Monday, 19 December 2016

A Very Welsh Christmas

This is our second Christmas as residents of North Wales.  We're actually spending it in Scotland because, well...my family is there and it'd be a bit odd if we stayed in Harlech on our own, wouldn't it?  

As a Scot, I'm accustomed to British traditions, which we celebrate with our own twist and I was keen to find out if my Celtic cousins had any of their own interesting takes on the whole Christmas thing.   I wasn't disappointed... 

horse
Jesus wept...imagine this turning up at your door in the dead of night

Mari Lywd - this appears to originate from Southern Wales and involves a horse's skull attached to a pole and hidden beneath a sheet..obviously.   I mean, what else would you do with those three items than take them round the street and terrify your fellow residents? 
  
Tradition dictates that groups of men will wander around the streets, arriving at doors and being turned away by owners.   THB, if someone turned up at my door, dressed in a blanket  and snapping some horse jaws at me I'd be straight on the phone to the Heddlu (Welsh police).      Get back, weirdos!   This is not Sicily; there will be no Mafia nonsense here, diolch yn fawr. 

holly bush
ouch...

Holly Beating - yeah, it's every bit as weird as it sounds.   On Gwyl San Steffan (Boxing Day, obvs), the male of the species would cut bits of holly from nearby bushes and proceed to sneak around the village and beat the arms and legs of their female servants, or whoever was the last out of bed on Christmas Day.   So, my little sister would be REALLY sore come dinner time.   Mind you, she'd soon leave a trail of dead Welsh boys in her wake, so we'd have to Ebay all our gift vouchers to raise bail money to make sure she could join us for cheese and biscuits.


creepy apple
creepy as

Callenig -  basically, a callenig is an apple.  Sorry, but it's true.  However, this an apple with a difference, as it's decorated. Yay!  It's a muy glamorous apple, adorned with cloves and perched on a stand made of twigs.  TBH, it's the most fancy apple EVER and would not look at all out of place on an episode of Masterchef, served up with a raspberry foam, lime twill and sheep intestine glaze.   Give a callenig to your friends to wish them good crops for next year.   Because everyone needs good crops, right?


church at dawn
I don't get out of bed this early for anyone.

Plygain - basically, the point of this is to get up really early and go to Church.    Now, I consider most Church services as early starters as, you know, Sundays are for hangovers, but the Welsh Plygain tradition really takes the cake.  

In order to adhere to aforementioned tradition, you need to go to Church between 3am and 6am.  I'm not even kidding.   Basically, it sounds like it would be an IDEAL stop on the way back from the pub, if only it served kebabs.    Maybe the tradition would still be going strong if there was some sort of alcohol soaking grub on offer to entice in some homeward bound revellers... 

To be honest, us Scots have our own fair share of wonderfully dotty traditions and that's what makes us so unique.    Stay special, Wales. 

Do you keep up any ancient traditions in your family at Christmas time?

Suzanne x 

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I'm a fellow Scot in my 16th year of living in South Wales, and those things all still strike me as odd. Those and beating the crud out of a pot in the streets after "the bells" on Hogmanay/ January 1st.

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