Every Boxing Day on the Isle of Man, communities come together across the island to dance and sing in the streets around “the king of all birds“, the wren, who is paraded around on a decorative pole.
Hunt the Wren, as it is known on the island, has become one of the most popular yet more unusual Manx traditions in practice today.
The practice dates back to Pagan times and is thought to have descended from Celtic mythology and may have been influenced by Scandinavian Viking settlers during the 8th and 10th centuries.
Historically groups of boys dressed up in straw outfits, known as ‘wren boys’ would gather on St Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) to hunt a sacred wren bird. They would then tie the bird to the top of a decorative pole and visit different houses, singing to receive money or presents for their display. Those who were generous and gave money to the boys would receive a feather from the bird as a thank you, and the collected money was used to host a village dance later in January.
Today the Hunt the Wren tradition is still a popular part of the islands seasonal festivities, and many communities come together to dance and raise money for charity. A replica of a wren is used nowadays instead of harming any real birds, and ribbons which are used to decorate the pole are handed out as good luck instead of the bird feathers.
This unusual community tradition is so special on the Isle of Man that it has been celebrated on a brand new £2 coin and only a limited number of these coins will enter circulation on the island.
But it’s not the first time that the Hunt the Wren tradition has been celebrated on a coin, it was also featured on a 50p coin 24 years ago in 1994.
So to celebrate this new festive coin release from the Isle of Man, what better reason is there to take a look back at some of the festive designs issued on Isle of Man coinage over the years.
Here are a few of our favourites which show off how exciting Isle of Man coinage can be…
Just yesterday, the UK Royal Mint issued the first ever Christmas themed 50p coin to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the publication of Raymond Briggs’ much-loved festive tale The Snowman™. And it’s safe to say the demand for the much anticipated coin has been overwhelming. It has been so popular in fact that the Silver Proof and Gold versions of the coin have already completely SOLD OUT.
But the Isle of Man have been way ahead of the UK and have already issued a few 50p coins over the years featuring the much-loved children’s character the Snowman. Issued in 2003, the first coin to feature the Snowman and James, the hero of the story, holding hands and dancing had a tiny mintage of just 10,000. Although not many of these coins are available on the secondary market, if you did want to add one to your collection, you’d be looking at parting with a minimum of £200!
The same design was issued in 2008 although these coins were not struck for general circulation. Fast forward to 2014 and the coin features the Snowman and James hugging with a Christmas tree in the background. As we already know, this coin regularly sells for 80 times its face value on secondary market selling sites such as eBay.
The Isle of Man have issued a wide range of Christmas themed 50ps over the last 40 years and it’s safe to say that any of these festive 50p coins would definitely be an envious addition to anyone’s collection. The mintages for Isle of Man festive 50ps have never exceeded 30,000 most likely due to the island having a population of less than 85,000 so it’s no wonder the coins are so sought-after.
Let us know your favourite design ever issued on a festive coin and whether you’ve been able to add it to your collection.
Own the first Festive £2 coin from the Isle of Man
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