Legend has it that it was the chattering of a wren who gave away St. Stephen’s hiding place in a bush, leading to his murder and martyrdom.
Fast forward several centuries to the Emerald Isle, where the so-called “wren boys” commemorated the feast day of St. Stephen—December 26—singing, playing music and dancing in exchange for applause and money to be collected for a party or dance for their village. They performed in colorful clothing and masks.
In the early days, they actually hunted for a wren, killed it and mounted it atop a stick. Thankfully, these days, the tradition continues, but with no avian casualties—a fake wren will do.
A variation on that tradition lives on in Glenside, Montgomery County, as the Philadelphia-Delaware Valley chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (translation: Gathering of Musicians in Ireland) sponsors its annual Wren Party and Ceili December 26 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 235 Limekiln Pike. It’s a party worthy of the Comhaltas mission and the old tradition, featuring lively Irish music, set and ceili dances—even a contest for best wren boy (or girl) hat. You’re invited to make your own hat, and march in a wren boy parade. There’s also a 50/50.
“We’re excited to present the 19th annual Wren Party,” says Comhaltas Delaware Valley chair Katherine Ball-Weir. “It’s a perfect day-after-Christmas event for the whole family. If you’ve never been, you should join us—we have so much fun! This year, we will support the American Cancer Society with a donation from the event, in memory of our friend, the lovely Shannon Dunne, who passed away last month.”
The Timoney Irish Dancers, of Glenside, will provide entertainment, and music for the dancing will be provided by some of the area’s finest traditional Irish musicians. You’re invited to join in. Don’t worry if you don’t know the steps—somebody will take you in hand and show you the ropes, or you’re welcome to simply sit and enjoy the fun.
Coffee, tea and bar available. Please bring a Christmas snack to share.
Cost of admission is $10 for Comhaltas members, and $13 for non-members. Children 4 to 10, $4. Children under 4 are admitted free.
The Wren Party starts at 7 p.m. For more information, call 610-517-0143.