Two Boxing Day traditions which have become much more benign lately came to my mind while walking the track near mum’s today: hunting the Wren and the Fox. The myth was that the Wren, the tiny bird with a loud voice, alerted St Stephen the martyr’s sleeping guards, leading to his death by stoning. This was then avenged by the trapping and caging or killing of many Wrens on St Stephens’s Day (Boxing Day). They were then carried on poles, decorated with ribbons and greenery, into the Churches or paraded around houses, with the Wren-hunters being given food and drink. Pre-Christian, the same tradition took place in many Celtic and Druidic cultures on December 21st, the shortest day, linking the Wren to the death of the old sun and the birth of the new. In a few places, including Dingle and the Isle of Man this tradition is still marked but the Wren is represented by an image on a decorated pole around which people dance. Wrens suffer from cold winters anyway and the BTO and Winterwatch want you to check on your bird boxes and let them know if you have groups of wrens roosting together in your boxes- the most Wrens ever recorded in a roost is 63 huddled together to keep warm! I saw and heard several Wrens on my walk, and also heard the fox-hounds baying, preparing for the Boxing Day Hunt which, at least for the present is now focussed on following laid trails rather than hunting the Catsfield and Battle foxes.
Conditions: A great frost after starry skies and a new moon last night. A still, cool day with a milky sun. Temperature: Max 4- Min 0C