ST. STEPHEN'S / BOXING DAY)
( St. Stephen (detail) by Giacomo Cavedone 1601)
THE WREN SONG
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 Festivals.net)
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."