Monday, 6 January 2014

A Gift of a Day and Women's Christmas.

When Solstice is past, the sun is reborn and we are firmly in the new year there often comes a day of sunshine and blue skies amidst the storms to remind us that spring will come in time. Saturday was such a day. 
Unable to stay indoors, myself, my husband and our dog, Toby, travelled west past flooded fields and over rushing rivers to visit the forest park at Portuma, Co. Galway. 
I walked through trees and birdsong in the low sunshine whilst Toby navigated numerous scent trails, then returned to the car for hot coffee. An hour or two in this magical place was enough to restore my creativity.
Returning home across the flanks of the Slieve Blooms the bright weather remained with us but to the north, dark clouds spilled rain on Croghan Hill and the lowlands as a reminder that winter was still present. Later by the fireside I relished the gift of a day where spring returned briefly to relieve the gloom. Even the dog seemed to be smiling in his sleep. 

For more info on Portuma Forest Park:

Nollaig na mBan.
Today is Nollaig na mBan, Women's Christmas also called Little Christmas. 
Traditionally, particularly in Cork and Kerry, men take on the housework for the day whilst the women celebrate with eachother and in the past small gifts were given by children to their mothers and grandmothers.
This is a Christian celebration, also known as the feast of Epiphany, when according to one Irish proverb 'on the night of the three kings water turns into wine' and it was customary to light 13 candles to represent the apostles and Jesus. 

A more solemn version of the custom was known across north Leinster, east Connaught and south Ulster, where death divination was carried out. Here a round cake was made of dough, clay or ashes and small candles or rushlights were placed upright in the cake with each named for an individual. In the evening family members would gather and the candles lit and observed. It was believed that the order in which the lights burned out signified the order in which the people represented by them would die.

Instead of this sombre occasion may you have a happy Women's Christmas surrounded by warmth, laughter and the company of women!