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One of Wales’ oldest Christmas traditions goes national due to Covid-19

11 Dec 2020 3 minute read

One of Wales’ oldest Christmas traditions is adapting itself to the Covid-19 pandemic, with a virtual national plygain due to be held this year.

Plygain is a traditional Welsh Christmas service which takes place in a church between three and six o’clock on Christmas morning.

The ancient tradition – first recorded in the 13th century but believed to be older – possibly comes from the Latin word pullicantio, meaning ‘when the cock crows at dawn’.

The Mentrau Iaith and Trac are holding two nights of Plygain carol performances online on Sunday evenings December 20th and January 3rd.

The tradition of singing Plygain carols to celebrate Christmas has continued consistently in many parts of Wales including in Montgomeryshire. Rhian Davies of Menter Iaith Maldwyn came up with the idea of holding the first ever Virtual Plygain to continue the tradition and bring communities together.

“The Plygain is an important part of the Christmas season for many of us here in Montgomeryshire,” she said.

“Thinking about missing out on the opportunity to sing these beautiful traditional Welsh carols, and the socialising associated with the event, had caused much disappointment within the local community.

“I was very keen to try and fill the void somehow, and to alleviate the ‘hiraeth’. Of course, the Plygain is at its strongest here in Montgomeryshire, but Plygain services are held in many other parts of Wales.

“By moving the event online, we were able to invite contributors from across the country to take part, making it a truly national virtual Plygain.”



Unlike the usual Plygain service, the Virtual Plygain will not be held in a church or chapel, but on Facebook and YouTube. Other than the location, the Virtual Plygain will follow the traditional order of services.

Ffion Mair, originally from Llanwddyn but now lives in Cardiff, has been central to bringing everyone’s performances together.

“I am so pleased that we have had such a good response to the idea of running a Plygain service online with performances by individuals and parties from across Wales,” she said.

“The services will be an opportunity to come together as a community and also show our unique tradition to the world. We have tried to keep as close as possible to the real Plygain order and mood – a minister will welcome us to the service, Carol y Swper at the end and, of course, we have made sure that no one repeats a carol that has already been sung.”

The events follow a collaboration between the Mentrau Iaith, which works to increase the use of the Welsh language in communities, and Trac, the Welsh folk tradition development organisation in an attempt to raise awareness of the ancient Welsh tradition.

“Trac is delighted to be able to help the Mentrau Iaith create these events,” Blanche Rowen, Trac Company Manager, said.

“It’s so important that Plygain happens somehow this year, and moving it online is a great opportunity to share the tradition as widely as possible.”

The Virtual Plygain will be available to watch on Mentrau Iaith Cymru’s Facebook page and Trac’s YouTube on 20/12/2020 and 03/01/2021 at 18:00.

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