Ancient Celebrations – Part 7 – Wren’s Day

Saint Stephen’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Stephen, is a Christian saint’s day to commemorate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr celebrated on 26 December.

In Irish, it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofáin or Lá an Dreoilín, the latter meaning the Wren Day. When used in this context, “wren” it alludes to several legends, including those found in Irish mythology, linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. People dress up in old clothes, wear straw hats and travel from door to door with fake wrens (previously real wrens were killed) and they dance, sing and play music.

A Mummer’s Festival is held at this time every year in the village of New Inn, County Galway, and Dingle in County Kerry. Mumming is also a big tradition in County Fermanagh in Ulster. Saint Stephen’s Day is also a popular day for visiting family members and going to the theatre to see a pantomime.

In the UK Boxing Day originated as a holiday to give gifts to the poor. The Carol “Good King Wenceslas” tells the story of a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen. During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935).

Whether you are a Christian or otherwise, St Stephen’s Day is a great day to show appreciation for what you have and give to the poor. Maybe go through your possessions that you no longer use and donate them to charity, or donate money. Let’s always care for those in society who have illness, disabilities, the widowed, the single parents and all who suffer from poverty.

However you spend the day, may you be blessed and wishing you all good health.

Watch a video of The West Clare Wrenboys

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