Once Christmas day has been and gone, then comes the time for one of the oldest and time-honoured traditions to be marked across the island.

Many different groups of people will head out on the morning of Boxing day, or St Stephen’s Day, to take part in the ’Hunt The Wren’, or ’Shelg yn Drean’ dances.

From all corners of the island, groups will gather and dance at various places throughout many of the island’s towns to sing the song and dance around a ceremonial pole, bearing the image of a tiny wren, reliving a custom that has its roots in pre-Christian times.

The wren in question, which is sometimes referred to as the ’king of all birds,’ was once hunted and its body paraded through the streets on a special pole.

At one time, the feathers of the wren were considered lucky charms, as they were thought to give protection against shipwrecks and witchcraft.

Nowadays, plastic replicas or stuffed toys are used in place of an actual wren.

There is a strong element of community in the words of the song, where the body of the bird is cooked and shared about around the people of the town, regardless of their station in life.

The largest dance gathering will begin at 10am at Scoill Phurt le Moirrey car park, in Port St Mary.

The group will dance there and move around to various points around the village, including Chapel Beach and the green next to the breakwater.

There are two groups meeting the east of the island, with the first group gathering outside the Woodbourne Hotel, on Alexander Drive, Douglas, at 10.15am.

They will move on to several locations towards Ballakermeen High School.

There will also be a group that meets and dances in Willaston.

They will meet in Willaston school car park, opposite the Manor Pub at 10.45am.

In the west, there will be a group meeting at the Arboretum carpark in St John’s at 10.30am.

They will dance within some of the estates within the village, as well as on Tynwald Green.

There are also two groups in the north of the island, with one meeting outside St Paul’s Church, in Market Square, Ramsey at 10.30am.

The second group meets outside the Mitre Hotel, Kirk Michael at 11am, before moving to the Raven, in Ballaugh, at 11.20am, followed by the Sulby Glen Hotel at 11.40am.

As the age-old tradition a states, all the dancing and frivolities must be finished by midday.

All are welcome to take part in the dances, or even just to turn up and watch.

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