Saint Stephen's Day and the tradition of 'Hunt the Wren'

December 26th is Saint Stephen's Day. This is a day in the Christian calender that remembers Stephen who was said to have been the first Christian martyr who was stoned to death by Jewish authorities in c.34 having been accused of blasphemy. It is a day that is also celebrated by the tradition of 'Hunt the Wren', particularly in the Celtic nations of Ireland (Éire) and Isle of Man (Mannin). 

It is said that the tradition goes back to pre-Christian times, the origins of which are now not clear. However, it is seen as a way to ward off evil and to bring good luck in the year ahead. On the Isle of Man the celebration involves a circular dance, with a pole, decorated in ivy and displaying the artificial body of a wren held in the middle. In Ireland the pole is paraded through the villages and towns by people dressed up in masks and straw suits, accompanied by bands of musicians. 

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