Akron Irish: Very Merry

Akron Irish: Very Merry
By Lisa O’Rourke

One of the constructs that is distinctive and unique to the human brain is the ability to imagine a story. We can imagine so vividly that we can conjure images of things that we have never seen, like flying elves, in our individual minds. We can see and describe those images. Going even further, we can create a story about that flying elf, building an entire alternative reality around this imaginary creature.

Every winter, we imagine that a jolly old man manages to pull off the entire holiday that we call Christmas, summoning it out of thin air. Evidence for this phenomenon is scarce. I have seen plenty of sample Santas, sitting comfortably on a throne-type seat, covered in warm furry clothes, and smoking a pipe. Looking chill, he passively listens to the requests of children while a flurry of females in little elf costumes run around taking pictures, money and handing those children some type of candy cane to appease them.

Such is our mythology that the overweight guy who sits in the chair gets all the credit for the holiday. Meanwhile, stage left from this panorama is a frazzled looking woman holding fifty bags waiting for the Polaroid of the kids and Santa to process.

I’m not trying to be a Negative Nelly about Christmas, but I am all about transparency regarding who it is who gets the proverbial sleigh off the ground. Big hint, they are not male for the most part.

You know who does all the heavy lifting for the holidays, the women. It is not elves led by a large old guy. He does not bake cookies and pies, roast turkeys, shop for months for hard-to-find gifts, wrap, manipulate elves on shelves, decorate to theme and/or a myriad of other endless tasks.

Love-Hate Relationships
This workload has created a love-hate relationship for most women with the holidays. This is the time of year that we train for, yet, as the calendar peels off to reveal November, there is a sense of anticipatory dread. That feeling of the holiday “scaries,” and how will it all get done?

Will this be the year that it is blown amidst too many social gatherings, office outings, holiday concerts and the like? It is a marathon that we train for and run year in and year out. Just like anything else, women know that old restaurant mantra, “Proper planning and preparation prevent piss-poor performance,” to be all too true.

Add to all this the contrary fact that so many women list Christmas as their favorite holiday. Honestly, I love the laid-back 4th of July. Nothing to wrap, cooking is done outside, and it ends in fireworks, perfect.

But I kind of get why so many women love Christmas, despite the crazy logistics of the holiday season. Just like that marathon run, there is a sense of accomplishment when it all comes together.

Generations have passed on tips and tricks. We learn from television and social media too. Getting it all to conform to something close to your vision of perfection, you end up with an elated sense that you must be someone on par with a wizard or magician to have pulled it all off. That is part of what is called “holiday magic.”

I am not here proposing a sexual revolution at the holidays. It would be great, but I know how slowly the wheels turn. What I do propose is at least a nod.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Ireland is getting that right. If we aren’t going to share the work, at least give the ladies their props. First, you need to know that the Irish are sticklers for maximizing the holidays. Christmas is not one or two days, but twelve plus days long. This still carries on despite the creep of American work ethic slithering across the Atlantic, causing more businesses to be open during the holy twelve days.

The celebrations begin on Christmas and end on January 6, the Epiphany. The day that the arrival of the Three Kings and their gifts arrived in Bethlehem is morphing into a gift day of another kind.

Little Christmas
The Feast of the Epiphany is the official end to the holiday season in Ireland. It is the day to take down all the decorations and burn the holly if you are so inclined.  If you are one of those people who take everything down on New Year’s Day, it is bad luck, so don’t say that you weren’t warned.

The Feast of the Epiphany is also called Little Christmas. In Ireland, Little Christmas is also called Nollaig na Mban (Nullug naw Mon). It means women’s Christmas. After all their work, it’s the women’s day to skip off to the pub.

I am sure that everything is taken down, dusted up and put away before they go, but at least it is an official ladies’ day out. The wine must flow in the pubs that evening.
I think that it is an idea whose time has come! We need to bring that tradition here. We can start with leaving the decorations up until the Epiphany.

It is funny that people who are in such a hurry to get all the tinsel and lights up before Thanksgiving have them whipped down and put away as soon as New Year’s strikes. Enjoy them. The lights are there as a panacea to all the dark. And while we are at it, let’s bring Women’s Christmas here.

It should be a day or at least a night off for all the hard-working women who make the miracle that we call the holidays happen. Any of you fellows out there who were offended and were making mental lists of all that you do while reading this, go ahead, make my day, send your photo testimonials of your grueling holiday workload. I’m waiting …

*Lisa O’Rourke is an educator from Akron. She has a BA in English and a Master’s in Reading/Elementary Education. Lisa is a student of everything Irish, primarily Gaeilge and runs a Gaeilge study group at the AOH/Mark Heffernan Division. She is married to Dónal and has two sons, Danny and Liam. She enjoys art, reading, music, and travel and likes spending time with her dog, cats and fish. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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