Friday, 6 January 2017

Nollaig na mBan (Ladies' Christmas)

The tree stripped and Christmas packed away for another year
Say it "Nollag na Mahn" for that authentic Gaelic effect. Readers who were with me in January 2014 will have already heard of this break and 'day-off' for the hardworking ladies of the household. This is a tradition in the West of Ireland which is thought to pre-date those blow-in Christians and their 'Epiphany' malarkey (when the 3 wise men finally rocked up to the crib and Bethlehem). The ladies of the household, having slaved for 2 weeks for their men-folk, finally earned a day off. The men would hold the fort, feed the livestock and do the house work.

One of the marmalade kittens does justice to a bit of left over lamb
In my head, I was proud of the lads! I imagined them feeling sorry for their ladies at last and gallantly (patronisingly? chauvinistically?) granting them the day off, "generously" palming them an amount of spending money and helping them into the buggy to which they had already hitched up the mare. Have a nice time, ladies.

A nice range of egg colours. Top is a duck egg. 
Not a bit of it apparently. Back in the day the law and (even more important) village tradition of what was right said that this was their right, entitlement and due and they did not need any man deciding that they could do this. They'd done their 2 weeks and they were outta here. If Mr Farmer got a slice of cold pie left for him in the meat-safe then fair play to him.

Ash bark.
The tradition has died out a bit and is forgotten in most areas, but out here in the West it still hangs on. Locals will shy away from organising public events (dances, social nights) on 6th Jan because "people like to organise their own family things around Little Christmas" (the other name for it). Mind you, Liz tells me that in the cities , the bar/pub/restaurant trade has started to try to re-introduce it hoping that the gangs of local women, released for the day from the chores of home and the kids and bent on shopping, might finish their free days with a meal of a few drinks with the girl-friends. As a quick aside to this, the lady currently curating that Twitter account (see previous post) tells us that in the Amish (Plain People) areas of up-state New York, they celebrate "Old Christmas" on this date.

We did a reasonable job here, making sure to look after Lizzie. She got a nice lie-in, then taken shopping in Roscommon. There was a lunch, then a relaxing afternoon and then I cooked the supper and she is even now  sipping gently on a glass 'Barefoot' Malbec. A small stash of chocolates sits waiting on the dresser. That, we guess, is it. The 'real' Christmas is done and tidied away, and the Ladies' Christmas has now followed it for this year.

Warm socks.
That's it for this post, too. I am being brief (can't be rattling away in here when I am meant to be looking after the good lady!). I was hoping to bring you pics and news of the 'splatter' of tiny webbed feet but those little ducklings are taking their own sweet time battling their way out of the shells. There were 7 eggs. As I go to print, Rob tells me we have 2 out of their shells so far and more 'pipping' (chipping their way through) but these little mites don't all survive this stage, so I won't do an update till we are sure how many 'survivors' we have.

11ÂșC today and plenty of bees flying. Plenty returning, too, with
their 'shopping baskets' full of  ivy pollen. Happy Nollaig na
mBan, ladies. Not too many drones around in January to be doing
the house work while you're gone, mind.
The one single thing we found lacking thru Christmas was good old fashioned holly. In all my dog walking and car-mounted exploring, I could find no bush from which to steal a sprig for the Christmas pud, only neat little clipped specimens in gardens. We have every other broad-leaved species, but no holly, so we were off today to the local garden centre. Of course, since then, as is the way of these hunts, we have seen holly bushes everywhere and we know that they can be propagated from semi-ripe cuttings.

An optimistic tree growing in a wall.
Well, we have one now. May it live long an prosper. We paid €5 for ours. We were amused to learn that a local shop was selling prunings for use in wreaths etc at €7.50 PER BIT! No flies on these local guys when it comes to merchandising.

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