Money for the Starving Wren

Holly Wreath

Today is Saint Stephen’s Day, the 26th December and in some parts of Ireland the Wren Boys or Straw Boys are going to be out in force to-night.
In the old days an actual wren was trapped and killed and its tiny body was paraded around from house to house tied to a holly bush. The tradition is still alive today but a stuffed or replica bird is used.
Nowadays both men and women take part in the Wren Boys Processions. They dress up in home made costumes and headdresses made of straw. Similar to Halloween, they noisily go from house to house carrying a large pole with the wren tied to the holly bush perched on top.

Straw Boys

The procession is usually accompanied by a group of traditional musicians. The Wren Boys sing songs and chant the following verse:
“The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
On Saint Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze.”
Then they “ask” the householder or passer-by for money “for the starving wren

Wren Boys

Long ago the wren was thought to be the smallest bird in Ireland. Nevrtheless he had a very loud song and could be clearly heard above the other birdsong. He earned the title “King of all Birds” from the legend of “The Parliment of the Birds” where he is supposed to have hidden in the head or neck feathers of the eagle. He let the eagle fly as high as he could and then popped out and flew a few metres higher and sung at the top of his voice. He was then crowned the “King of the Birds.”


The Irish for “wren” is dreoilín belived to have come from the Gaelic “draoi ean” meaning druid’s bird. It was hunted all over Europe in midieval times because it was linked with non-Christian folklore.
P.S. The Gold Crest is the smallest bird in Ireland.

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