charitable events and donations to organizations that support women’s causes. Today, some also view the day as a chance to celebrate women’s accomplishments.
Sharing stories and experiences this year at our Nollaig na mBan NY dinner party, Bernadette Cullen shared three poems. I asked about her inspiration and she said that sometimes when writing a poem, she “loves to let image unfold, each shape holding its distinct integrity, with its own story to tell.”
Ann Garvey’s sharing of difficulty with travel last summer reminded everyone that the pandemic is never far away.
Nancy Oda said that she couldn’t visit friends last year but hopes to catch up with them this year.
Kathleen Frazier told us she’s delighted with her new job supporting “equity inclusion leaders committed to dismantling structural racism at one of New York’s major medical education centers.”
Mary McIntyre spoke about being grateful for good health and trips she took to Key West. She’s planning to work on her Spanish language skills and upgrade her home decorating this year.
Karen Daly’s expression of joy when she shared about her swing dancing class, reminded me that I want to teach an old style step dance class. I’m excited to bring steps I learned seventy years ago back to life. I got a laugh when I mentioned that with this style of dancing, you don’t have to worry about catching anything because you keep your hands to yourself.
I was also thrilled to also share news about two staged readings of my new play, “Brigid” which is on the official selection of Origin Theater’s 1st Irish. In the play, Saint Brigid (Katherine O'Sullivan) returns to earth in an attempt to update the Catholic Church. In a joint effort together with the Goddess Brigid (Meg Hennessy) they set out to convince Pope Francis (Tom Paolino) that women belong in the all-male hierarchy of the church. A pompous U.S. bishop (Thom Molyneaux) is causing trouble, speaking out against the pope’s attempts to move forward. Hymns and songs by the well-known singer (Susan McKeown) help the saint in her efforts while the narrator (Ryan Cahill) aids with ghostly comings and goings. There will be two chances to see the staged reading followed by Post-Reading Reflections on Modern-Day Brigid Connections by director, Susan McKeown. Get tickets for January 31, 2023 at 7:00 pm at the New York Irish Center 1040 Jackson Ave, LIC https://www.eventbrite.com/e/491839494167
Tickets for February 4, 2023 at 3:00 pm at Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Chapel, 602 East 9th Street, Tompkins Square Park, NYC, click here
New to our Nollaig na mBan group this year, Alyce Fucigna said she has “traveled far through ever widening circles of friends” and that she was honored to meet our group and happy to be learning more about her heritage. “I have had the laughter that comes from friends and family on adventures such as whale watching in New England and swimming with a manatee in Florida,” she said. As a teacher Alyce told us she has had the joy of working with recently arrived Ukrainian children. Her sharing reminded us of our current Nollaig na mBan charity and we urge people to contribute to groups helping the suffering in Ukraine. Here are the websites we recommend:
OR Sunflower of Peace Foundation: https://www.facebook.com/sunflowerofpeace.
Maura Mulligan is author of the memoir, “Call of the Lark.”