maandag, december 29, 2003

IrElAnD, tHe ROaD tO rEcOvErY

A fine little holiday which shuts down all of Ireland but a handful of pubs and a a few bus routes: Say hello to St. Stephen's Day, Ireland's equal to England's Boxing Day?

In Ireland, St. Stephen's Day is the day for "Hunting the Wren" or "Going on the Wren." Originally, groups of small boys would hunt for a wren, and then chase the bird until they either caught it or it died from exhaustion. The dead bird was tied to the top of a pole or holly bush, which was decorated with ribbons or colored paper.

Early in the morning of St. Stephen's Day, the wren was carried from house to house by the boys, who wore straw masks or blackened their faces with burnt cork, and dressed in old clothes (often women's dresses.) At each house, the boys sing the Wren Boys' song. There are many versions and variations of this song, including the following:

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Although he is little, his family is 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 not 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.

Of course, in Desultory Turgescence Land, St Stephen's Day is an excuse to wander vast passages of Galway in a vain search for the perfect pint of Guinness.

Failing that, there's always Irish Whiskey to get one through the day.

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