8 Welsh Christmas traditions

Christmas is a time for tradition, and in Wales we have plenty of our own which we like to act out every year – so what are they? Some are heart-warming, others are a little on the strange side, but they’re something which can make festive Wales holidays seem all the more authentic. So here are our eight Welsh Christmas time traditions. 1 Twilight Carols There are variations on this tradition all over the world, but in Wales the Plygain service held between 3am and 6am on Christmas morning was once a key tradition. Some people would go to sleep and rise early for the service, while others would stay up all night, before taking part in a service which revolves around unaccompanied male voices singing three or four part harmony carols. 2 Eating Game In the middle ages and into Victorian times a traditional Christmas dinner in Wales didn’t consist of Turkey, but game. So for an authentic Welsh Christmas dinner this year why not enjoy a game pie? 3 A Horse’s Head One unusual tradition in Welsh history, is to decorate the Mari Lwyd each Christmas. The Mari Lwyd is a horse’s skull, which is decorated as part of a New Year’s ritual. The practice originated in 19th century Wales and the skull would be decorated with bells, draped in a white sheet, placed on top of a wooden pole and carried around the village or town. Believe it or not, this tradition still takes place in some places today. Welsh Christmas Customs Traditions Robin Holly Wassail Drinking Noson Lowen | Lyons Holiday Parks North Wales4 Bird-watching When we say bird watching, what we really mean is bird hunting. In 19th century Wales men used to gather together in groups on twelfth night and head out to hunt for a house wren. Once a bird was tracked down it would be trapped in a cage and carried around the village, as it was believed it would bring good luck. 5 Sweet eating One tradition which is well and truly alive nowadays, is the 19the century North Wales tradition of inviting people to your home at Christmas to make and eat sweet treats. Known as Noson Gyflaith (Toffee Evening, people would gather and tell stories and tales as well as guzzling sugary snacks. 6 Trick or Treat Trick or Treat may be an American tradition which sees children head out at the end of October, but a similar tradition has been practiced in Wales between dawn and noon on New Year’s Day. It hasn’t survived to the modern day, but in the early 19th century Welsh children would go from door to door, singing rhymes, splashing people with water and asking for small change, known as calennig. Welsh Christmas Customs Traditions Robin Holly Wassail Drinking Noson Lowen | Lyons Holiday Parks North Wales7 Christmas Holly Holly is seen as ideal for Christmas wreaths and decorations these days but in the 19th century in Wales it had a different role at this time of year. Traditionally the last person out of bed on Christmas day would be beaten with prickly holly sprigs… thankfully this tradition hasn’t survived to the present day. 8 Christmas Punch One tradition which definitely has survived, is the idea of enjoying a Christmas drink. Drinking from the wassail bowl was a lucky New Year’s tradition in Wales for many years, thanks to the Anglo-Saxons and Tudor, who would fill an ornate bowl with beer, fruit, sugar and spices.

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