Posted by: deirdrea | December 26, 2008

Williamsburg Wren & Happy St. Stephen’s everyone!

Williamsburg Wren, originally uploaded by William Dalton.

Hello, everyone, and happy (belated) St. Stephen’s Day!

Isn’t this a beautiful picture? I discovered it just now on flickr (William Dalton took it) and it immediately reminded me of an old Irish  tradition for St. Stephen’s day.  In the west of Ireland, kids walk from house to house on this day with a wren in a jar and recite a verse that goes like this:

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St. Stephen’s day was caught in the furze.
Although he was small, his family was great.
Rise up! good woman, and give us a treat.

That’s the version I know — but there are others, and some are much longer. When I was a little girl, staying in Connemara over Christmas, I happened to open the door on St. Stephen’s day to a little boy with a wren like this one in a jar, and he recited an entire epic about the wren, (well, a very long poem, anyway), all in Irish. It was very startling! (the wren looked a bit startled, too!)  So I think about wrens, this day of the year — especially that little fellow I saw in a jar that day.  I can’t for the life of me figure out how the kids catch them without hurting them! But he looked quite well, and very pretty, sitting on a twig in a little jar! I hope he raised a large family for himself later!!

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Responses

  1. Holy Cow! This is awesome. Ever since I was a little kid my mom always played this Christmas music, it’s called the Christmas Revels and there is song about the wren in it. There are a bunch of other old songs too, most of which are either Irish or English in origin I think. I always listen to this music every year and no one else has ever heard of it. So I love when things like this pop up. Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Jamie!

    There seem to be lots of different words to the verse, but I’ve actually never heard it sung, just recited. I know there’s a song and dance called An Dreoilín (the wren). But I don’t think it’s the same as what I’ve heard recited.

    I’d love to hear the song you have on your album, though!

    Thanks for the comment — it’s so encouraging that people think this blog is fun and/or interesting! And a Happy New Year to you!

    ~Deirdre


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