Today is a special day in Ireland when we celebrate the women who worked so tirelessly during the holiday period.
Nollaig na mBan or the Feast of the Epiphany, as it is more commonly known, marks the end of the Christmas period. It is the last the 12 Days of Christmas when three wise men arrived in Bethlehem to offer gifts to the two-week-old baby Jesus.
Traditionally in Ireland women would finally get a much needed rest after catering to everyone during the festivities.
In the south especially women would gather in each other’s homes and local pubs for a few stolen hours of gaiety while the men looked after the brood.
To me this is a wonderful holiday as it reminds us, as Irish people, about the strength of Irish women, especially mothers.
I am sure those of you who have been lucky enough to experience an Irish mammy will agree that nothing or no-one compares.
Irish mothers, esecially our ancestors were the backbone of the family, who seldom received much credit for rearing large families.
These are the women who would have celebrated today and been thrown by the insanity of a few hours peace to themselves with their female comrades from the neighborhood.
My two grandmothers raised 15 children between them, which has many benefits for me as a grandchild and niece, but had obvious drawbacks for them as mothers.
Our female ancestors in Ireland would think nothing of manual labor such as saving the turf, cutting the hay, and whitewashing the barns. Magically they would juggle such tasks with cooking for their large broods, cleaning and going through child birth every few years.
In old Ireland there was no mistaking the fact that the woman’s place was in the home.
Of course this fact seems like an insane concept to Ireland’s new breed of high-powered, well educated women. Despite our evolution, the heart and soul of Irish women has not changed.
When catching my latest flight back to New York my mother got up at 5am to make tea and cut thick slices of her homemade brown bread, smothered with her homemade jam, simply because that is what Irish mammys do.
When we were teenagers all the girls would have a sleepover in Drake’s sitting room and the next morning Jenny’s mam would cook us all a full Irish. I can still smell the Clonakility black and white pudding.
When your friends spend ten minutes chatting to your mother in the kitchen before you realize they are even in the house.
When your best friend’s, boyfriend’s mother gets up at 1am to make you all tea after your night on the town before placing a hot water bottle in your bed.
The click of the kettle as it boils, the softened muffle of the fridge door as it opens, the familiar voice and the warm smile; an Irish mammy just going about her day.
And so I think this is one holiday that we should wholeheartedly embrace. Not just for wonderful Irish women and mothers but for females around the world.
At some stage today, take the time to appreciate those Irish women you have been lucky enough to encounter.
We may be getting married later, and having fewer children, but the Irish blood running through our veins, remains the same.
Originally published on January 6, 2011.
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