The Philadelphia-Delaware Valley chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (translation: Gathering of Musicians in Ireland) carried on a long tradition Wednesday night, holding its 19th annual Wren Party.
The event commemorates the Irish custom of the Wren Boys—ragtag bands of townsmen in motley attire who went door to door playing tunes, dancing and singing songs, all in hopes of collecting money for a community party or dance.
In the early days, they mounted a dead wren on a stick. December 26 is the feast of early Christian martyr St. Stephen, whose hiding place in a bush was given away by the chattering of a wren. Or so legend has it. Hence, the sacrifice of one of those small birds.
That grisly last part of the tradition faded away—thank goodness—a long time ago.
The local Comhaltas chapter commemorated the feast of St. Stephen with a big party at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Glenside, with lots of traditional Irish music, dance, holiday treats—and a wren hat parade.
We have pictures from the night’s merriment. Check them out.