Little Christmas

Nollaig na mBan
Also called Ireland
Women's Christmas
Women's Little Christmas
Nollaig na mBan
Là Challuinn
Là na Bliadhna Ùire
Old Christmas
Observed by Christians in Ireland and the Irish diaspora, particularly women
Scottish Highlanders
Newfoundland and Labrador
Type Christian, Irish and Scottish
Significance visit of the Three Kings to Jesus, former date of Christmas
Observances religious services, gift giving, family gatherings, meeting friends
Date 6 January in Ireland, 1 January in the Scottish Highlands
Related to Christmas, Epiphany

Little Christmas (Irish: Nollaig na mBan, lit. 'Women's Christmas') is one of the traditional names in Ireland for 6 January, which is also known in other parts of the world as the Feast of the Epiphany. By the fourth century, the churches of the eastern Roman Empire were celebrating Christmas on 6 January and those of the western Roman Empire were celebrating it on 25 December.[1] It is the traditional end of the Christmas season and until 2013 was the last day of the Christmas holidays for both primary and secondary schools in Ireland.[2]

In the Scottish Highlands the term Little Christmas (Scottish Gaelic: Nollaig Bheag) is applied to New Year's Day, also known as Là Challuinn, or Là na Bliadhna Ùire,[3] while Epiphany is known as Là Féill nan Rìgh, the feast-day of the Kings.[3] The Transalpine Redemptorists who live on Papa Stronsay celebrate 'Little Christmas' on the twenty-fifth day of every month, except for December, when the twenty-fifth day is celebrated as Christmas Day.

In some parts of England, such as Lancashire, this day is also known as Little Christmas.[4] In the Isle of Man, New Year's Day on 1 January was formerly called Laa Nolick beg in Manx, or Little Christmas Day, while 6 January was referred to as Old Christmas Day.[5] The name Little Christmas is also found in other languages including Slovene (mali Božič), Galician (Nadalinho), and Ukrainian.

In Scandinavia, where the main celebration of Christmas is on Christmas Eve, the evening of 23 December is known as little Christmas Eve (Danish: lillejuleaften).[6][7] In Norway and Sweden, Little Christmas Day refers to 13 January (Norwegian: Tyvendedagen; Swedish: Tjugondedag), twenty days after Christmas, and is regarded as the day when ornaments must be removed from Christmas trees and any leftover food must be eaten.[8]

In some parts of the Spanish-speaking world, Christmas Day is strictly religious, and gifts are exchanged on the feast of the Epiphany, when the wise men (or Magi) brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Tradition names them Casper, Melchior and Balthasar. The custom of blessing homes on Epiphany developed because the feast commemorates the time that the three kings visited the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Twelve Days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day (December 25) and end on January 5, eve of the traditional date of the Epiphany.[9]

In other parts of the world, it is sometimes referred to as Old Christmas or Old Christmas Day, so called for the same reasons as in Ireland.[10][11]

Women's Christmas

Little Christmas is also called Women's Christmas (Irish: Nollaig na mBan), and sometimes Women's Little Christmas. The tradition, still very strong in Cork and Kerry is so called because of the Irish men taking on household duties for the day.[12] Some women hold parties or go out to celebrate the day with their friends, sisters, mothers, and aunts. As a result, parties of women and girls are common in bars and restaurants on this night. Children sometimes buy presents for their mothers and grandmothers.

In Ireland and Puerto Rico, it is the traditional day to remove the Christmas tree and decorations. The tradition is not well documented, but one article from The Irish Times (January 1998), entitled On the woman's day of Christmas,[13] describes both some sources of information and the spirit of this occasion.

Set dancing

A "Little Christmas" is also a figure in Irish set dancing.[14] It refers to a figure where half the set, four dancers, join together with hands linked behind partners lower back, and the whole figure proceeds to rotate in a clockwise motion, usually for eight bars.[15]


  1. "How December 25 Became Christmas". Biblical Archaeology Society.
  2. "School terms in primary and post-primary schools".
  3. 1 2 Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2001).
  4. Cheshire notes and queries. Swain and Co., Ltd. 1882. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  5. Arthur William Moore (1971). The folk-lore of the Isle of Man. Forgotten Books. pp. 150–. ISBN 978-1-60506-183-2. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  6. American-Scandinavian Foundation (1917). Scandinavian review. American-Scandinavian Foundation. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  7. Norwegian Migration to America. Ardent Media. pp. 216–. GGKEY:AEZFNU47LJ2. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  8. Varadaraja Raman (June 2005). Variety in Religion and Science: Daily Reflections. iUniverse. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-0-595-35840-3. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  9. "Advent to Epiphany: Celebrating The Christmas Cycle – Frequently Asked Questions".
  10. John Harland (May 2003). Lancashire Folklore. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 216–. ISBN 978-0-7661-5672-2. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  11. George Augustus Sala (1869). Rome and Venice: with other wanderings in Italy, in 1866-7. Tinsley brothers. pp. 397–. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  12. "Little Women's Christmas".
  13. "On the women's day of Christmas". The Irish Times. 8 January 1998.
  14. Kelfenora set figures Archived 9 January 2004 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. Labasheeda Set 3rd Figure Reel-Little Christmas. 23 September 2007 via YouTube.
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