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Watch: Mari Lwyd appears at Hen Galan celebrations around Wales

14 Jan 2023 5 minute read
The Mari Lwyd celebrating Hen Galan on the streets of Aberystwyth last night (Credit: @GwylDewiAber)

If you stepped out into the streets of the cities, towns and villages of Wales last night, there was every chance you would have bumped into a horse’s skull on a stick being paraded around with a group of musicians and singers celebrating Hen Galan.

Hen Galan, the old New Year, is celebrated on January 13th into January 14th, as the incoming year is marked according to the old Julian Calendar.

The Julian calendar was abolished controversially in 1752 and replaced with the Gregorian calendar, which was approved by Pope Gregory XIII nearly 200 years earlier. But the people of the Gwaun Valley resisted the change – and its tradition has been kept alive and grown in popularity throughout Wales.

Last night saw the biggest celebration yet with the Mari Lwyd accompanying revellers visiting local pubs with the decorated head of a grey mare leading the singers to bring good fortune to those they visited.

The tradition of Mari Lwyd was first recorded in 1800, where a horse’s head is paraded around on a pole, decorated with ribbons and greenery. In years gone by this used to be a real horses skull, but in the last few decades, a wooden effigy has been preferred.

The origins of Mari’s name are, like the horse herself, are deeply mysterious. One Welsh translation of it, Grey Mare, connects it to the heritage of pale horses in Celtic and British mythology, many of whom can cross over to the underworld (Rhiannon in the Mabinogion rode a white horse, for example).

Much like many Welsh traditions, Hen Galan and the Mari Lwyd have seen an upsurge in popularity, and if these videos and pictures from last night’s celebrations are any measure, they are only set to get bigger in the coming years.









Llantwit Major


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1 year ago

it has to be Grey Mary, mare is caseg not mari.

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