Welsh Traditions: Christmas and New Year

Wales is steeped in traditions, fables and legends and the festive season is no different! There is an abundance of historic practices, some of which still take place today, while others remain part of the proud history. Discover just some of the Welsh Traditions over Christmas and New Year, below.

A Wren at Christmas

Plygain

The Plygain carols are unique to Wales, and as the beautiful sound echos around the country each year during the festive celebrations, a century-old tradition is brought back to life. The songs date to the 1600’s and historically, would have been sung on the morning of Christmas, between 3 am and 6 am, the word Plygain is Latin and translates to ‘cock crow’. It was only men that would take part in the singing, and the group would take candles through the villages and finally, leave them at the church to illuminate the ceremony. When they had all arrived, their gift to Christmas would begin and they would sing their carols to the morning. Today, there are some places in Wales where this tradition is still informally practised, in Llanfyllin, families still gather and together, they sing their families Plygain carols to the congregation.

Making Calenning

In Wales, there is an ancient tradition of offering gifts on New Year’s Day and Calenning, is the celebration or the gift given to represent this celebration. Children across the country would wander around their villages, stopping at houses and expressing good wishes, fortunes and health for the following year. The families within the homes would offer a gift to the children, which would usually be small amounts of food or money. The tradition of Calenning is often relived in many parts of Wales, with many calling on the doors of their neighbours with good wishes.

Hunting the Wren

Hunting the Wren dates from the 19th century and the tradition involves groups of men who would go out on the Twelfth Night of Christmas (Christmas Day is the first) hunting for the bird in the surrounding woodlands and moorlands. Once the bird has been caught, it was then placed in a wooden box decorated with ribbons and holly and taken around the villages and households. The families would gift and pay for the chance to see the Wren. It is said that this tradition continued until the late 20th century.

Taffy

Taffy is one of the most popular Christmas traditions that is still practised across the country today. Most people have a sweet tooth, and the festive period is a time for indulgences. Traditionally, families and friends would gather on Christmas Eve, they would share a meal, play games and sing, then later in the evening, they would have a go at making the delicious sweet treat. Welsh taffy is much chewier than usual toffee and it is curled and twisted into an array of shapes. There is quite an art to the taffy moulding, so, be sure to have your camera to hand when you try it yourselves during your stay at our Christmas holiday parks North Wales. Take a look at the history and a traditional recipe here.

Have we missed any Welsh traditions? We would love to hear about them via our social media channels, let us know!

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