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St.Stephen’s Day.

So here we are at the second day of Christmas. It is still freezing cold but the long awaited thaw will hopefully start today, fingers crossed. A few brave souls did the Christmas Day swim at Lough Arrow yesterday. Apparently a digger had to be used to break the ice! The thought of jumping into ice cold water makes me shiver.

Today is the feast day of St.Stephen who is reputed to have been the first Christian martyr. He was stoned to death in the year 33. The Irish custom of Wren Boys continues in some places, particularly in the West and in Kerry. Up to about 1900 a wren was actually hunted, killed and paraded when the musicians and singers went from house to house looking for monetary offerings. Why was the wren chosen to memorise St. Stephen?  Well, despite it’s sweet song the Wren does’nt have a very good reputation. It is reputed to have given away St. Stephen’s hiding place, drawing his enemies there by it’s song. Another legend with an Irish angle is that the position of an Irish army defending the land in the 700s from attacking Vikings was given away at night by Wrens pecking on the drums to get crumbs left from the soldiers evening meal.

There is also the legend of the Wren tricking the mighty eagle. The Wren suggested that the Eagle use its strength to fly high above the earth to catch the beautiful melody that resided there. As the Eagle took off the Wren hopped aboard it’s back. The eagle became tired and gave up just before reaching the area of the melody. The wily Wren had expended no energy so he flew to the region of the melody, captured it and returned to earth as the possessor of the melody.

A local tradition in this area still followed by the older people is the non eating of meat on St.Stephen’s Day. It is said that abstaining on this day protects from diseases of the throat.

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