Lifestyle, Wales

Family Traditions: A Very Welsh Christmas

‘This is our third Christmas as residents of North Wales. We’re actually spending it in Scotland because, well…my family is there and it’d be a bit odd if we stayed here on our own…’

As a Scot, I’m accustomed to British traditions, which we celebrate with our own twist. Because of this, I was keen to find out if there were any Welsh traditions I should know about.  I wasn’t disappointed.
Jesus wept…imagine this turning up at your door in the dead of night

Mari Lywd

This appears to originate from South Wales and involves a horse’s skull attached to a pole and hidden beneath a sheet. Obviously.

And once you have these items assembled, you take ’em outside and go visit your neighbours.

Tradition dictates that groups of men will wander around the streets, arriving at doors and being turned away by owners.
THB, if someone turned up at my door, dressed in a blanket and snapping some horse jaws at me I’d be straight on the phone to the Heddlu (police).
Get back, weirdos!  This ain’t Sicily; there will be horse head nonsense here.  Diolch yn fawr.
holly bush

Holly Beating

Yeah, it’s every bit as weird as it sounds.  On Gwyl San Steffan (Boxing Day, obvs), the male of the species would cut bits of holly from nearby bushes and proceed to sneak around the village.

One he happened upon an unsuspecting female servant, he would beat her arms and legs with the bush. The tradition would also be inflicted upon whoever was last out of bed on Christmas Day.

If we did this in our family at Christmas, my little sister would be REALLY sore come dinner time.

creepy apple
creepy as


Basically, a callenig is an apple. Sorry, but it’s true.  However, this an apple with a difference as it’s decorated. Yay!  This is s very glamorous apple, people.  It’s adorned with cloves and perched on a stand made of twigs. Sounds gorgeous, right?

TBH, it’s the fanciest apple EVER.  It would NOT look out of place on an episode of Masterchef, served up with a raspberry coulis, lime twill and sheep intestine glaze.

Tradition calls for you to gift a callenig to your friends to wish them good crops for next year.  Cheap pressie, at least. Might get a bit mouldy after a while, though.

church at dawn
I don’t get out of bed early for anyone.


The point of this is to get up really early and go to Church.  Now, I consider most Church services as early starters as, you know, Sundays are for hangovers, but the Welsh tradition really takes the cake.

In order to adhere to the aforementioned tradition, you need to go to Church between 3 am and 6 am.  I’m not even kidding.  It sounds like it would be an IDEAL stop on the way back from the pub. You know, if it served kebabs.  Maybe the tradition would still be going strong if there was some grub on offer to entice homeward bound revellers…
Us Scots have our fair share of wonderfully dotty traditions and that’s what makes us so unique.  Stay special, Wales.  And keep up with all the amazing Welsh traditions.


Suz x


Family Traditions: A Very Welsh Christmas

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