BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

The Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, Superstitions, Fun, Feeling,
And Festivities Of The Christmas Season.

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ST. STEPHEN'S DAY.                                   189
ceedings, described by Waldron,—as taking place, however, on a different day.—" On the 24th of December," says that writer, in his account of the Isle of Man, " towards evening, the servants in general have a holiday; they go not to bed all night, but ramble about till the bells ring in all the churches, which is at twelve o'clock. Prayers being over, they go to hunt the wren ; and after having found one of these poor birds, they kill her, and lay her on a bier, with the utmost solemnity, bringing her to the parish church, and burying her with a whimsical kind of solemnity, singing dirges over her in the Manx language, which they call her knell; after which Christmas begins."
The Wren-boys, in Ireland,—who are also called Droleens,— go from house to house, for the purpose of levying contributions, —carrying one or more of these birds, in the midst of a bush of holly, gaily decorated with colored ribands; which birds they have, like the Manx mummers, employed their morning in kill­ing. The following is their song; of which they deliver them­selves in most monotonous music :—
" The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, St. Stephen's day was caught in the furze, Although he is little, his family's great, I pray you, good landlady, give us a treat.
My box would speak, if it had but a tongue, And two or three shillings would do it no wrong; Sing holly, sing ivy—sing ivy, sing holly, A drop just to drink, it would drown melancholy.
And if you draw it of the best,
I hope, in heaven your soul will rest;
But if you draw it of the small,
It won't agree with these Wren-boys at all."
If an immediate acknowledgment, either in money or drink, is not made, in return for the civility of their visit, some such non­sensical verses as the following are added :—
" Last Christmas-day, I turned the spit, I burned my "fingers (I feel it yet), A cock sparrow flew over the table, The dish began to fight with the ladle.
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