Merry Cwtchmas: 8 Lovely Welsh Christmas Traditions

Merry Cwtchmas one and all!

Before unplugging and parking all wedding plans to one side for a few days. The lovely folk at Welsh Otter compiled 8 lovely Welsh Christmas Traditions that we adore and they’ve kindly let us share them with you. We’d love to know your favourite!

8 Lovely Welsh Christmas Traditions

  1. Y Gwyliau: Going back through the years, Christmas in Wales used to be out-shadowed by the New Year celebrations. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Christmas Day marked the beginning of the three week period of holidays (Y Gwyliau) when farm work was suspended. As a symbol of this, the plough was carried into the home and placed under the table where the meals were eaten. Christmas Day was marked by a dinner of goose or beef at a large farm in each neighbourhood where all other farmers and cottagers were invited. They drank beer and ‘wetted’ the plough that was under the table as a reminder that they had not forgotten it.
  2. Gŵyl Ystwyll:  Traditionally Y Gwyliau lasted over 12 days and culminated in the Gŵyl Ystwyll (Epiphany). It often went on for much longer.  Apparently there was a change in the calendar in 1752 and some days were omitted which led to some confusion and some events slowly fading away.
  3. ‘Thomasing’:  Happened on St Thomas’s Day (23rd December) where women went from house to house to beg for flour to make loaves and cakes for Christmas.
  4. Sports:  Team pursuits played a huge part in some local Christmases – in some some areas, football was played until dusk on Christmas Day.
  5. Mari Lwyd (Grey Mary): A Christmas custom of South Wales involving a horse’s skull covered in a white sheet and decorated with colourful ribbons.  A man hidden underneath would make the jaw snap.  A group of people (usually dressed up as the characters of a ‘Sergeant’, ‘Merryman’, ‘Punch and Judy’) led the horse from house to house. At each door they performed a sort of ‘poetry-off’ competition with the occupants, which was often as long as fifteen verses.  When they were eventually allowed to enter, they chased everyone by snapping the horses jaws, and then there was feasting.  It all sounds a little creepy but in reality was done in jest and fun. It seems to be a form of carol singing (or ‘wassailing’), and often involved drinking wine or punch from a ‘wassail bowl’. 
  6. Siôn Corn: Is literally translated as ‘Chimneypot John’, or the ‘bloke that comes down the chimney’. It’s the Welsh Father Christmas or Santa Claus. This one probably only goes as far back as the existence of chimney pots. I have not been able to find out if the story derives from the same Santa Claus / Father Christmas origin. Maybe there is a separate old Welsh folklore creeping in here too?
  7. Plygain:  Was an early Christmas morning service (often starting at 4 or 5am). People gathered in packed rural churches to sing and celebrate. They would sing mainly unaccompanied, three or four part harmony carols in a service that went on until daylight. This would be followed by Christmas feasting, strong ale, oakcakes and football playing! 
  8. Noson Gyflaith, (toffee evenings): My personal favourite. The family would wait for the plygain to start by spending an evening making toffee (taffy). Toffee was boiled in pans on open fires, and then pulled repeatedly into long strands which meant it stayed softer, more chewy and creamy.

Welsh Otter

Welsh Otter is a wonderful company that I’ve been stalking for a while over on instagram. While Kim, the founder of Welsh Otter was slowly restoring her 1800s farmhouse sympathetically to Welsh traditions and style. She re-discovered the amazing world of Welsh design and craft. Fabulous artisans producing exquisite products and wonderful old traditions still thriving in the hills, towns and valleys of Wales. We love that she has gone on to share this for us all to enjoy.

Check out some of these stunning Welsh Gifts available at Welsh Otter! Perfect for a Cwtchy Christmas but equally perfect for a Welsh Bride & Groom or maybe your very own wedding gift list. Who wouldn’t want to fill their home with all the comforts of Wales. Take a look at some of the delightful things that caught my eye this Christmas:

So there we go. Hope you enjoyed this post. From all of us here at Cwtch The Bride, we’d love to wish you all a very Merry Cwtchmas!

Leave a Reply