Happy Wren’s Day

wren-boys

Here in the States, another Christmas has come and gone.  But there are still places in the world where the Twelve Days of Christmas are still going strong.  In certain, more celebritory, parts of the world this time of year is a series of festivals and feasts (unless you happen to be the unfortunate family in a Susan Cooper novel, then the Twelve Days are a long battle against The Rising Dark).

So to those of you who can’t do it cold turkey, who need a little soft come-down from the holiday crack, I say Happy Wren’s Day!  (Or happy St. Stephen’s day, if you prefer a less pagan observance).

In Irish traditions past, Dec. 26 would see a great hunt for the King of All Birds, the treacherous Wren.  Having been chased down by groups of rampaging boys (or simply dying from exhaustion) the wren would then be dangled from a stout staff and used to beg for treats as the Wren Boys, dressed in wren masks and face paint, caroled from door to door.

Today, the wren is hung in effigy and the King Bird allowed to sit upon his throne unmolested ( for the most part).  The wily Wren Boys still sing a variation of this rhyme:

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze,
Although he was little his honour was great,
Jump up me lads and give us a treat.
As I was going to Killenaule,
I met a wren upon the wall.
Up with me wattle and knocked him down,
And brought him in to Carrick Town.
Droolin, Droolin, where’s your nest?
Tis in the bush that I love best
In the tree, the holly tree,
Where all the boys do follow me.
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
And give us a penny to bury the wren.
I followed the wren three miles or more,
Three miles or more three miles or more.
I followed the wren three miles or more,
At six o’clock in the morning.
I have a little box under me arm,
Under me arm under me arm.
I have a little box under me arm,
A penny or tuppence would do it no harm.

So if the Wren Boys visit your home tonight, please spare a penny or two, or a cake or other sugary treat.  Here in the Cody-home, we’ll probably be watching HGTV.

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One Response to “Happy Wren’s Day”

  1. The Irish are creepy.

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