For the lucky women who were able to participate in Nollaig na mBan - it was considered a tradition to be a part of women’s gathering together for a celebration of their right to a ‘day off’ if you will !.
As it was a common held thought that a women was at the hearth of the family and on beck and call for their menfolk ; being entirely responsible for the whole running of the household and even participating in the work of the farm. City women , would of course have servants .
It is thought that the origins of Nollaig na Mban are a part of a wider thyme of when people had large families as the norm – and as a consequence of this men had the responsibly of working the farm or just working [which of course in Ireland in the 18t/19th century was littered with emigration /poor health/ poverty and deprivation] so Nollaig na mBan was predominantly a fixture of the elite ; until the early 1900 and thereafter .
Some but not all men did take the responsibility for the household tasks – however – in an ode to women being only fit for housework and menial tasks – men in general would call another man who was washing the dishes ‘ an auld one’ ; thereby not acknowledging the fact that women had a right to a day off.
The gathering of woman took place in various venues – either one of the other woman’s homes or a club . If it happened to take place in one of the woman’s homes ; children and men were scuttled off out to ‘wherever’; while the woman then took this opportunity to ‘chat about the old year initially and then move on to more of a social retreat’- leaving their troubles on the doorstep.
What has got to be borne in mind here is, that women were not allowed into pubs until 1958……….. wait for it ………. unless accompanied by a man as a chaperone !!!.
So unless Nollaig na Mban brought a man with them ; to eat and drink in a Pub ; then the probation of women in Pubs was strictly enforced !. The probation of women in Pubs was enforced by some Publicans until the 1970s
While in the Pub with a male chaperone – women could only inhabit what was called the ‘snug ‘ – either just inside the front door ; or a separate entrance was the most prevalent . The ‘snug’ is still in force in modern times in Ireland ; however both men and women are able to inhabit the ‘snug’ now .
The women would ‘pool’ their few shillings or coppers together; to ensure that all the women had a drink of either Sherry ; or in some case a warm Brandy ; or a half a pint of stout ; if the gathering was held in a Pub -it was the duty of the Landlord to provide beef sandwiches .
In modern Ireland today; all of these traditions are being replaced by either Lunch or Super with wine to fortify the palate. Men are more sophisticated /domesticated now in modern Ireland and therefore already participate in the running of the household and caring for the children ; in essence then ; Nollaig na Mban is allowed to thrive in Ireland for all women who wish to participate >