St. Stephen's Day in Ireland

When is St. Stephen's Day?

St. Stephen's Day is on December 26, 2020.
It falls on Saturday.

How many days until St. Stephen's Day?

There are 66 Days left until St. Stephen's Day in Ireland.

What is St. Stephen's Day?

St. Stephen’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Stiofáin), often known as the Day of the Wren or simply Wren Day (Lá an Dreoilín), is an annual religious Christian holiday celebration in Ireland and is considered as one of the public observances in the country. It is a public holiday in Ireland, observed every 26th of December each year. St. Stephen’s Day is celebrated to honor and commemorate Saint Stephen’s life, a Patron Saint of deacons, headaches, horses, coffin makers, masons, and who is also known as the first martyr in Christianity. Since St. Stephen’s Day is a public holiday, majority of the country’s businesses, establishments, and organizations are closed. Same thing goes with the schools and other learning centers as well.

St. Stephen's Day Origin

Saint Stephen is a patron saint who was described as a man ‘full of grace and power’. He is believed to live during the existence of Jesus Christ along with the other saints and apostles. He is the sole reason as to why this holiday is being observed. The holiday talks about the life of Saint Stephen who was stoned unto death around AD 36, turning him to become the first martyr or protomartyr in the history of Christianity.

St. Stephen's Day Traditions in Ireland

Irish people, specifically the boys, traditionally commemorate this holiday by hunting a wren (a passerine bird), throwing stones at it, or even chasing the said wrens. When the birds die from being caught or from the tiredness and exhaustion, they would tie it on the stick or on the top of a pole. They would decorate the wren with ribbons, colored papers, or other materials and bring this to be paraded around the villages. They traditionally do this custom for they would gain a lot of money by just dancing or partying along with the dead wrens. Based on the Irish legend, it was said that St. Stephen was caught hiding from his enemies because of the presence of the wren. As a result, it led to St. Stephen’s death through stoning. This is the reason why in the ancient past, the Irish people thought of the wrens as the symbol for betrayal. They believed that because of such betrayal, the wrens should also be stoned to death, the same way as how St. Stephen died. Hence, for the next years, it has been customary for the Irish people to kill wrens during the celebration of St. Stephen’s Day. However, this tradition of them killing real wrens have been discarded around 1900s. At present, although the holiday no longer observes the killing of wrens, it is still known for its customary term as the Day of the Wren or Wren Day, specifically on the country’s rustic regions.

Majority of Irish people would also spend the Feast of St. Stephen along with their families, relatives, and their close friends. Christians would attend church activities or services which mostly talks about the Life of St. Stephen. Other Irish people would even attend a pantomime theater as a form of entertainment during the celebration of this holiday.

As part of the St. Stephen’s Day celebration, some villages in Ireland would observe the so-called Mummer’s Festival. ‘Mummer’s Festival’ is an event wherein people wear unique costumes and disguises. It’s a fun activity since it’s mostly attended by families and friends. New Inn, County Galway, Dingle (one of the towns in County Kerry, Ireland), and County Fermanagh are examples of the places in Ireland which observe the Mummer’s Festival during the celebration of St. Stephen’s Day.

In addition, it has also become a tradition for the Irish people to dress up with the observance of St. Stephen’s Day. People are seen donning on old clothes, wearing masks, painting their faces, and would sometimes even seen wearing a hat woven out of straw. They are called as ‘Wren Boys’ and even girls would also join to this custom. They would have a parade in their town or village. Wren Boys would perform by singing and dancing from house to house accompanied by instruments and would sing the ‘Wren Boys song’. They do this for their local charity. They are the highlight of this holiday and they can really brighten up people’s mood.

Dates of Observance for St. Stephen's Day
Year Date Day Holiday
2020 December 26 Saturday St. Stephen's Day
2021 December 26 Sunday St. Stephen's Day
2022 December 26 Monday St. Stephen's Day
2023 December 26 Tuesday St. Stephen's Day
2024 December 26 Thursday St. Stephen's Day
2025 December 26 Friday St. Stephen's Day
Upcoming Ireland Holidays
Holiday Date
October Bank Holiday October 26, 2020
Christmas Day December 25, 2020
St. Stephen's Day December 26, 2020