Mari Lwyd, An Old Midwinter Custom In Wales

Who knew - Miss Celania from 8 Truly Strange Christmas Customs did:

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Flickr: Mari Lwyd a'i chwmni
Mari Lwyd, an old midwinter custom in Wales, is a holdover from pagan celebrations before Christmas was introduced. Mari Lwyd means “gray mare” in English.
In its purest form (still to be seen at Llangynwyd, near Maesteg, every New Year’s Day) the tradition involves the arrival of the horse and its party at the door of the house or pub, where they sing several introductory verses. Then comes a battle of wits (known as pwnco) in which the people inside the door and the Mari party outside exchange challenges and insults in rhyme. At the end of the battle, which can be as long as the creativity of the two parties holds out, the Mari party enters with another song.

The horse in the above scenario is made of a horse’s skull attached to a pole. The person operating the horse is concealed by sheets, and sometimes has a contraption to work the horses jaw! (Image by Flickr user arosmae.)

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