Micheal O'Muircheartaigh on booming Wren Day in Dingle: 'I'll don my straw hat and keep silent lest someone might recognise my voice'
Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh says the longstanding Christmas tradition of 'Wren Day' is "stronger than ever in the town of Dingle".
"In Dingle you'll see the adults decked out in green and gold, competing against each other in the spirit of the season.
"There's still competition as to who will collect the most, and the money is usually donated to charity now.
"The Wren is usually late starting, with all the preparation and the hats it takes time to get going.
"One after another they go up the street, calling to the hospital and to the church on the way," he told RTE Radio One's Sundays with Miriam programme.
The legendary RTE commentator recalled attending the Wren Day in Dingle with his eight children some years ago.
"I kept silent lest someone might recognise my voice and I led them into house after house.
"I still have my straw hat from last year, I might wear it again this year.
"It's a day of great celebration and great fun and I wouldnt miss it for anything," he said.
The broadcaster also fondly recalled partaking in Wren Day as a child in his home village of Dún Síon in the 1940's.
"You had to wear a false face, maybe homemade with cardboard, that wouldn't melt in the rain.
"Our local wren was made up of 12-15 of us and we would leave with the dark of the morning, dressed in coloured clothing, and a musician in toe.
"We went from village to village, moving towards Dingle.
"We'd eat a bite in houses when we were offered," he said.
What is 'Wren day'?
- In Dingle, Co. Kerry, Wren Day (pronounced 'Wran Day') takes place on December 26.
- People wake early, and by 6 am are on the streets in straw costumes and fancy dress, parading about waving banners to announce The Wren.
- This is done to the accompaniment of lively Irish music, played by paraders with tin whistles and accordions.
- The popularity of the Wren Day celebration waned greatly in the early 1990's. But in the last few years, young people in Dingle have shown great interest in its continuation, and a new sense of life has been injected into the event.
- The day of the Wren was once practiced all around the country.
- Groups of disguised musicians and dancers went from door to door, or from pub to pub, collecting money or offerings of food.
- On a bush decorated with ribbons, they hung the wren or wrens that had been hunted and killed earlier that day reciting a rhyme that began:
The wran, the wran
the king of all birds
On Stephen's Day
was caught in the furze
- If no offerings were forthcoming at a house, there was a danger that the wren would be buried outside the hall-door, which was taken to bring bad luck for the next 12 months.
- More commonly, the wren was buried with a penny at the end of the day's festivities.