St. Stephen's Day in Ireland
St. Stephen's Day (Lá Fhéile Stiofáin), or the Day of the Wren (Lá an Dreoilín), is an occasion to commemorate the life of St Stephen, a Christian martyr. Many people spend the day quietly with close friends or family.
What do people do?
Many people generally spend the day quietly with family members or close friends. Some Christians attend special church services to remember St Stephen's life. Other people may visit a theater to see a pantomime. Pantomimes are musical-comedy productions based on fairy tales and aimed at families. They incorporate audience participation, cross-dressing, double entendre and references to recent local events.
In some parts of Ireland, children go from door to door with a wren (a small bird) in a cage or a model wren on a stick. They may also sing, play music or perform traditional dances. In some areas, boys may dress as girls or women. Many hope to collect money for community or school projects or charity.
Banks, post offices and many other businesses and organizations are closed on St Stephen's Day. However, stores and pubs are generally open, although they may open later and close earlier than usual. Public transport service schedules vary depending on where one lives and intends to travel. If St Stephen's Day falls on a Sunday, the public holiday moves to Monday, December 27.
St Stephen is believed to be the first Christian martyr. He was stoned to death sometime around the year 33 CE. According to an Irish legend, he was betrayed by a wren while hiding from his enemies. Another legend tells of Viking raids on Ireland on St Stephen's Day sometime around the year 750 CE. Irish soldiers were approaching a Viking camp to drive out the intruders. However, a wren started eating crumbs from a drum and alerted the Vikings to the presence of the Irish soldiers.
Hence, some people felt that wrens betrayed them and should be stoned to death, just as St Stephen was. Boys traditionally hunted a wren and threw stones at it. They tied it to a stick when it was dead and paraded it around the village. They did this to collect money for a dance or party for the whole village. Although the custom of killing wrens on December 26 died out around 1900, St Stephen's Day is still known as the Day of the Wren, particularly in rural areas.
St Stephen's Day has been a holiday in Ireland for hundreds of years. It became a public holiday following the Bank Holidays Act 1871.
The wren and images of St Stephen are important symbols of St Stephen’s Day in Ireland.
St. Stephen's Day Observances
|Sat||Dec 26||2015||St. Stephen's Day||National holiday|
|Mon||Dec 28||2015||St. Stephen's Day observed||National holiday|
Quick FactsSt Stephen's Day commemorates the life of St Stephen, an early Christian martyr. It is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland.
St. Stephen's Day 2015Saturday, December 26, 2015
Monday, December 28, 2015 – Observed date
St. Stephen's Day 2016St. Stephen's Day does not occur in 2016
Name in other languages
|St. Stephen's Day||English|
|Lá Fhéile Stiofáin||Irish|
Alternative name2nd day of Christmas
List of dates for other years