Welsh Christmas Traditions

Why not make your Christmas celebrations a little more Welsh this year? The Personalised Gift Shop has taken a look at the traditional Welsh ways to celebrate Christmas and we've put our favourites in a list for you!

Taffy

This is a great and tasty snack for anyone who loves a sweet treat and a fun activity for all the family to get involved with on Christmas Eve.

Welsh families traditionally would boil toffee in a pan over an open fire, before dropping dollops of it into a pan of cold water – this is called taffy. (Some people also called it Noson Gyflaith or toffee evening).

The cold water would solidify the toffee into all sorts of unusual shapes, and traditionally Welsh people would often try and decipher letters from these shapes to determine the initials of future loves!

Drinking from the wassail bowl

This is an old Welsh tradition that was as popular as it is for the English to drink mulled wine at Christmas.

Wassail bowls were filled with fruit, sugar and spices before being topped up with warm beer. Each bowl was then passed around for everyone to take a drink from, and as they drank they could make a wish – mostly for a successful year's farming and for a big crop during harvest.

Plygain

This one might start a little too early for most of us – but was a popular thing for Welsh men to do and still is in parts of Wales.

Rural churches would be full of Welsh men by 3am on Christmas morning to sing. They would sing harmony carols and the service would go on for around three hours, sometimes longer.

Hunting for a wren

On Twelfth Night groups of men would be seen on the hunt for a wren.

This pastime was popular during the 19th century and the wren, once captured, would be taken around the village for residents to see.

Holming

Personally we're rather glad this tradition is no longer around. It is thought that in the 19th century, the last person to get out of bed the morning after Christmas was beaten with holly sprigs.

Others found holming (holly-beating) was an activity popular with young men, who would hit female domestic servants with holly sprigs around their arms and legs until they bled.

A similar custom was carried out with livestock, as farmers believed hitting them until they bled would benefit the animal's health and even improve stamina.

Mari Lwyd

This tradition took place to mark the end of Christmas.

The Mari Lwyd was made from a horse's skull and featured fake eyes and ears, wired jaws so they could be opened and shut, and a white sheet attached to it.

Singers would carry this object around the village and try to get into houses and pubs by singing to those who lived there.

The Mari Lwyd was carried on a pole or somebody would wear it. Scary!

Do you know of any old Welsh traditions that we may have missed? Share them with us!

You'll find a range of great gifts no matter whether you're Welsh, English, Scottish and so on, in our Personalised Christmas Gifts section.