Happy Saint Stephen’s Day

Ed Gawlinski pointed out that today is St. Stephen’s Day. He wrote…

St. Stephen’s Day, or the Feast of St. Stephen, is a Christian saint’s day celebrated on December 26th in the Western Church and December 27th in the Eastern Church.

In Irish it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofán or Lá an Dreoilín – the latter translates literally as another English name used, the Day of the Wren or Wren’s Day.

There is a song that goes with this day …

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze*,
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
Give us some money to bury the wren.

*A prickly, dense evergreen shrub.

Midi Tune of the Wren Song

On Wren Day, people go from door to door dressed in motley attire, sometimes with ribbons, singing and asking for money. This is based on an ancient tradition that’s still practiced in parts of southern Ireland.

It was also the tradition to “bleed” horses (i.e. to let some of their blood out for medical purposes). It was thought to be good for them. Of course, they now know it’s not! In Austria, priests still bless horses on this day, since St. Stephen is the patron saint of horses.

-Mama Lisa

Many thanks to Ed Gawlinski for letting us know about St. Stephen’s Day and for the midi tune of the Wren Song!

This article was posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007 at 4:28 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, England, Holidays Around the World, Ireland, Mama Lisa, St. Stephen's Day, United Kingdom, Wren's Day. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

5 Responses to “Happy Saint Stephen’s Day”

  1. Brenda Taylor Says:

    Do you know the words to the song
    “A little Brown Baby round and wee”
    other words in the song are: “and he grew and he grew”
    until he fell right down to the ground.
    It is a song about an acorn growing up and falling from his oak tree.

    The words of “Little Dame Trump with her Little Straw Broom”
    One Morning was sweeping her little bedroom
    When casting her little grey eyes to the ground,
    In a sly little corner a penny she found.
    (There are more verses to this as well.)

  2. Lisa Says:

    I’m not familiar with those and I couldn’t find them in my books. Does anyone else know them?

    -Mama Lisa

  3. Ed Gawlinski Says:

    I found four additional verses to The Wren Song

    The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
    Saint Stephen’s Day was caught in the firs;
    Although he was little, his honor was great,
    Jump up, me lads, and give us a treat!

    We followed the wren three miles or more,
    Three miles or more, three miles or more,
    Through hedges and ditches and heaps of snow,
    At six o’clock in the moring.

    Rolley, Rolley, where’s your nest?
    It’s in the bush that I love best,
    It’s in the bush, the holly tree,
    Where all the boys do follow me.

    As I went out to hunt and all,
    I met a wren upon the wall,
    Up with me wattle and gave him a fall,
    And brought him here to show you all.

    I have a little box under me arm,
    A tuppence or penny’l do it no harm,
    For we are the boys that came your way
    To bring in the wren on Saint Stephen’s Day!


    I should love to find out the remaining words to Little Dame Trump. I have a wonderful family history photograph from 1898 in which a group of school children are performing actions to the song and all pointing to the “sly little corner”. For completeness it would be good to know the words to the song and possibly where it comes from. Thanks.

  5. Lisa Says:

    If you’d like to share your photo with us, I’d be happy to post it. It sounds lovely!

    -Mama Lisa

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