Celebrating Women's Christmas

Editor's note: On this last Advent Sunday, we conclude our series of reflections from clergy and lay members of the Florida Conference.

There is a custom, rooted in Ireland, of celebrating Epiphany (January 6, which brings the Christmas season to a close) as Women's Christmas. Called Nollaig na mBan in Irish, Women’s Christmas originated as a day when the women, who often carried the domestic responsibilities all year, gathered together to celebrate the end of the holidays and left hearth and home to the men for a few hours. Particularly celebrated in County Cork and County Kerry, the tradition of Women’s Christmas is enjoying a revival.

Wise Women Also Came art by Jan Richardson
"Wise Women Also Came" sprang from the imagination of artist Jan Richardson as she pondered the journey to visit the newborn Christ child. 

Whether our domestic commitments are many or few, Women’s Christmas offers an opportunity at the end of the holiday season to step back from whatever has kept us busy and hurried in the past weeks and months. It provides an occasion both to celebrate with friends and also to gather ourselves before diving into the responsibilities of the new year. Women’s Christmas invites us to pause, to rest, to reflect. As we also remember and celebrate the Wise Men who traveled to welcome the Christ child, this day calls us to notice where we are in our path and to ask some questions about our own journey.

This image, titled “Wise Women Also Came,” is one of the first pieces I created after I began to discover the artist layer of my soul, just as I was about to graduate from seminary. I sat down to create a collage to use as a greeting card for Epiphany (having once again missed sending cards at Christmas) and found myself imagining who else might have made the journey to welcome Jesus. A trio of women began to take shape, carrying their treasures to offer the child.

Years have passed since these wise women showed up in my life. My style as an artist has changed greatly, and my journey has taken me across much terrain—some that I had dreamed of, some that I never could have anticipated even in dreams. This image of the wise women continues to accompany me, posing questions that linger with me still. How do we travel through the landscape of our life? What signs do we follow? What inspires us to set out into unfamiliar terrain? How do we know what gifts to offer and where to offer them? Whose company do we travel in? Where do we find sustenance along the way?

As we enter into this new year, may we know the presence of the God who celebrates with us, who walks with us, and who encompasses us on our way. 

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 headshot*Jan Richardson is an artist, author and ordained elder in the Florida Conference. She serves as the director of The Wellspring Studio, LLC, and travels widely as a retreat leader and conference speaker. Author of such books as "Night Visions" and "In the Sanctuary of Women," Jan is the visiting artist at First United Methodist Church of Winter Park. Visit her primary website at janrichardson.com.

Jan has a new retreat available for Women’s Christmas. Designed for you to use on Jan. 6 or at any time of the year, alone or with others, the retreat is available for you to download at no cost. Visit sanctuaryofwomen.com/womenschristmas.html

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