Little Christmas

Little Christmas

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Little Christmas is one of the traditional names in Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 for January 6, more commonly known in the rest of the world as the Celebration of the Epiphany. It is so called because it was the day on which Christmas Day was celebrated under the Julian calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

, before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

. It is the traditional end of the Christmas season and the last day of the Christmas holidays for both primary and secondary schools in Ireland.

In the Scottish Highlands
Scottish Highlands
The Highlands is an historic region of Scotland. The area is sometimes referred to as the "Scottish Highlands". It was culturally distinguishable from the Lowlands from the later Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands...

 the term Little Christmas (Scottish Gaelic Nollaig Bheag) is applied to New Year's Day
New Year's Day
New Year's Day is observed on January 1, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar used in ancient Rome...

, also known as Là Challuinn, or Là na Bliadhna Ùire, while Epiphany is known as Là Féill nan Rìgh, the feast-day of the Kings.

The name Little Christmas is also found other languages including Slovene (mali Božič), Galician
Galician language
Galician is a language of the Western Ibero-Romance branch, spoken in Galicia, an autonomous community located in northwestern Spain, where it is co-official with Castilian Spanish, as well as in border zones of the neighbouring territories of Asturias and Castile and León.Modern Galician and...

 (Nadalinho), and Ukrainian
Ukrainian language
Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....


Due to regional civic traditions and religious observance, Little Christmas (Epiphany) is often assumed to be Orthodox Christmas Day. In the switch from the Julian (Roman) calendar to the current Gregorian calendar, some regions and local governments did not make the 14 day calendar adjustment in holiday observances. Many Orthodox Chistians commemorate Christmas Day on the *previous" December 25th (January 7 on the current Gregorian Calendar). These Orthox Christians also celebrate Epiphany, but 14 days later than those following the current Gregorian Calendar. To make matters more confusing, some ethnic groups assigned January 6 (Gregorian Calendar) for Christmas celebrations. Therefore it is not accurate to assume Gregorian Epiphany is the same as Orthodox Christian (Julian) Christmas Day.

The Transalpine Redemptorists who live on Papa Stronsay (one of the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland) celebrate 'Little Christmas' on the 25th day of every month—except for December, when the 25th day is of course celebrated as Christmas Day.

Women's Christmas

Little Christmas is also called Women's Christmas (Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

: Nollaig na mBan), and sometimes Women's Little Christmas. The tradition, still very strong in Cork
County Cork
County Cork is a county in Ireland. It is located in the South-West Region and is also part of the province of Munster. It is named after the city of Cork . Cork County Council is the local authority for the county...

 and Kerry
County Kerry
Kerry means the "people of Ciar" which was the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac Róich. In Old Irish "Ciar" meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective...

 is so called because of the Irish men taking on all the household duties for the day. Most women hold parties or go out to celebrate the day with their friends, sisters, mothers, and aunts. Bars and restaurants serve mostly women and girls on this night. Children often buy presents for their mothers and grandmothers.

The tradition is not well documented, but one article from The Irish Times (January 1998), entitled On the woman's day of Christmas, describes both some sources of information and the spirit of this occasion.

Set Dancing

A "Little Christmas" is also a figure in Irish set dancing. It refers to a figure where half the set (4 dancers) join together with hands linked behind partners lower back, and the whole figure proceeds to rotate in a clockwise motion, usually for 8 bars.

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