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Watch: A group of startled Americans encounter the Mari Lwyd in a lift

01 Jan 2022 3 minute read
Unsuspecting Americans encounter the Mari Lwyd (Credit: Mari Lwyd in Philadelphia)

To many of us in Wales, the festive tradition of the Mari Lwyd is a familiar sight.

However, to the uninitiated, encountering a horse’s skull on a pole for the first time could unsurprisingly prove quite a startling moment.

So it was that members of local groups dressed in 17th century costume found themselves celebrating their traditional festive heritage at a Christmas folk fayre in the city centre with the Mari Lwyd the centre of attention.

“The whole thing was a joint effort between friends of ours from local groups,” said Matthew Rhys, who is keen to promote the Welsh heritage of the area, roping in some friends willing to help.

“It involved friends from Fort Mifflin on the Delaware, an 18th century fort outside the city, The Griffith Morgan House, a really interesting estate with a Welsh origin story whose current proprietor, Robert Fisher-Hughes, is also of very proud Welsh heritage, and The Seadogs, a pirate sea shanty folk band from New Jersey who spiced the whole thing up with some old time wassailing songs on stage at the Philadelphia Christmas Village stage.

“We also produced and gave out small pamphlets with an explanation and history of the tradition to members of the public, including lyrics to the traditional Pwnco song (which accompanies the Mari Lwyd)

“We hope to bring Mari back as an annual event in the future, bigger and better each time.”

Welsh folklore

Philadelphia is the largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, one of the first areas Welsh speaking Quakers settled in the early 1680s.

Unsurprisingly, the Mari Lwyd was met with some puzzling looks from those encountering the mystical Welsh figure with baubles for eyes, a mane of colourful streamers and white cloak flowing from her skull, attached to a pole held by a person inside it.

None more so than the people in a lift (or should that be elevator) who quite taken aback when they met the Mari Lwyd for the very first time.

Their faces are a picture – but at least these surprised Americans will never forget their first encounter with one of the most distinctive characters in Welsh folklore.

And well done to all those Stateside Welsh for keeping our history and tradition alive.

Da iawn pawb!

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2 years ago

The Welsh Society of Philadelphia was formerly called the St. David’s Society of Philadelphia, and is the oldest ethnic-cultural organisation in the United States. It dates back to some time in the early 18th Century and therefore pre-dates American independence.

Gill Jones
Gill Jones
2 years ago

Da iawn Matthew Rhys yn clodfori ei Gymreictod a’i thraddodiadau Rydym yn falch ohonot.

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