PEARTREE LIFE: Experiencing Languages

A traditional Welsh Christmas

I have been living in Wales for two years. It is not a long time, so I should not be ashamed that I don’t know all the traditions and history of this country, but still I should know at least something about the most important holidays. So we decided that this week’s blog post will be about celebrations…

And because the celebration of Christmas has already started and it is probably one of the most popular celebrations the main topic of this blog is about traditional Christmas customs.
Before Christmas the main traditions were that homes were decorated with fresh mistletoe (to protect the house from evil) and holly (as a symbol of eternal life).



Y NADOLIG (Christmas):

The first of the traditions is called Plygain and this tradition still thrives in parts of mid Wales. Plygain is a very early church service usually between 3am and 6am, or started before the cockerel crowed, when men gathered in rural churches to sing. Their singing was mainly unaccompanied, three or four part harmony carols in a service that went on for three hours. After the service, a Christmas Day full of feasting and drinking would begin.

Nadolig Llawen - Merry Christmas

GWYL SAN STEFAN (St. Stephens Day; Boxing Day – December 26th):

The day after Christmas was celebrated in a very unique way and the traditional “holly-beating” or “holming” was included. Young men and boys would beat the unprotected arms of young females with holly branches until they bled, in some areas it was the legs that were beaten. Another version of this tradition is that the person who got out of the bed last was beaten with sprigs of holly. These customs vanished before the end of the 19th century, luckily!

NOS GALAN (New Years Eve):

The New Years Eve’s customs in Wales were mostly about avoiding bad luck. So for example all existing debts had to be paid that day, never lend anything to anyone on New Years Day or you would have bad luck. You would have bad luck also if your first visitor in your house is a red haired man, or if the first visitor is woman and man of the household (householder) opens the door.
The most popular New Year’s custom was 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. The boys would then use the twigs to splash people with water. In return, they would receive the Calennig, usually in the form of copper coins.


How about your country? What special traditions do you have for Christmas time? Why not start a class conversation? 


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About Peartree Languages

Peartree Languages is a language school located in Cardiff.


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