Nollaig Bheag Na Mban

06 Jan 2012

Today is Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas. It’s a holiday celebrated here on the farm with great care and joy. I will never forget the first Little Christmas I celebrated here in Ireland when my father-in-law wore a polka-dot apron and served us a massive roast goose dinner from a heated retro hostess trolley. Let’s just say, I have photos.

The tradition of Little Christmas or Women’s Christmas is still very strong especially in the southwest of Ireland and is so called because Irish men are required to take 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. We usually have a lovely dinner made at the farm prepared by grandad who he also does all the cleaning for the day as well. While some people think this holiday should be binned, I think it is sweet, but could certainly be “celebrated” more than once a year!

This year, we are having a big ‘ould gorgeous roast duck for dinner complete with walnut stuffing and some beautiful side dishes, all inspired by the cookbook shoot that I styled last Spring.

Are you celebrating Little Christmas?

Roast Duck with Walnut Stuffing


3kg/5-6lb duckling

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp clear honey

2 tbsp plain flour

300 ml/ 1 cup of chicken stock

Salt & Pepper

Walnut Stuffing

1 tbsp oil

1 onion chopped

125g/1/2 cup chopped roasted walnuts

125g/1/2 cup fresh white breadcrumbs

Grated rind of one lemon

1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tsp chopped marjoram

1 egg beaten


Preheat oven to 220c/425F/Gas Mark 7

Prepare stuffing first. Heat oil in pan and fry onion until soft

Stir in walnuts, breadcrumbs, lemon rind, parsley and marjoram. Season to taste.

Lightly beat egg and pour into the mixture to bind the stuffing

Dry the duck with kitchen paper and prick all over with a fine skewer

Fill the cavity of duck with stuffing, truss and set on wire rack in roasting pan

Mix the lemon juice and honey together and smear over duck

Sprinkle with salt and pepper

Place into hot oven for 10 minutes then lower heat to 190c/375f/Gas Mark 5 for a further 2-2.5 hours

Baste the bird several times during cooking

Leave to rest for 15 minutes

Use the duck fat drippings to make a lovely duck gravy

Happy Nollaig bheag na mban!


Photo by Moya McAllister, styled by Imen McDonnell 2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

25 Responses to “Nollaig Bheag Na Mban”

  1. love these 🙂 beautiful styling miss x N

  2. Aoife Mc says:

    Love the look of that gorgeous roast duck, Imen. We’ve never really celebrated Nollaig na mBan in my house – but we did regularly treat my Mum at other times of the year! It’s a lovely tradition although I do agree that one day a year isn’t enough for a lady’s day off from domestic duties. How about if everyone in the house shares the duties and we all get a days off throughout the year? That sounds more sensible to me 🙂

    Thanks for the walnut stuff recipe – definitely bookmarking that one!

  3. I have fallen head over heels for your site this week. I have known about it for some time, but only recently have had the chance to really dig in and get to “know” you and Farmette. Your photography is gorgeous and I adore reading the stories and observations you share here — you are fueling my ever-growing desire to “just go to Ireland already”. I can’t wait to read more.

    • imen says:

      Shelby, that is such a kind, kind comment…thank you so much!! I hope that you make it to’s a beautiful place, like no other really. Keep in touch =) xx

  4. I read about this celebration somewhere else recently and thought what a wonderful idea! I love the photos and I am sure the food was delicious – as was watching your father in law do the dishes!!

    • imen says:

      My father in law looked magnificent in the was all frilly and lime green with big white polka dots! Thanks for your comment =) xx

  5. I’ve never heard of this but it sounds wonderful. Perfect timing, too, just when, at least speaking for myself, I’m completely worn out from the long holiday season. Your in-laws sound like a lot of fun.

    • imen says:

      It’s a lovely tradition….took some getting used to as just when you think the holidays are over then Little Christmas comes…which is what makes the men doing the work all the sweeter I suppose. Thanks Sue! xx

  6. love cooking says:

    Women’s Christmas is something new to me. I don’t know people in Ireland celebrate this festival. It sounds like “Mother’s Day”. 🙂 I have Chinese roast duck often, but stuffing roast duck is very special. Have to try it. And you have a beautiful blog layout, really like it. 🙂

    • imen says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment…..the duck is excellent…something different than turkey again =) Happy New Year xx

  7. Nenaghgal says:

    Sounds like a wonderful celebration – unfortunately did not happen in our house- hubbie at work as was I – so crashed out after first week back after Christmas. Gorgeous photos as always!

    • imen says:

      Thanks Lisa……myself and Peggy ended up doing the cooking so the men were off the hook here too!!! Happy New Year xx

  8. Mairead says:

    Since my parents are from Cork we used to celebrate Nollag na mBan, but in Cork it was always called Little Women’s Christmas. As I child I used to get confused whether it was the women or Christmas being considered small.
    Hope you had a lovely day and were truly spoiled by all the men in your family.

    • imen says:

      Hi Mairead….do you celebrate in America then? I love our opposite experiences here…really fun! Happy New Year xx

      • Mairead says:

        Imen – My husband usually makes dinner on Jan 6th, to mark the occasion, but he is from Donegal, so when he was young the day was never celebrated the same way as it is in the south west.

  9. What a lovely tradition, I’m from Kildare and we’ve never celebrated it but I think we should adopt it from now on. Beautiful photos too.

    • imen says:

      Isn’t that interesting that further up the country no one seems to have celebrated this? Thanks for your comment =) xx

  10. Kristin says:

    I wish this was celebrated in Louth! You ladies in the south get all the luck. 🙂

    • imen says:

      Yes, but you have so many lovely bits and bobs in Louth….like Eastern Seabord and the bakery!! xx

  11. Eva says:

    It is a tradition in the U.S. Army for officers to serve food to their enlisted soldiers on Thanksgiving. They get all dressed up for it. Walnut stuffing sounds super-delicious and hey, walnuts are a health food! I’ll have to make some.

    • imen says:

      Hi Eva, is this Eva Arnold? Yes, walnuts are a superfood….evens out the level of duckfat we consumed I suppose! Thanks for your comment =) xx

  12. laura says:

    What a lovely tradition Nollaig na mBan is. I always think it is a pity Jan 6th isn’t an actual bank holiday in Ireland! Enjoy the duck, it looks absolutely delicious.

  13. Móna Wise says:

    This looks gorgeous Imen. The tradition of Nollaig Bheag Na Mban was a regular celebration in our house growing up as my Mum was not a morning person (still isn’t!) and my Dad was quite handy in the kitchen. I do not think this was ever celebrated in our region at all as I have no recollection of it. But, I also was reared by ferocious liberalists :0) Beautiful photos. I think the best way for me to get you to come to Galway would be to hire you for my book!

  14. Beautiful tradition. I would love to see your father-in-law wore a polka-dot apron, I bet he looks great. Good you have photos.

  15. antonella says:

    I wish I celebrated it! I have just come back from two week holiday and the house is a disaster!

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

Leave a Reply

Saveur Sites We Love
Recent Posts