The man of the house gets the children up and out of the house. It’s his job to disassemble the Christmas tree, put the decorations away, cook supper and bathe the kids. Pass the word ladies, we get the day off to celebrate the sisterhood of our gender during Women’s Little Christmas.
Here’s how Women’s Little Christmas works…
The day is January 6th. After much ado, the twelve days of Christmas have successfully been budgeted, baked, wrapped, roasted, bustled, decorated, negotiated, and wined into submission. In wee Ireland, upon the completion of these tasks, the lady of the house goes out to celebrate.
Let me go back to the start…
In the late 1990’s I went to Ireland with one of my brothers (I have five! :)). It was January 1st. David, wife Bonny, and their two children thought we would have a quiet, uncramped flight. My husband TJ by my side was surprised that every seat on the plane was filled: on the trip to Boston and then further to Shannon. It was not a peaceful day to travel.
Upon arrival, our little blue van headed to Dingle, and we spent several days at a B&B that was a working farm. The kids enjoyed and helped with the animals. Bonny and Dave shared similar farming experiences with our gracious host family. All and all, each learned many things from the other.
Leaving the sheep and Dingle Bay behind, we headed south through the Macgillycuddy Mountains and found Clonakilty in County Cork. This well laid out town is the birthplace of Michael Collins. Born in 1890, he is the young man who commanded the Irish Revolution that lead to the 26 counties breaking away from English rule.
Dusk was threatening as we pulled into the Collins’ homestead. We walked and peered around old stone corners as I talked about this great man. Collins’ significance is huge in Irish history. I enjoy teaching about his life and how he led the Irish to their freedom.
As we drove up to our B&B for the evening, the dark found us. We carried luggage in and asked about a place to dine. It was at this point that we stumbled onto an olde and almost forgotten Irish tradition. Clonakilty celebrates January 6th with grandeur. It is the Feast of the Epiphany and the official end of Christmas. The twelfth day has finally arrived.
For many decades in the century past, an Irish woman would drape her woolen shawl over her shoulders and walk to the local public house. Along the way, she teamed up with other ladies for the evening. Once in the pub, they would slide into a nook and enjoy a Guinness.
The publican would bring complimentary corned beef sandwiches and participants were allowed to giggle, relax, and let the weight of the past weeks dissolve away. At the end of the night, the carefree ladies walked home. All the while, himself was home dutifully performing the evening’s tasks. Go, Daddy!!
Till today this tradition is upheld in Clonakilty. Our little pack of American tourists was astounded by all the women out for the night. The pubs, restaurants, and streets were aligned with ladies, young and old. The electricity in the air was grand!
This fine Irish story was written by Donna Fitzgerald-Denmon
Now for the Shamrock
My fiance, Todd, and I were making our holiday circuit from Virginia to my hometown of Madisonville, Kentucky, by way of his hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Along the way, we saw a sign for Fitzgerald’s Shamrock Restaurant, boasting “the best food in Maryland.” With rumbling stomachs, we pulled in to the festive and quaint Irish restaurant to test their claim. The menu of traditional Irish dishes, Maryland seafood, and mile-high sandwiches made it hard to choose, but after sharing two selections, we concur with the sign! The friendly, cheerful atmosphere was a perfect respite from the road and there were hundreds of Irish knick-knacks for sale that helped me find that last unique gift.
We met Donna, the General Manager of the family-run Restaurant, and her sister Dawn. They were gracious, charming, and great conversationalists – true Irish charisma. Donna shared her story about the Women’s Little Christmas tradition and I was so taken with the whole experience, I knew immediately that I had to share with my loyal readers. To honor her Irish roots, Donna is continuing the tradition of Women’s Little Christmas at Fitzgerald’s Shamrock Restaurant.
Donna’s Personal Invitation
We are going to help you celebrate an Irish Women’s Little Christmas. For one entire day January 6th – opening till close – we will offer specials to the ladies. We’ll have a complete menu of festive food, be able to pull a Guinness, open bottle of wine, have a few sweets and serve complimentary corned beef. We are even going to rustle up a lady who plays Irish music. If you want to bring your fellow, that’s okay. TJ, David, and Cody were allowed to dine on mussels, lamb, and Guinness that magical night in Clonakilty.
So get your sisters (by blood and friendship), Mom, Aunts, and Grandma. Rally up the neighbor girls and reserve the date. Afternoon or evening. We are going to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, and Women’s Little Christmas. ~ Donna
Happening upon Fitzgerald’s Shamrock Restaurant, meeting Donna and Dawn, and learning about Women’s Little Christmas was a true treat – one of those unplanned, but fortuitous happenstances that prove travel is a life-broadening experience. If you are in the area, be sure to stop into the Shamrock – it’s 15 miles north of Frederick, Maryland and 15 miles south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. You can also find them on Facebook.
Update 1/6/21: Sadly, Fitzgerald’s Shamrock Restaurant closed permanently in December 2020.