Beannachtaí na Nollag oraibh agus Athbhliain fé mhaise daoibh go léir!
Well, here we are – the final blog post of the year! What a year to be finishing off – 2020 has certainly been a rollercoaster that nobody could have predicted, and it looks like it will continue to be right up until the very end. New restrictions have been imposed here as we’ve reached a third wave of the virus sooner than expected. Therefore, it will be a very different festive season this year! Unfortunately, all the traditional Christmas and New Years events across the Dingle Peninsula have been cancelled so we’ll miss our annual fireworks, parades and gatherings. However, it’s all for the safety of ourselves and those around us so we must do what’s been asked. We will hopefully be back celebrating in every way in 2021!
One of the things that has been cancelled this year is the traditional community event of ‘Wren’s Day’, which is what Stephens’ Day, December 26th, is known as here on the Dingle Peninsula. As it won’t be taking place this year, I am giving the tradition of the wren pride of place in the blog this week! For those of you who may not have heard of this, Wren’s Day is an age-old tradition that is still heavily celebrated here on the Dingle Peninsula, particularly in Dingle town. Once common all over Ireland, the tradition now only survives in a few places. Traditionally, the wren bird was hunted on the day, as it was said to have betrayed Irish soldiers by beating its wings on their shields, as well as having been blamed for betraying St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, which is why it is hunted on the 26th of December. In times gone by, the wren was hunted and then pinned to a pole at the head of the procession. Nowadays, it is simply the name of the day.
While the hunting of the bird no longer takes place, the tradition still lives on with each wren group dressing in the traditional straws – usually oats woven into a headpiece, chest piece and a skirt to be used as a disguise. For those that don’t wear the straws, they too dress in disguise and the colours of their individual wren groups. In Dingle town, there are four main wren groups – the Green and Gold, whose colours are self-explanatory, The Quay Wren who dress in green and white, The Goat Street Wren who dress in red and white and The John Street Wren who dress in blue and white. Each group parades around Dingle town playing music and visiting the pubs. There is fierce competition between each group and they frequently encounter each other around the town where the musicians battle it out.
It is a day of fantastic atmosphere, community spirit and tradition. It is a day for the community, one that they look forward to each year, something special that very few other areas in Ireland still have. For many in the area, Christmas Day is more affectionately called ‘Wren’s Eve’! This year will be the first ever to not see a wren in Dingle town on December 26th. It is an unfortunate example of the impact Covid-19 has had on all our lives – to be able to bring a centuries-old tradition to its knees. The flurry of different colours, the excitement of the children, the rhythm of the drums and the flow of music throughout the town will be missing this year and it will certainly leave the place eerily quiet. We can only hope to bring it all back stronger and better than ever next year.
Like all other things this year, the Christmas and New Years period will be a strange one. While we can try and enjoy it and make the best of the unusual circumstances, most importantly, we must remember to look out for ourselves, our families and each other. For those struggling, we must remember that Christmas is simply just another day we must get through in 2020, and with each passing day we are getting closer and closer to the return of some sort of normality. There are slivers of good news in between everything else, and during the festive period, it is important to make an effort to focus on those. New Years Eve will see the end of 2020, the end of a year no one anticipated or particularly enjoyed, but it will have come to an end. And there’s something to be said for that.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful, safe and prosperous New Year. Thank you for following along with the blog, bringing you unique pieces of our tiny little corner of the world. It’s wonderful to be able to maintain a connection with so many people across the world. While you can’t visit, we’ll be thankful for technology and the possibilities it presents!! I am finishing work for a few weeks today, so I will pick back up with the blogs when I’m back in the new year. Until then, stay safe and enjoy the festivities!