Wren Boys

First Sunday Céilí focuses on the theme of Wren Boys. Hope t see you at the Doric Lodge in Fremont this sunday at 4.00 pm.
We will have live music, dance instruction, food and lots of cultural exchange.

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze;
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
Pray give us a penny to bury the wran.

Wren Boys – a short thought parable….

Morans

Irish people love to celebrate. Short days, dark evenings -
A time of year is the best for gathering and singing songs or dancing

Christmas has its own celebratory connections with Ireland. But none so incised as the Wren Boys festivities that are still practices in rural and urban locations throughout the country and indeed beyond the borders. Here is brief history of our love of this festive occasion.

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Strawboy and wren boys playing fiddle, accordion and tin whistle at Lios Buí, 1952

Irish tradition holds that the wren symbolizes the old year, while the robin symbolizes the year to come. To ensure that the passage from old year to new could take place, it was once common practice on St. Stephen’s Day (December 26) for a group of local boys to hunt and kill a wren. The  Wren Boys traveled from house to house with the wren was tied to a pole and decked with ribbons. They regaled each house with musical laments for the unfortunate bird along with pleas to raise money for the funeral.

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Wren Boys traveling from house to house on Cape Clear island, Co Cork.

The wren is villified because it had betrayed Irish soldiers who were staging an attack on the invading Norsemen (who had been responsible for the destructions of the some of the great monastic communities of early Christendom, such as Abbey at Kells). Pecking at some bread crumbs left upon a drum, the wren betrayed the hiding place of the Irish and led to their defeat. Other myths hold that the wren betrayed St. Stephen himself with its chirping, leading to the first martyrdom of a Christian saint. In Ireland the day is called Lá an Dreoilín (Day of Wren).

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Piseogs are associated with the Wren Boys festival.

In some parts of the country, it was unwise to not respond to the wren boys pleas for food and drink and indeed money. The last thing a farmer wanted was to have the wren buried on his land, because it was sure to bring bad luck – cows sick, children sick, wife unfaithful. Piseogs like this are alive and well in Ireland today. A piseog is a superstition.

Mo cheoil sibh!

Ciarán