Although Christmas is celebrated in much the same way in each of the countries of the UK, Christmas in Wales, the home of male voice choirs, rugby and leeks has managed to retain some pretty special festive traditions.
Known as the land of song, unsurprisingly Wales has a strong tradition of carols over the Christmas period.
The Plygain service was traditionally held in the local church between 3am and 6am on Christmas morning. Small groups of men would sing Welsh carols to the remaining congregation with it being a matter of pride not to repeat a single song.
The women and children remained at home and made toffee for the following day. After the service the day would be dedicated to fun and celebration! The Plygain is still alive and kicking in some parts of Wales, particularly the North, with Christmas services held in Bangor cathedral, Llanfairpwll and Chwilog. Today women are also welcome to sing so why not choose a service to attend and get into the Christmas spirit!
The traditional of wassailing has also remained popular in Wales over the Christmas period. Ale, cider, apples, spices and sugar were heated to provide the wassail drink. The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon and means ‘to your health’ and is also used to bless the coming harvests. It was customary to offer every guest a glass of wassail who entered your home over the festive period. Why not choose one of the self catering holiday cottages in Anglesey for the festive period and make a batch of wassail? How wonderful to fill your holiday home with the festive smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and orange!
If you’re on Anglesey over Christmas, head to Beaumaris on Boxing Day for the throwing of the hot pennies. Following the traditional Boxing Day hunt, the Queen of the hunt would throw scalding pennies from the balcony of the local hotel for eagerly waiting children to catch. All manner of cunning was required to keep your penny safe until they were cool enough to pick up! In recent years, the local hotel has revived the tradition and the mayor and mayoress today throw the much cooler coins to the waiting children below.
A more recent tradition which began in Llandudno in the late 1970s is the Boxing Day dip. Started by a local hotel to keep the residents entertained, today locals and guests run into the chilly Irish Sea to raise money for charity. What better way to blow the cobwebs away after too many mince pies than running into the sea for a bracing dip? If you’re staying at a Sykes Cottage in North Wales this Christmas, try the mass Boxing Day swims at Aberdaron, Criccieth or Holyhead. Head home to your holiday cottage and warm up in front of a roaring log fire in your new Christmas pyjamas. Bliss!
All that remains to be said is Nadolig Llawen (or, Merry Christmas in Welsh) to you all!