John Speller's Web Pages -- Christmas Carols
Hunting the Wren (Ireland)
Hunting the Wren, a custom that was probably of pre-Christian origins, was formerly a popular pastime on the Second Day of Christmas, the Feast of St. Stephen. A band of youths known as Wren Boys would chase, capture and kill a wren, mount it on a branch and carry it round the village, singing carols and collecting pennies. The money would be used to pay for a dance at which the wren would be mounted on a pole bedecked with ribbons, maypole style, and couples would dance round it. Today the custom has pretty much died out except in parts of the south of Ireland, where rather than killing a real wren the grownups hide a fake one and the children search it out.

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The Common Wren, Britain's smallest bird, and formerly the object of a cruel Christmas sport
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