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Poster for the Nollaig na mBan event at the Irish Writers Centre

Today is a special date in the Irish calendar. The rest of the Christian world may call it the Epiphany, but in Ireland we also know the sixth of January as “Little Christmas”. Or “Nollaig Bheag” in Irish.

Theoretically it’s the traditional end of the Christmas season, the twelfth day of Christmas, the last day of the school hols, and the belated arrival of the Three Kings to the Baby Jesus Lying in the Manger (hence today is also La Fête des Rois in France).

In Ireland, Little Christmas is also called “Women’s Christmas”, or “Nollaig na mBan”. It’s also known around Cork and Kerry as “Women’s Little Christmas”.

It’s a sort of precursor to Mother’s Day and Equal Pay, the day when the man / men / lads of the house are supposed do all the household chores, while Herself is queen for a day and later hits town to celebrate with her sisters / mothers / aunts / mates. Or perhaps she’d make her favourite “little dainties” and have her women friends over for tea.

All very civilised too, a world away from those old Boots commercials where frenzied young female consumers in 10-inch heels intimidate poor waiters and take over the streets in a most laddish and unbecoming way, to the otherwise uplifting tune of “Here Come the Girls”.

Not every woman would get a well deserved break. In James Joyce’s “The Dead” -Ireland’s most famous short story set on the Epiphany – we find that poor “Lily, the caretaker’s daughter, was literally run off her feet.”

Like women playwrights and directors, women authors get a raw deal in the Irish media – even in the Irish Times books pages. So it’s great to see the Irish Writers Centre hosting its second annual Nollaig na mBan bash in Dublin tonight.

The line-up includes Evelyn Conlon, Joanna Walsh, Lisa McInerney, Mary O’Donnell, Michelle Read, Sally Rooney and Sinéad Gleeson, with music from Lisa O’Neill. It’s among a growing number of events each year celebrating Nollaig na mBan.

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