Mizen

Mizen, Ireland December 6th, 2020

I’m reading the book “Mizen: rescued folklore, histories, and songs from Ireland’s southwest.” It’s a fun easy read. Between 1935-1937 the Republic of Ireland government funded a program for school children to go out into their communities and collect the rich Irish oral histories before they were lost to modernity.

I’ll put in some images of Crookhaven and of the book cover. The yellow pin in the Google Earth image is the cottage where Debra and I spent our honeymoon in May of 2004 on Sheepshead Peninsula just north of Mizen. We know the area well.

Since it is Christmas, I thought I would transcribe what the Irish would do back in the day for the holiday near Crookhaven, Ireland on Mizen:

From Pages 84-85:

“Festival Customs

In my locality, Crookhaven some of the old customs are still observed on certain festivals. On St. Stephen’s say, boys go around to the houses in the village. They collect money. They sing a song called the Wren Song. These are the words sung here.

The Wren

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St. Stephen’s Day he was caught in the furze
Although he is little his family is great
Rise up landlady and fill us a treat
But if you fill us of the small
it won’t agree with our boys at all
But if you fill us of the best,
I hope in heaven your soul will rest
I met my wren on the top of a rock
I up with my cuple and broke his back
And I brought him here to your brandy shop
My money box shakes making noise and a rattle
Rise up landlady and handle your pocket
I brought my wren for to visit you here
For a taste of your liquor and a drink of your beer
Wishing you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year
With your pockets full of money
and your cellars full of beer
Up with the kettle and down with the pan
Up with the kettle and down with the pan
Give us our answer and let us be gone

At present it is the boys of the village take part in the wren. The money is divided between them. Sweets and cakes are bought with the money. Some time ago it was the men of the village who took part in the wren. They spend the money in getting up a dance and in other way.

The Christmas customs are still observed in this locality and great preparations are made for it. The people clean their houses and they decorate the house with holly and ivy. On Christmas Eve they light a large candle in every window in their home. The Christmas candle is lit on Christmas Eve. It is allowed light till it burns out. On New Year’s Day in my locality people consider it an important day. If a person is seen to be doing anything that day it is remarked to him that he will do it for the year. They also consider it very lucky to get money on that day. The 6th of January, the Feast of the Epiphany, is known locally as little Christmas day or the Women’s Christmas. There is feasting and merrymaking on that day.

It is thought that if a person remained up till midnight on that night, he would see water turn into wine. It is believed it occurs in the memory of the time Our Lord changed water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana at the request of his Blessed Mother. Probably that is why it is known here as the Women’s Christmas.

Collected by Jeremiah Mahony, Crookhaven”

I’m enjoying the stories. It’s a pleasant read about my ancestors.

I recommend the book.

TJM

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