Celebrating Women's Christmas

Wise Women Also Came © Jan L. Richardson

In some parts of the world, Epiphany (January 6, which brings the Christmas season to a close) is celebrated as "Women's Christmas." Originating in Ireland, where it is known as Nollaig na mBan, Women's Christmas began as a day when the women, who often carried the domestic responsibilities all year, took Epiphany Day as an occasion to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays. (For more about Women's Christmas, visit this article published in The Irish Times: Go on, have a cuppa tea on Nollaig na Mban.)

Whether your domestic commitments are many or few, Women’s Christmas offers an opportunity to pause and step back from whatever has kept you busy and hurried in the past weeks or months. As the Christmas season comes to a close, this is an occasion both to celebrate with friends and also to spend time in reflection before diving into the responsibilities of this new year.

I'm looking forward to spending some time with friends on Epiphany night and also savoring some quiet time as we enter the year. How might you celebrate Women's Christmas this year? As you contemplate the coming months, what do you need for the path ahead?

To support you, I've created a mini-retreat especially for Women's Christmas—or whenever you're in need of some time for reflection. You can download the retreat as a PDF file at no cost. With readings and artwork, the retreat is designed to help you engage questions about where you are in your journey, how you want to travel through this year, what distinctive gift you might offer, and what you need to receive in order to do this.

The retreat is very flexible, easily adaptable to your own purposes. You can devote a day to it, or you can spread it out over several days. You can do the retreat with friends, perhaps selecting a single reflection or two as a starting point for conversation over tea or a meal as you celebrate the day. The retreat includes an introduction with some thoughts about how you might engage these reflections.

You can download the retreat as a PDF by clicking the link below. There's no cost; think of it as my Women's Christmas gift to you! You are welcome to make copies of the retreat to share with friends.

Click here to download the Women's Christmas Retreat

I've also written a blessing for Women's Christmas. As we move through the day and into the year ahead, may you journey well and walk with wisdom.

I Know How Far
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas

I know how far
you would walk
to offer what
is needed;
the lengths
you would go to
to provide for those
you hold dear.

I know how every road
you travel
begins in the hollow
of your chest,
in the chambers
of your heart;
how you measure
your steps
by the rhythm
of your pulse;
how you find
your way
across terrains
no map
could ever show.

No distance
no barrier
no expanse of time
would keep you
from propelling yourself
toward the place where
your heart has already

But for a moment,
for one small space
of time,
could you pause
and in the quiet
for the gifts
that have been gathering
around you,
the treasures borne
by those
who have been traveling
to welcome you
since the moment
you left home?

For another reflection on Epiphany, visit this post at my blog The Painted Prayerbook:

Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel

[The Wise Women Also Came image is © Jan L. Richardson from the book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas.]

34 Responses to "Celebrating Women's Christmas"

  1. carolyn sargent says:

    How delighted am I to have found this gift!! It's just waiting for me to do more than peruse the pages: thank you so much, Jan, for the multiple blessings ~ may they make their way back to you, tenfold.

  2. Wendy says:

    Thanks for this. I'm working hard to get everything I need to finished today so I can take tomorrow and retreat. If not tomorrow, then soon.

  3. The staff of Women of the ELCA will gather with tea and scones tomorrow to celebrate Women's Christmas. Thank you for the blessing which we will bestow on one another.

  4. susanna says:

    Thank you for the lovely gift of a retreat to celebrate Women's Christmas. I wish I had known about this sooner so as to gather a circle of women friends around me. I just want to share that I find you a blessing in my life.

    • Thank you, Susanna. I am grateful for the gift of your words. I'm sorry I wasn't able to post the reflection and retreat sooner but look forward to offering it earlier in the future. I hope you'll be able to gather a circle of friends sometime soon! (And the retreat can be used anytime…)

      Thank you again. Many blessings to you, and Merry Women's Christmas!

  5. Suzanne B says:

    Thank you Jan for this lovely gift! A women's group I treasure is meeting at my house tomorrow (the date is serendipity, or goddess-incidence?) and I'll share "I Know How Far" as our opening as well as suggest we draw from your retreat for our reflections.

    I am grateful for the spiritual truths you convey so powerfully through word and image. I have In the Sanctuary of Women as the only (!!!) book by my bed and love giving it as a gift.

    Blessings to you on Women's Christmas!


    P.S. Have you run across Bobby McFerrin's "23rd Psalm, dedicated to my mother" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coyhWy4mP5c ? It almost begs to be heard on Women's Christmas.

    • Thanks so much, Suzanne! Your words are an Epiphany gift. A friend of mine shared Bobby McFerrin's "23rd Psalm" with me some years ago–gorgeous. Wonderful of you to share it here–thank you for reminding me of it!

      Many blessings to you and the women you'll gather with today. Merry Women's Christmas, and thank you again!

