BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

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

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The spit got up like a naked man,
And swore he'd fight with the dripping pan;
The pan got up and cocked his tail,
And swore he'd send them all to jail."
The story told, to account for the title of " king of all birds," here given to the wren, is a curious sample of Irish ingenuity,— and is thus stated, in the clever " Tales of the Munster Festi­vals," by an Irish servant, in answer to his master's inquiry :—
" Saint Stephen [ why what the mischief, I ask you again, have I to do with Saint Stephen ?"
" Nothen, sure, sir, only this being his day, when all the boys o' the place go about that way, with the wran, the king of all birds, sir, as they say, bekays wanst when all the birds wanted to choose a king, and they said they'd have the bird that would fly highest, the aigle flew higher than any of 'em, till at last when he couldn't fly an inch higher, a little rogue of a wran that was a-hide under his wing, took a fly above him a piece, and was crowned king (of the aigle an' all, sir), tied in the middle o' the holly, that way, you see, sir, by the leg, that is. An old cus­tom, sir."
Vainly have we endeavored to arrive at the probable origin of hunting and killing these little birds, upon this day. The tradition commonly related is by no means satisfactory. It is said that a Danish army would have been surprised and destroyed, by some Irish troops, had not a wren given the alarm, by pecking at some crumbs upon a drum-head—the remains of the sleeping drum mer's supper; which roused him, when he instantly beat to arms And that, from this circumstance, the wren became an object of hatred to the Irish.
Songs, similar in spirit to that of the Irish Droleen boys, were popularly sung by the Greeks. In D'Israeli's " Curiosities of Literature," may be found translations of " the crow song," and "the swallow song;"—between which and the Irish wren song, the resemblance is very striking. " Swallow-singing or cheli-donising, as the Greek term is," was, it appears, a method of collecting eleemosynary gifts in the month of Boedromion or August. We think D'Israeli is right, in his opinion that there is, probably, a closer connexion between the custom which produced
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