As in many countries around the world, Christmas and its associated celebrations are a favourite time of the year throughout Wales, and the traditions connected with it are a little bit different to some others.
Y Nadolig (Christmas)
There was a custom in many parts of Wales, to attend a very early church service known as “Plygain” (daybreak), between the hours of 3am-6am. The men would gather in rural churches to sing, mainly unaccompanied, three or four part harmony carols in a service that went on for three hours or so. The custom managed to survive in many country areas, and because of its sheer simplicity and beauty, it is being revived in many others. After the long service, a day of feasting and drinking would begin.
Gwyl San Steffan (St. Stephens Day; Boxing Day)
The day after Christmas Day was celebrated in a most peculiar way, unique to Wales. It included the tradition of “holly-beating” or “holming” – this entailed young men and boys beating the unprotected arms of young females with holly branches until they bled. In some areas of Wales, it was the legs that were beaten instead. In other places, it was the custom for the last person to get out of bed in the morning to be beaten with sprigs of holly. Thankfully, these customs died out before the end of the 19th century!
Nos Galan (New Years Eve)
Many countries around the world have a custom for letting in the New Year that involves the letting out of the Old Year; often with gifts for good luck for the coming year. In Wales the custom of letting in the New Year is still the same as in the olden days; if the first visitor in the New Year was a woman and the male householder opened the door, that was considered to be bad luck. If the first man to cross the threshold in the New Year was a red haired man, that was also bad luck.
Another Welsh custom associated with New Year was “all debts were to be paid”, never lend anything to anyone on New Years Day else you’d have bad luck; and the behaviour of an individual on this day was an indication of how they would behave all year!
The most popular New Year’s custom was one that was carried out in all parts of Wales; the Calennig (small gift). On January 1st from dawn until noon, groups of young boys would visit all the houses in the village, carrying evergreen twigs and a cup of cold water drawn from the local well. They would use the twigs to splash people with water and in return they would receive the Calennig, usually in the form of copper coins. The custom, in various forms survived in some areas well after World War II, at least in the form of the chanting of a small verse or two in exchange for small coins.
As a Christmas treat to yourself, why not book a stay for 2020? We’re offering an additional 10% loyalty discount to any guest who has stayed with us in 2019 and wishes to return in 2020! Call or email for more information.