Dà Latha Dheug na Nollaige
Some of you will be know the song in English "The Twelve Days of Christmas" but this song is based upon these twelve days that run from Christmas Day to the fifth of January (or the sixth of January if you started the twelve days after Christmas.) They have the “Kegeesh Ommidjagh” in Mann (the Isle of Man) for this time, meaning "The Silly Fornight," showing the fun that is involved in this time of the year. In the book "The Folk-lore of the Isle of Man," after each person had recited their prayers Christmas would startand there wouldn't be a barn that wouldn't be filled with dancers of every age and fiddlers that would play the length of the "Kegeesh."
Many cultures celebrate a version of this period, after the Advent (almost); Yule,” “Saturnalia,” “Joelfeest,” “Jõulud,” “Lohri,” “Kwanzaa,” “Gancha Ganapati,” etc. Many of them are very interesting, some of them are very similar, I'd recommend you give them a look!
As you will know already Oidhche na h-Aifreinn, Oidhche Nollaig or Oidhche nam Banag are celebrated before Christmas day. It is said that cattle will stand at midnight before Christmas Day to show respect to Jesus, born on Christmas Day. Although the day is important to us today it is not counted as part of the twelve days of Christmas. They have "Oie'll Verrey" in Mann, meaning "The Night of Mary's Feast" where people go to the church for a service, or mass, before Christmas.
Here are the twelve days of Christmas (almost) as they happen in the Scottish Gaels and the Manx Gael's World:
25/12 – Là Nollaig (Christmas Day). This is the start of the twelve days of Christmas, or the "Kegeesh Ommidjagh" if you like. On the day a "Jough-y-Nollick,” can be had. It's a drink that is similar to what we have in English for "Wassailing" or mulled wine.
26/12 – Là Naomh Steaphain (St Stephen's Day). In Mann a game of "Cammag, (a game similar to shinty) where people of the north meet with people of the South together for a game against each other. We have the same practice in some parts of Scotland on New Year's Day. They have "Shelg yn Wren" ("Hunting the Wren") in Mann, a practice that is vert interesting I have told already in a blog about the Wren. They have a similar tradition in Ireland too.
27/12 - Là Fhèill Eòin na Nollaige (Feast of St. John the Apostle). This day is celebrated in Mann with the name “Laa’ Ean ’syn Nollick.”
28/12 – The day “Laa’l ny Macain” (“Là Fhèill nam Macan”) [Childermas no “Feast-day of the Innocents”] is celebrated in Mann. This day is a feast day of the church.
“Là Fèill an Teaghlaich Naoimh” (Feast of the Holy Family) will be on one of the Sundays between Christmas and the New Year. If both of these days are Sundays then this day shall fall on the 30th of December.
31/12 – An Nullaig (Nollaig) Bheag (Hogmanay). There are many names for this day; “Oidhche nan Callainean,” “Oidhche Choinnle,” “A’ Chollainn,” “Oidhche nam Bannag,” “A’ Challainn” and “Oie Nollick-Beg” (Night of the Little Christmas) in Mann. There is a practise in Mann where a thimble-full of salt was put on a plate for each person in the house left through the night left through the night until the next morning. If any of the piles had fallen a death will come to the person who put that thimble-full of salt. There is another practice were ash of the fire was spread about on the floor before one goes to bed and if one awakes to find a footprint going towards the door then death will come to someone in the house. If a footprint is found going into the house then someone will have a child in the year to come. The Scottish Gaels have a similar practice at Beltaine as well.
01/01 – Là na Bliadhn’ Ùire/Là Fèill Moire Mathair Dhe (Feast of the Circumcision of Christ/Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God). They have “Laa Nolick Beg” and “Quaaltagh” in Mann, “Quaaltagh” comes from the word "Còmhaltaich" meaning "First-foot" to them. As the Manx play shinty on St Stephen's Day the Scottish Gaels will have a game of shinty together on Hogmanay.
06/12 – Là nan Trì Rìghrean (“The Epiphany”). This is the last day of the twelve days of Christmas. In Mann this is the "Laa Giense" ("Day of Mirth") where the "kegeesh ommidjagh" stops and people pair of together (with hope), and it's said that this is the “Shenn Laa Nolcik” (the Old Christmas Day). There is an account in the book “The Folk-Lore of the Isle of Man” to games “Cutting off the fiddlers head,” “The Lackets” agus “The Goggans,” showing the "mirth" on this day. They have the name “Shenn La’il Chibbert Ushtey” ("Old Feast Day of the Water Well") for this day as well that is similar to the trips that one would undertake for “Chibbyr Baltane” and “Chibbyr Vreeshey” and their sacred waters.
“Là Fèill Bàisteadh an Tighearna” falls on the Sunday after the Epiphany.
I hope you have a "Nollaig Chridheil" (and a “Nollick Gheanail”) and a Happy New Year. Remember if you know any mean people about Christmas “Am fear nach dèan an Nollaig nì e trasg na aindheoin” ("He who will not partake in Christmas he shall fast in spite of it.") Do you know any of the days above? Do you have any lore or more information about any of the days here? Let us know on facebook, twitter and our own website!
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