St. Stephen’s Day or La an Dreolin meaning the Wren Day is celebrated on 26th December to commemorate St. Stephen – the first Christian martyr.
In Ireland the Wren Day has a very old tradition when men and boys dress up in old clothes and go from house to house singing, dancing and playing music asking for money to bury the wren. Originally the wren boys caught an actual wren, killed it, and carried it around on top of a pole or holly branch. According to folklore, the wren was responsible for betraying St. Stephen leading to his capture and subsequent death. If a home owner refused to give money to bury the wren, they ran the risk of having it buried outside their home which could bring bad luck to the household.
Traditionally the wren boys sang and danced around their local area, gathering money and visiting every pub in the locality. It was always a lively night continuing well into the small hours.
The capture and killing of a wren has long been discontinued and is now replaced with an artificial one. The wren boys tradition is still carried out in a few areas in Kerry, Limerick and Galway.