It's Women's Little Christmas or Nollaig na mBan today at home. Traditionally, on Nollaig na mBan women took a day off after orchestrating all the food and entertaining festivities around Christmas. Needless to say, in the auld days, men weren't expected to lift a finger to help with all that. So by the time Christmas was over, women were well and truly knackered from cooking and cleaning, washing up and visitors galore.
Nowadays, of course and quite rightly, we expect the men to share the domestic workload. So Nollaig na mBan isn't so much a day off the housework any more as an opportunity to celebrate women. I love seeing this concept evolve rather than being disregarded entirely. Today, in my Twitter feed, Irish women were sharing inspiring women, authors, mothers, housewives, artists, scientists, professionals, sisters and more.
Undercutting the celebration is awareness of ongoing inequality. Just as Nollaig na mBan highlighted the unfair distribution of household responsibilities (albeit pretty passively) so today it reminds us how far we've come from that, but also how far we have yet to go with issues ranging from income equality to domestic violence.
Still, despite our shared realities, we women can often be hard on each other and on ourselves. Even here in the blog world, we reflect often on the pressure felt; making comparisons with others, the battle with visceral feelings for those who seem to have more, the sense that our real lives are but an anemic cousin to our vibrant blog / Instagram / Pinterest lives and the "should, should, should" sometimes implied by all we express in these places and to each other.
For me, so far from home, Nollaig na mBan is still a reminder to seek a better understanding of the women in my life, especially those from older generations. To default to empathy and sincere support. To not reduce lives to a metre stick against which I measure my own.
Too often, individual life decisions like marriage, motherhood, career and even location polarize us. Instead I want to celebrate, respect and, yes, revel in our diverse and deliberate choices. But also to recognize that much as these roles and decisions shape us, they are not sufficient descriptors of the rich tapestry of personalities of the women I know and admire. And so on Nollaig na mBan, I resolve - as I always to - to see past the labels of career choices, marital and motherhood status, the lifestyle similarities, or dissimilarities and instead simply share moments of kindness and of friendship.