Saturday, January 5, 2013

Happy Women's Christmas! ...

Hello, everyone.  Happy New Year and Happy Women's Christmas for tomorrow!

Women's Christmas is a tradition celebrated originally in Ireland where it is known as Nollaig na mBan. It began as a day when the women, responsible for domestic duties throughout the year, took the Feast of Epiphany (marking the visit of the Wise Men and the last day of Christmas ) as a time to take a break and, together, celebrate the end of the busy holiday season.

On the morning of January 6th, while the men cared for hearth and home, excited shawled women hurried to the local public house (a men's domain the rest of the year) to pool their few shillings, saved for the day, and drink stout and eat corned beef sandwiches provided by the publican. They would chat briefly about the troubles of the old year then make a pact to leave them outside the door. They would enjoy each other's company, songs and support well into the evening and then return home, restored, if slightly the worse for wear.

Though not well known, the tradition continues in various parts of the world, celebrated in different ways in different places. In Ireland, many still gather with female family and friends, with a glass of wine and a good lunch out replacing the stout and corned beef sandwiches. In Canada, some groups of women get together for tea or coffee and goodies to chat and enjoy each other's company. In the US, others take the day as a time to pause and reflect upon the experiences and direction of their lives, perhaps to gather for a retreat that offers time and quiet to rest and relax. No matter how it is celebrated, Women's Christmas is a lovely way to savour the last gifts of the holiday season and to pause to catch your breath before plunging into the New Year.

Many of you have heard me say that  Jan Richardson is one of my favourite writers of blessings. In her latest blog post she offers a free online Women's Christmas Retreat. It is couched in the language of the Christian wisdom tradition but seems accessible to all. Whether or not you decide to make the retreat yourself, please accept Jan's Blessing for Women's Christmas as a gift to help you lay the holiday season to bed and begin your own very New Year:

The Map You Make Yourself
A Blessing for Women's Christmas

You have looked
at so many doors
with longing,
wondering if your life
lay on the other side.

For today, 
choose the door
that opens
to the inside.

Travel the most ancient way
of all:
the path that leads you
to the center
of your life.

No map
but the one
you make yourself.

No provision
but what you already carry
and the grace that comes
to those who walk
the pilgrim's way.

Speak this blessing
as you set out
and watch how your rhythm slows,
the cadence of the road
drawing you into the pace
that is your own.

Eat when hungry.
Rest when tired.
Listen to your dreaming.
Welcome detours
as doors deeper in.

Pray for protection.
Ask for the guidance you need.
Offer gladness
for the gifts that come 
and then
let them go.

Do not expect
to return
by the same road.
Home is always 
by another way
and you will know it
not by the light 
that waits for you

but by the star
that blazes inside you
telling you where you are
is holy
and you are welcome

Jan Richardson

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