Women’s Christmas

As I have been studying wine over the past two years it has occurred to me that our perceptions are coloured by our previous experiences, specific education and travels. I have a degree in Irish studies, so today I am going to make the connection between the Irish tradition of Women’s Christmas and wine. January 6 is commonly known as Old Christmas or The Feast of the Epiphany. In some areas of the south of Ireland it is known as Little Christmas or Women’s Christmas or in Irish, Nollaig na mBan. This was the day that women were able to relax after all the work that they had done to prepare for feasts during the Christmas Season. While Big Christmas was associated with hearty fare such as roast meats and beverages such as whiskey and porter, Women’s Christmas was associated with lighter fare, cakes and other sweets, and wine. There are even some folk traditions associated with wine. One belief was that the water in wells turned to wine for one hour at midnight of the Epiphany.



Although we do not know what type of wine was drunk on Women’s Christmas, it was likely sweet wine such as sherry.

In various parts of Ireland, there are still Nolliag na mBan celebrations. In Cork and Kerry, women of all generations often take over the pubs and hotel lounges.


So what type of wine will I have for Women’s Christmas. Since it is a celebration, sparkling wine would be a possible choice. For a feminine touch I might have a sparkling rosé such as Segura Viudas Brut Rose. It would go well with light appetizers and cheese.

Since the celebration would include variety of sweets such as fruitcake, shortbreads and cakes, a choice of sweet wines would be in order. Possible wines would be Madeira, Icewine, Tawny Port, Sauterne or Tokaji. This year I bought myself a special treat for the Christmas season. So tonight I will mark the end of the Christmas season with a glass of Tokaji.


This golden wine, has a bright acidity which perfectly balances the sweetness. The elegant nose includes aromas of honeyed fruit, apricot, and candied orange peel. The palate is viscous and smooth with a long finish.  This wine is decadent treat that needs a special occasion.

So tonight when all the Christmas decorations are put away, find a special wine to mark Nollaig na mBan.