January 10, 2024

At a baby shower last weekend, we played some games (as is the custom). One involved a list of baby-related traditions around the world (we had to guess which country had which custom). By then, I’d stopped competing for a prize, since I’d done abysmally at guessing the mom-to-be’s belly size, and remembering what was in a briefly unveiled pile of infant care items. But I did enjoy learning some interesting stuff (babies in India have their heads shaved! German babies’ names must be approved by the government! Greek newborns should not see themselves in a mirror!) Some of these can be traced to superstitions or religious practices, others are thought to have health benefits (Icelandic babies nap outdoors. Iceland. Let that sink in).

Now, I am aware that we Americans also have some pretty odd customs--Groundhog Day! Presidential turkey pardons! Not using the metric system! So, I do not feel globally superior in any way. Indeed, I’d love it if we espoused many customs from other lands—such as the Nordic Jólabókaflóðið (Christmas book flood), when gifts of books are exchanged, and then folks snuggle up and read all night—presumably indoors, but you never know (see Iceland, above). And it must be swell to be my age in Korea, where elders are highly respected, always deferred to, and served food first at the table. Guessing “OK Boomer” is NOT an Asian thing.

Many a holiday season over the years I have spent fighting off one illness or another, from strep throat to pneumonia to bronchitis, and I firmly believe all my decorating, shopping, card writing and baking were directly to blame…not to mention my stubborn insistence on pushing through my discomfort, so as not to ruin The Christmas Magic. I’m convinced my kids always truly appreciated the festive Yuletide meal prepared by their coughing, feverish mom!

Well, the lovely Irish offer us stressed-out women our own special annual day to chill—Nollaig na mBan. Observed in the west of Ireland on January 6th, “Women’s Little Christmas” is time for the hard-working ladies to put a figurative “gone fishin” sign on the front door, and head on down to the local pub for a pint or two. Of course, before they are allowed this brief respite, they have to take down and put away ALL the Christmas decorations in the house; waiting until January 7th is bad luck. It’s said that “even God rested on the seventh day, Irish women didn't stop until the twelfth!” Haha! We work harder than you, God!

Next year, I’m definitely making some big changes. Every holiday going forward, it will be “customary” for me to lie in bed for hours reading, while my respectful family serves me tasty snacks. Later, I will make my Happy Hour appearance at the Oreland Inn, where my female friends and I will clink glasses, see our shadows, and talk about all the turkeys we used to date.

And I’ll stop looking in mirrors. Best custom ever.


    I am an author (of five books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a retired director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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