Dead birds can be found on more than one Victorian Christmas card, and most bear sentiments like “A Loving Christmas Greeting.” Lost even perhaps to the Victorian audience, the meaning behind this grotesque imagery probably has its origins in Celtic traditions associated with December 26 — the day after Christmas — also known as St. Stephen’s Day.In Ireland, this feast day for the first century martyr is called Lá Fhéile Stiofáin or Lá an Dreoilín, which translates as the Day of the Wren or Wren’s Day. Up until about a century ago when the practice started to wane, groups of small boys would hunt for a wren, then chase the bird until they either caught it or it died from exhaustion. The dead bird was then tied to ta pole or holly bush.Some scholars have posited a theory that this hunt for the wren finds its origins in anti-pagan customs. As discussed in Birds in Legend, Fable and Folklore, men and boys on the hunt for the wren on the Isle of Man in and around the 10th century shouted “draoi-en” — which translates as “Druid Bird.” Druids were believed to have used wrens in acts of divination. It is likely that hunting the wren was a Christian rejection of heathen practice attributed to Druids. Though not practiced like it was a century ago, Wren’s Day with its wrenboys and mummers is still practiced in some areas of the British Isles.Thus a dead wren on a Christmas card could seem a perfectly normal image to some Victorians whose Celtic roots would signal to them that this anti-pagan symbol was an appropriate way to celebrate Christ’s birth.Few could argue the same, however, for a card depicting a murderous frog who, upon stabbing his companion, steals away with a sack marked “2000.” Unless, of course, we are instead meant to think of Christ’s death, and not his birth. Or more precisely, Christ’s death and resurrection as a promise of salvation made possible by his birth.