Mari Lwyd - Welsh Christmas Tradition
In the first of series of mysterious traditions form around the world, Alex Cornish, our digital strategy consultant has written about the Mari Lwydd, a folk tradition from South Wales, where he is based.
Mari Lwyyd is almost certainly a tradition that predates Christmas, and Christianity itself. However, the original meaning behind the tradition and even the name is now the subject of great debate, the only certainty being that no-one is quite sure about either. The Welsh name could be translated as “Grey Mare” which would make some sense. In common with similar folk traditions from across the British Isles, the Mari Lwyyd visits households in the days around Christmas, demanding entry and exchanging music and song for payment in food and drink. In a unique Welsh twist, a (normally) real horse skull is placed on a stick and paraded. The person carrying the skull is covered with white cloth and thus transformed into the Mari Lwydd. They are also accompanied by musicians and stock folk characters like Punch and Judy. Should a homeowner be perceived as slow or ungenerous with payment, it is not unknown for the Mari Lwydd to chase them until satisfied. Whilst the mood is always festive, the imagery is distinctly not of this world.
Whereas in the past it was common for a few individuals to visit local homes, today the Mari Lwwyd today often takes place within the context of a larger, more formal festivities.
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