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THE age old custom of Hunting the Wren will be kept alive across the Isle of Man on Boxing Day.

‘In origin the Hunt the Wren may be related to the performances of the Christmas mummers, the White Boys and the Mollag Band, who were essentially also purveyors of good luck and prosperity,’ the book explains, adding ‘One theorist, convinced of its antiquity, suggests that “the wren cult reached the British Isles during the Bronze Age and was carried by the Megalith builders” which, if it could be proved, would make it possibly the oldest surviving custom in existence.’

Originally it was quite a bloodthirsty ritual as gangs of youths would scour the countryside looking for a defenceless wren to trap and kill, but now a more humane option is to use an artificial bird. ‘The wren then became the centrepiece for a “bush” – two wooden hoops set at right angles and placed on top of a pole and covered with ribbons and evergreens.’ She explained: ‘The “bush” would then be carried from house to house while the group sang the Hunt the Wren song and hoped to collect some money or treats for their troubles.