The day after Christmas is a mighty big public celebration in Ireland. It’s called St. Stephen’s Day or Wren’s Day.
“It’s based on the saint who was hiding in a honey bush and the wren started to give a shake. It gave him away to the Romans,” explained Bennie McCarthy, the accordion and melodeon player with the traditional Irish band Danú.
“The Irish people have taken it out on the wrens. The idea is to capture the wren, not kill it.
|If you go
WHAT: Danú – “Christmas in Ireland”
WHEN: 3 p.m. Dec. 9
WHERE: Popejoy Hall, Center for the Arts, UNM campus
HOW MUCH: $20, $34 and $44 in advance at www.unmtickets.com, by calling 505-925-5858, at ticket offices in the UNM Bookstore and the Pit, at area Albertsons or at the door.
“We celebrate the capture by singing songs and going around to people’s houses. It’s a great day for music in Ireland. We like to think of it as a mad Irish Mardi Gras,” added McCarthy, one of Danú’s founding members.
Danú’s Dec. 9 “Christmas in Ireland” concert at Popejoy Hall will likely include some of those songs.
McCarthy said the Wren’s Day partying is especially rowdy because the pubs reopen after being closed for Christmas and the day before Christmas.
“It’s like they’d been closed for 12 months. It doesn’t take much to get going,” he said.
The signature song of Wren’s Day is “Boys of Barr Na Sraide,” which McCarthy said means “Boys of the Top of the Street,” the ones who hunted the wren.
The concert will include the traditional “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake.” The chorus of the song lists the ingredients of the cake and the audience joins in singing.
“It’s a great bit of fun,” he said. “It’s kind of a comic song.”
The program also will have storytelling and the reading of poems. One popular poem is Patrick Kavanagh’s “Christmas Childhood.” McCarthy said band guitarist Dónal Clancy reads the poem.
“It’s one of my personal favorites. It’s about an innocent childhood in 1940s Ireland. There’s great imagery in it … the frost in the meadow. It’s magical,” McCarthy said.
In Ireland, he said, Christmas is celebrated from Christmas Eve right up to Jan. 6. From a musician’s standpoint, he said, the period has concerts, parties with live music and jam sessions.
“We are always at home for Christmas. That’s a very Irish thing. We’ll all be doing different things with friends and family,” McCarthy said.
Started in 1995, the band tours internationally. It took the name Danú from a Celtic goddess-queen, he said.
“I think she was the queen of lots of things, the Earth, prosperity and fertility. She was a fairly powerful lady,” McCarthy said.