  6. Fisherwife says:

    I needed to hear this. I would like to participate in some form. I am downloading this with a grateful heart and a hopeful hand.

  7. Sheila Mattingly says:

    Thank you, Jan, for this lovely after-Christmas gift! I'll share this with my spiritual book group when we meet, unfortunately, at the end of the month. But that doesn't mean we can't do a retreat day together in February!

    Love all of your books and newsletters. Your words and images are very important to my spiritual journey. I hope we can meet one day – perhaps at Grunewald Guild.

    Thank you!
    Sheila Mattingly

    • Thank you, Sheila! Yes–a retreat day in February sounds like just the thing! I am grateful for your words. It would be a delight to meet at the Guild–it is holy ground.

      Much gratitude and many blessings to you.

  8. In all my years, I've never heard of Women's Christmas! And my husband and I selected Epiphany on which to be married 22 years ago, so it is a double celebration for me! My husband is away this year, caring for his mother, and we will be apart. The retreat is such a gratefully received gift for the day. I need the nurturing of my sister's spirits as I celebrate a day apart with you in my own space and you in yours. Thank you, Jan.

    In Joyous Gratitude,

    • Randa D'Aoust says:

      Greetings Jennifer,

      What a joy to see your name on this beautiful page (not really a surprise though!) I agree that this is a gift of spirit for so many of us. I hope that you are doing well. I'm in San Diego area now.


    • Jennifer, thank you so much. How lovely to have a wedding anniversary on Epiphany! Happy anniversary to you and your husband, and blessings to him as he cares for his mother.

      Peace and blessings to you as you celebrate this day. Thank you again.

  9. P.S. I am also using your Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel (with acknowledgments) in worship on this Sunday as I am celebrating a belated Epiphany with my congregation. I am grateful for that gift as well. Shalom.

  10. Melissa Clay says:

    Thank you for the lovely gift. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through advent with you and felt like I was missing a dear friend after Christmas. I thank God for you and the gifts he has blessed you with. Thank you again for sharing those gifts with us.

    Blessings to you!

  11. shantia says:

    Again – thank you for a new perspective on a season that has always been important to me.

  12. Nance Eberhard says:

    When I learned that today is such a special day for womens spirituality, I became very excited. We have a "First Friday" group of eight women who gather once a month on a Friday evening, to share our spiritual life path and stories of mysticism. Since I was hosting tonight I had left up the tree, the outside lights and some other decorations so that we could enjoy them this evening.
    How I felt the beauty of God to hear of this special day. By "chance" I had just pulled out a quilt that was given to me when I finished my last pastorate called "Jacobs Ladder." After reading your blog this morning, I know the quilt will also be a part of our time tonight.
    Thank you for the retreat. I have read it and it is beautiful beyond words.
    Nance E.

  13. carmen balfour says:

    thank you for the thoughts and beautiful images, it touched me deeply

  14. Judith says:

    As it happens, I am making a yoga retreat this weekend, inviting intentions for this new year of life. I am delighted to be able to take this prayer along with me for the weekend! Thanks for the gift!! May abundant blessings fill your year…

  15. Maureen says:

    What a lovely gift you've made available, Jan! Thank you so much. Wishing you peace and a year of blessings.

  16. Paula McCutcheon says:

    Hello Jan,
    I so enjoyed the Journey of a Treasuring Heart. It was very meaningful to me and really touched that creative part of my soul that needs connceting ever so often. I liked each part the art, the words and especially the blessings….they just lifted off the page into my heart and soul. Thank you so much, Paula

  17. Martha says:

    Just reading this today on Epiphany and appreciating your thoughts and beautiful images. Thank you. Years ago I purchased and enjoyed a yearlong devotional you wrote to which I find myself returning again and again. Blessings on this New Year…

  18. Laura Hudson says:

    Thank you for this tremendous gift. I found it just in time to aid in the privilege of giving a "Charge" to a new pastor, who is a young woman. Your blessings have instructed me in the way to go about this, as I am also a young woman pastor. I am encouraged and inspired by your work at this site and at the Painted Prayerbook. Thank you for all you do!

  19. Mary Mason says:

    Thank you Jan for the gift that keeps on giving. Your ministry and creativity have been my companion for years. You have enriched my life. You are a treasure. I am grateful to have this opportunity to say THANK YOU!
    Blessings and Peace,

  20. jenn says:

    Jan, this is truly a gift. I had no idea about women's christmas, and I have been studying women's wisdom traditions for a while now. Very wonderful download of journaling questions and beautiful artwork. I love doing collage, but have never considered it art – thank you for opening my eyes and heart. I lead Creative Journaling classes for women and would love to share your work with them.
    happy new year,

  21. Carole Armel says:

    Thank you. Beautiful and I'm sending it to women friends I love who could so very much use this.

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