Sunday, December 26, 2010
Wrens and Christmas goats
The second day of Christmas - also known as Saint Stephen's day, after the first Christian martyr who died in the year 35. On the west coast of Ireland, people get dressed up as "wren boys" in the name of Saint Stephen - dancing, drinking, playing music and reciting poetry:
The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
We followed his run, three miles from home,
Through hedges and ditches and great big stones.
Although Saint Stephen isn't as well known in Norway as he is in Ireland, the second day of Christmas is also a national holiday in his honor. All shops and businesses are closed. In older folk tradtion, this is the day that "julebukk" (Christmas Goat) processions would begin going house to house through Norwegian villages - continuing each day until the new year. Until recent years, this tradition has been particularly strong in Valdres, in the eastern part of Norway. The Valdres julebukk procession would be done by adults (who would demand drinks from homeowners), while in the rest of Norway it has become something only done by children - similar to Halloween masquerading in the USA.