Ancient Welsh Christmas and New Year Customs

14th December 2015 | by Whitehouse Leisure Park

If you are staying at Whitehouse Leisure Park or indeed any of the Towyn Caravan Parks over the festive period, you’ll be comfortable and enjoy all the usual entertainment and facilities in and around North Wales. However, here are a few unusual, traditional Welsh activities from bygone days that you might be interested in, some of which have survived to the modern day and others that thankfully have not.

Sacred Mistletoe

If you are at all superstitious decorate your caravan with mistletoe in the days leading up to Christmas. This custom can be traced back to ancient druid times when mistletoe was considered sacred. People living in rural areas of Wales would decorate their homes with the plant to ward off evil and some still do. Include some holly, symbolising eternal life, to finish off your decorations.

Scourging with Holly

This is something you definitely won’t want to do and has died out completely around the late 1800s, for obvious reasons. Dating back to pagan times, young males would be seen wandering around villages holding sprigs of holly, the day after Christmas. Their purpose was to find young girls and women to lash with the holly. They would strike at their limbs sometimes to the point of drawing blood.

A similar ritual was practised on the morning after Christmas Day, reserved for the person who rose the latest from their slumbers.

A variation of this tradition and less violent was Calennig which also came to an end toward the late 1800s. Boys and young men would visit each home, from sunrise to sunset, carrying holly or other evergreen plant twigs and containers of water. Splashing water with twigs at the residents on New Year’s day would result in them being given copper coins (Calennig).

Christmas Carol Singing

Whilst carol singing is alive and well in Wales today, the old tradition of Plygain is not. This custom involved only men who would attend a church service very early in the morning. They would sing their hearts out, sometimes up to 4 hours, 3 part harmonising without the accompaniment of a musical instrument. Nowadays carol singing takes place at more sociable hours and doesn’t last so long.

First Footing Welsh style

This tradition is as important in Wales as it is in Scotland and always has been. However, if a man with red hair or a woman crossed the threshold first, in days gone by it was believed that some form of bad luck would befall the household.

This Christmas, if you are not intending to cook your Christmas Day lunch, be sure to book well in advance (now would be a good time) since restaurants become fully booked very quickly.

Whitehouse Leisure Park is one of the most popular, family orientated Towyn Caravan Parks and visitors are always welcome to check out our Holiday Lodges and Static Caravans for sale.