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The legend of St. Stephen's Day

Published December 25, 2015

Wren's DayHere in the United States, the day after Christmas is often a day of cleaning up the house and catching up on some rest after the chaos of the holiday. Other parts of the world continue the celebrations on December 26, St. Stephen's Day. Also known as Boxing Day and Wren's Day, this day commemorates the life of St. Stephen, known for his service to the poor and as the first Christian martyr.

An Irish legend recounts that St. Stephen was betrayed by a wren while hiding from his enemies, resulting in his death by stoning. Another story tells of a wren betraying Irish soldiers on St. Stephen's Day by alerting the Vikings of their presence before an ambush around 750 AD. Because of these legends, some Irish people held contempt for these small birds and felt they should be stoned to death the way that St. Stephen was. Young boys would hunt a wren and parade its body around the village to collect money in return for a wren's feather, then use the collections to throw a party for the neighborhood.

The tradition of killing wrens faded out in the early 1900's, but the day is still observed as a public holiday even today. In some areas, children will go door to door with a toy wren, singing and/or dancing to collect money for charity or school projects. Others spend the day relaxing with family, attending a special church service or visiting a theater. However you celebrate, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season!


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