St. Stephen’s Day Party

December 10, 2008

It’s Time Once Again for our annual St. Stephen’s Day Party!
We hope you will join us for the celebration.

When: Friday December 26, 2008. Festivities Begin at 4 PM
Where: Jay and Lea‘s house. 6528 Kerns Rd. Falls Church, Va. 22044

After our party last year, many folks who were unfamiliar with St. Stephen’s Day asked us about the holiday . For those of you who are curious, here is a bit of information about it. St. Stephen’s Day is a National Holiday in Ireland celebrated on December 26th. It honors St. Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr. He was stoned to death shortly after the Crucifixion. In Ireland this day is also called “Wren Day” (La an Dreoilin). The connection between St. Stephen and the wren is not quite clear, though it is said that St. Stephen was betrayed to his pursuers by a wren. Most likely it can be attributed to a pre-Christian celebration which was adapted by the church.

But why did the pre-Christian celts dedicate a festival to the wren? The wren plays a prominent role in Celtic mythology. Druids were reported to have used the flight patterns of wrens to predict future events. Indeed, the Irish word for wren is “dreoilin” which may be a combination of the two words “draoi” and “ean”……druid bird. Perhaps the festival springs from a myth states that at this time of year, ┬áthe robin which represents the New Year would kill the wren which represented the Old Year. Another myths states that the wren is known as the King of all Birds. It seems that at one time all of the birds got together to bestow this title on one who proved himself worthy. They decided that the bird which could fly highest would hold that honor. Most figured the eagle would win. However, when the eagle flew up as high as he could, the crafty little wren who had been hiding on the eagle’s back, jumped off and flew up even higher and was thus proclaimed “King of all Birds”.

In Wren Day celebrations in Ireland, groups of Wren Boys (also called Strawboys or mummers) blacken or obscure their faces and dress in straw outfits or odd clothing. They carry an effigy of the wren or an actual live caged wren with them. Traveling from house to house, they ask for money to bury the wren in exchange for which they sing, dance and play music. The rhyme they often quote is:

The wren, the wren, the King of all Birds
On St. Stephen’s Day he got caught in the furze
Up with the kettle and down with the pan
Give us some money for to bury the wren.

In the past the money went towards organizing a party or dance. Now it goes to charity.

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