The 20th annual Wren Party, sponsored by the Philadelphia-Delaware Valley chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, is done and dusted.
CCÉ’s yearly event commemorates an ancient Irish custom, in which the humble wren is alleged to have given away the hiding place of St. Stephen, Christianity’s first martyr. In olden days, “wren boys” or “straw boys” would parade around their village, bearing the body of a hapless wren on a stick and begging contributions for a big village bash.
In this case, absolutely no wrens were harmed, of course. The only birds were fake.
Party-goers danced on into the night to tunes provided by a big Irish traditional band, Rosemarie Timoney’s dancers put on a lively exhibition, and there was a cute little wren parade, in which participants were awarded for the quality and inventiveness of their wren hats.
It’s a short week for Irish stuff because … Christmas. (Merry Christmas, by the way.)
But fear not, there are still a couple events and activities to get you in the Irish holiday spirit.
Saturday, December 21
Here’s one of the hands-down best ways to celebrate that holiday. It’s an American Celtic Christmas at the Keswick Theater 291 North Keswick Avenue in Glenside.
This show goes back to 2012, and it just keeps getting better and better.
We’re about to celebrate an Irish Christmas custom that has its roots in an unusual ritual going back centuries, and you’re invited.
It’s the feast of St. Stephen—December 26—and the Irish conferred upon this holy commemoration a distinctly unusual twist, which we’ll get to.
Sponsored by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann-Delaware Valley, the local chapter of a worldwide organization that celebrates traditional Irish music, dance, language and culture, the annual Wren Party begins at 7 p.m. the night after Christmas. It takes place at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 235 Limekiln Pike in Glenside, Montgomery County.
Still plenty of opportunities to get into the Irish Christmas spirit this week. We can help you find what’s what and what’s where. Here we go.
Friday, December 13
Take in a Christmas Ceili—that’s a night of traditional Irish dance and music—at the Irish Center, 6815 Emlen Street in Mount Airy. Sponsored by the Philadelphia Ceili Group, the fun starts at 7:30 p.m.
Live music will be provided by the McGillians, with John Shields leading the dancing. Tickets are $15 and kids under 16 are free. You’re encouraged to bring a dessert to share.
Also starting at 7:30, it’s Donegal Philadelphia Christmas Bag Bingo. The event takes place at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 1 West Ardmore Avenue in Ardmore. You could win a handbag (or handbags, if you’re lucky) by the likes of Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Longchamp and many more. It costs $30 to play. BYOB and food.
Proud Irish-American Ray Sheehan is something of a party animal, and yes, it’s fun, but it’s also a serious business.
Sheehan is a partner at UpcomingEvents.com, a Philadelphia-based event company. The company is responsible for producing and promoting a wide variety of events in the Delaware Valley area and beyond. Some examples: the recent Taste of Philly culinary sampling experience in the Wanamaker Building’s Crystal Tea Room, and upcoming events like the New Year’s Eve Buffet & Fireworks Family Celebration at the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing.
The company has also produced some very large-scale events throughout the nation, including big-ticket items at Major League ballparks.
UpcomingEvents.com also publicizes other, smaller-scale events, such as the recent Celtic Christmas in Bensalem.
Sheehan’s interest in event promotion all started about 20 years ago, when he was going to school at Temple’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.
“I was just a promoter,” he says. “We were doing events in bars and restaurants. I was a D.J. We were just getting the attention of these bars and restaurants by just throwing parties.”
We hope you’re in the holiday spirit. Last week, almost every event featured a Christmas connection. It’s even more so this week.
Here’s what’s on:
Saturday, December 7
Ready for a brisk run or walk? Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 87 is hosting the Tommy “Wengo” Wenger Memorial Jingle Bell 5K Run and 1K Walk and the Annual LAOH Children’s Christmas Party. The race steps off at 9 a.m. at St. George Elementary School, 2700 East Venango Street in Philadelphia.
Santa Claus will be riding along on Fire Engine 81, “The Pride of North Catholic.” Registration is $25, and $15 for kids 10 and under. Cost of admission includes a pancake breakfast, t-shirt and jingle bells for your sneakers so you can music wherever you go. Text your email or home address to Jim Carr at 215-620-6547, and they will send you a registration.
Tara Regan is a remarkable young woman.
Start with her course of study at Bloomsburg University: social work, with minors in political science and American Sign Language (ASL). She’s always wanted to be in a helping profession. The ASL makes her valuable to a particular client population and the political side of things, she believes, will make her more effective in dealing with the policy side of being a social worker. Too, her cousin is Second District U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle. “On the 4th of July and such, we would always talk politics,” she says. “I would be 12 years old, telling him what I think.”
Look back, too, on her time playing the rough and tumble Irish sports of hurling and camogie with the Glenside Gaelic Club and the Philadelphia Shamrocks. She’s also played field hockey since she was 9—and she continues to play intramural field hockey at Bloomsburg. She also performed in plays at Bishop McDevitt High School. “I always loved acting and theater. I’m really big into Broadway. I love Broadway shows.”
Finally, though, catch a glimpse of the small round white sensor on her arm, and when you hear the story behind it, you’ll understand one reason why Tara Regan, 19, of Glenside, is the new Miss Mayo.
Are you ready to get in the holiday spirit? With several Christmas-y events on tap, this is your week.
Here’s what’s on:
Saturday, November 30
Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones return to The MacSwiney Club, 510 Greenwood Avenue in Jenkintown.
Due to popular demand, that’s for everyone who couldn’t get tickets to the Friday night show in this cozy space. The show starts at 8 p.m.
(If you’d like more insights into Derek and his long musical history, check out our podcast.)
Sunday, December 1
Break out the mistletoe. The holiday kicks off with a Christmas Tree Lighting and Open House at the Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center (the Irish Center), 6815 Emlen Street in Mount Airy. You really have to put this one on your calendar. If you’ve not visited the Irish Center, here’s a chance to see the place at its absolute family-friendly best, with music, dancing, vendors and sooooooo much more (including a visit from you know who). It all starts at noon and goes on ‘til 6 p.m. (Full story here.)