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Wren’s Day – 26th December

Wren DaySt Stephen’s Day is traditionally on 26th December according to the Western Church and 27th for the Eastern Churches. He was the first Christian matyr and was apparently stoned by Jews for blasphemy against Moses.

In Ireland this day is called Wren’s Day and a live wren or an effigy in a cage, or even one tied or nailed to a holly bush, used to be taken from house to house by Wrenboys or Mummers. They would sing ‘a penny or tuppence would do it no harm.’ Legend has it that the wren had betrayed St Stephen. Like many of these festivals they involved linking a Christian and Pagan Festival. Originally the Hunting of the Wren was celebrated on the Winter Solstice, specifically the day after Long Night when people celebrated the birth of the new Sun, that is, December 21st.

To this day, crowds of people take to the roads in various parts of Ireland, dressed in a variety of clothing, wearing masks or straw suits and accompanied by musicians. The Wren – sometimes pronounced and written, wran, was seen as an intermediary, in pre-Christian times, between this world and the next. The flight patterns of birds, like the wren, were used as auguries by the Druids. Indeed, some believe, the Gaelic word for wren – dreoilín – derives from two words, draoi ean, or Druid bird.

 

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