Saturday, December 26, 2009


( St. Stephen (detail) by Giacomo Cavedone 1601)


The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,

On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,

Although he is little, his family is great,

I pray you, good landlady, give us a treat.

My box would speak, if it had but a tongue,

And two or three shillings, would do it not wrong,

Sing holly, sing ivy--sing ivy, sing holly,

A drop just to drink, it would drown melancholy.

And if you draw it of the best,

I hope in heaven your soul will rest;

But if you draw it of the small,

It won't agree with these wren boys at all.

The Celebration of St. Stephen's Day( from Irish

St. Steven's Day( The Feast Day of St. Stephen the Martyr), as mentioned in the carol Good King Winceslas( see sidebar link), is an official holiday in Italy, Finland, Ireland and various other countries. It is also celebrated as an official or unofficial holiday. In England and the English speaking Commonwealth countries it is known as Boxing Day and celebrated as an official holiday under that name.

"In Ireland, December 26Th is celebrated under the name of St. Stephen's Day or sometimes referred to as Wren Day. Today the holiday is celebrated in Ireland very much like Boxing Day is celebrated in nearby England. But much of the lore of the day centers around a little bird known as the wren. In rural Ireland in times past, groups of young men and boys would dress in old clothes and blacken their faces. They would then capture and kill a wren, and march from house to house, carrying the dead wren on the top of a pole, and asking for a treat or money to bury the wren. In some places the custom was to give a feather from the wren in exchange for the money or treat. Today the practice of killing a wren has ceased but the marching and singing of the Wren song continues."


LadyCat said...

I hadn't read very much about this holiday before and learned alot about this tradition. I was just telling Mr. Toast that I wanted to learn more about Boxing Day/St. Stephen's Day and you gave me a short course here. As always your photo is beautiful.
I hope you enjoyed your Christmas day and continue to have the spirit of the season with you.

ChaChaneen said...

Good morning! Feels good not having to rush out anywhere today - I agree completely! In fact today might just be a pajama day! Hmmm yes, it's official now. Ha ha

Like LadyCat I too wondered about Boxing Day but I had never heard the Wren story. Fun post and interesting history.

Rebecca said...

Lady Cat, he would probably be a great source for info. about that.

Janeen! Yes, Does it ever feel good...Well, that's it. It's done then...The 26th shall now be known as pajama day!ha.ha.. I love the way you think:))...

Betsy said...

I love wrens!

...mmm... said...

Haha, Rebecca, I posted on Boxing Day as well and funnily enough, for my own curiosity, read a bit more on St. Stephen's since we did not do that, and read all up on this song and the tradition behind it. Even so, I still learned some more here. You are clever.

So, how did you celebrate this day?

Rebecca said...

Me, too Betsy.

MMM, that is funny. I enjoyed reading your perspective...Sorry you lost your phone...

Happily, I spent half the day in pajamas and relaxed for the most part...I wrote a little more in my response to your blog. It was a fairly quiet day, though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the Boxing Day traditional stories. I've never them until reading Mr. Toast post and now your beautiful informative story about the wren. How sad for the little wren, but I'm glad its life is spared. Again beautiful music. I made apple dumplings today for LadyCat and myself. We've enjoyed a relaxing day. I guess we didn't realize how exhausting the holidays can be.
Must have a cuppa soon!
The Bach