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James Callow Folklore Archive

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The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

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ON ST. STEPHEN'S DAY, IN COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND, THE MEN
AND BOYS OF THE COUNTY PERFORM AN UNUSUAL SERIES OF
RITES IN ORDER TO RAISE MONEY FOR A DANCE. THEY CATCH
A LIVE WREN, DRESS IT WITH FANCY RIBBONS, AND TIE IT
TO THE BRANCH OF A TREE CALLED "THE FURZE." THEN THIS
GROUP OF MEN AND BOYS GO AROUND TO EACH HOME IN THE
COUNTY WITH THE WREN IN HAND. THEY SHOW THE POOR WREN
TRAPPED ON THE TREE TO THE PEOPLE IN THE HOME, WHILE AT
THE SAME TIME RECITING THIS POEM:
THE WREN, THE WREN, KING OF ALL BIRDS,
ST. STEPHEN'S DAY HE WAS CAUGHT ON THE FURZE;
THE FURZE WAS DRY AND SO WAS I.
A COUPLE OF PENCE WILL MAKE ME FLY.

UP WITH THE KETTLE AND UP WITH THE PANS,
GIVE US OUR ANSWER AND WE'LL BE GONE.
MONEY WOULD THEN BE COLLECTED FROM THE PEOPLE IN THE HOME
FOR A BIG DANCE THAT EVENING. ANYONE WHO DONATED COULD
GO TO THE DANCE FREE.

Submitter comment: THIS CUSTOM WAS PRACTICED ANNUALLY BY THE PEOPLE OF
COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND. MR. SULLIVAN FIRST LEARNED OF
THIS PRACTICE APPROXIMATELY FORTY YEARS AGO.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT ; IRELAND ; COUNTY KERRY

Subject headings: Favorites
Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Festival C436.1226
Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Custom Festival C840.1226
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 26 Boxing Day St. Stephen's Day

Date learned: 12-29-1963 ; 00-00-1943

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ON THE SECOND OF FEBRUARY, THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF COUNTY
KERRY, IRELAND ANNUALLY HELD A DANCE CALLED THE "BIDDIE
BALL," IN HONOR OF ST. BRIDGET. IN ORDER TO RAISE MONEY
FOR THE DANCE, THE YOUNG PEOPLE WOULD GO AROUND FROM DOOR
TO DOOR COLLECTING FUNDS. THEY CARRIED A LIFE SIZE
STATUE OF ST. BRIDGET, WHICH WAS ALL DRESSED IN PLAITED
STRAW. THE YOUNG MEN OF THE GROUP WOULD DRESS IN STRAW
SUITS AND THE YOUNG WOMEN IN STRAW SKIRTS AND HATS. THEY
WOULD BURST INTO EACH HOME WITH STRAW DRESS AND PAINTED
FACES. THEY WOULD THEN DANCE AROUND THE ROOM TO THE TUNE
OF AN ACCORDIAN. THEY WOULD DANCE UNTIL THE FAMILY
MADE A DONATION AND THEN THIS MONEY WOULD BE USED AT THE
"BIDDIE BALL" LATER ON THAT NIGHT. THE COLLECTING OF
THE MONEY ALWAYS TOOK PLACE AT NIGHT, JUST BEFORE THE DANCE.

Submitter comment: MR. SULLIVAN FIRST HEARD OF THIS CUSTOM FORTY YEARS AGO
IN COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT ; IRELAND ; COUNTY KERRY

Subject headings: Favorites
Ballad Song Dance Game Music Verse -- Festival C436.0202
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- February 2 Candlemas Groundhog Day
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- Typical Elements of a Festive Pattern

Date learned: 12-29-1963 ; 00-00-1923

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