Tourism Ireland

The Tradition of Mari Lwyd, Wales

by Jack Guy

Nov 30, 2016

Penarth Pier, Wales © Bettina Sentner | Dreamstime

Trends / Unique Itineraries & Tours

As we build toward the holiday season, our thoughts turn to the traditions we uphold in society and in our families. Some people have more interesting customs than others, and one of those is the Mari Lwyd in Wales. The name means Grey Mare or Holy Mary in English, and refers to a figurine of a horse carried from house to house by a group of people singing traditional songs.

 

The practice used to be common around Christmas time throughout South Wales, but is now confined to the area around the town of Glamorgan. To this day, residents can be seen carrying Mari Lwyd through the streets and knocking on doors to engage in singing battles with the occupants.

 

These battles are known as “debates” and usually involve mockery of both parties. If the Mari Lwyd group is deemed to have won the debate, they will be invited into the house and plied with food and drink.

 

After awhile they will leave and sing another song on the doorstep to entertain their hosts, before leaving to find their next house. It all sounds much like adversarial carol singing with an element of Halloween trick-or-treating for good measure.

 

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