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Archive for tag: tradition

Wales, Dwynwen and an E-lovespoon



I saw a very good tweet this morning from @marcwebber (re-tweeted by @trutourism).  It read:

Expensive business being a Welshman. We have TWO Valentines days to shell out for! (25th Jan & 14 Feb)


Yes, that's right, as well as the more widely known St Valentine's Day, we also have our own, traditional day to celebrate - Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen (or St Dwynwen's Day if you prefer), and it is celebrated this Friday (25 January)

The history of St Dwynwen and how this day came to be celebrated is told on the Museum Wales website.

If you're looking for an ideal gift to give someone special then how about a traditional Welsh lovespoon.

Traditionally the wooden spoon was given by a man to a lady as a token of his affection.  He would carve the spoon from a single piece of wood and was considered an early form of an engagement ring.  The spoon usually contained a number of symbols which all had different meanings, including a horseshoe for luck, bells for marriage, hearts for love and a lock for security.  Caged balls are said to indicate the number of children the couple would have.

The tradition continues today, although we're more likely to cheat and buy the spoons from a craft shop rather than make them ourselves.  Of course, being in the technological age, you can even make and send an e-lovespoon.

More information on Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen and the Top 10 romantic things to do in Wales can be found on the Visit Wales blog

Love is in the Air

World's Biggest LovespoonToday in Wales is St Dwynwen's Day and all over Wales people will be buying gifts and cards for their loved ones as they celebrate the Welsh version of Valentine's Day.

The history of St Dwynwen and how this day came to be celebrated is told on the Museum Wales website.

If you're looking for an ideal gift to give someone special today then how about a traditional Welsh lovespoon. Traditionally the wooden spoon was given by a man to a lady as a token of his affection. He would carve the spoon from a single piece of wood and was considered an early form of an engagement ring.The spoon usually contained a number of symbols which all had different meanings. These could include a horseshoe for luck, bells for marriage, hearts for love and a lock for security. Caged balls are said to indicate the number of children the couple would have.

The tradition continues today, although we're more likely to cheat and buy the spoons from a craft shop rather than make them ourselves.

What is believed to be the oldest surviving spoon, dating from the 17th century is at the St Fagans National History Museum near Cardiff while the world's biggest is at the Ffwrwm Arts Centre at Caerleon.

Happy New Year

Llancaiach GhostHappy New Year.  No, we're not 2 months early.  Today is actually the ancient Celtic New Year or Calan Gaeaf.

The traditional festival marks the end of summer and the beginning of winter.  Like the more widely celebrated Halloween, the ancient Celts believed that this was a spooky time and that there was only a thin line between living and dying.

Families would build a big bonfire and place stones bearing their names on it.  Once the flames had died down the stones would be retrieved and if one was missing then that person would die within the next year.

They would also mark the occasion with a number of other rituals including the wearing of masks whilst children would carve out faces in turnips or swedes and place them in their windows to ward of evil spirits - not too dissimilar to today's celebrations then.

What other Celtic New Year traditions do you know of?  Please share them with us below.

Happy St Dwynwen's Day

World's Biggest LovespoonToday in Wales is St Dwynwen's Day and all over Wales people will be buying gifts and cards for their loved ones as they celebrate the Welsh version of Valentine's Day.

The history of St Dwynwen is told on the Museum Wales website:

The story of Dwynwen dates from the 5th century.  The story goes that Dwynwen fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, but unfortunately her father had already arranged that she should marry someone else. Maelon was so outraged that he raped Dwynwen and left her.

In her grief Dwynwen fled to the woods, where she begged God to make her forget Maelon. After falling asleep, Dwynwen was visited by an angel, who appeared carrying a sweet potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice.

God then gave three wishes to Dwynwen.  First she wished that Maelon be thawed, second that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers and third that she should never marry. All three were fulfilled, and as a mark of her thanks, Dwynwen devoted herself to God's service for the rest of her life.

If you're looking for an ideal gift to give someone special today then how about a traditional Welsh lovespoon. Traditionally the wooden spoon was given by a man to a lady as a token of his affection. He would carve the spoon from a single piece of wood and was considered an early form of an engagement ring.

The spoon usually contained a number of symbols which all had different meanings. These could include a horseshoe for luck, bells for marriage, hearts for love and a lock for security. Caged balls are said to indicate the number of children the couple would have.

The tradition continues today, although we're more likely to cheat and buy the spoons from a craft shop rather than make them ourselves.

What is believed to be the oldest surviving spoon, dating from the 17th century is at the St Fagans National History Museum near Cardiff while the world's biggest is at the Ffwrwm Arts Centre at Caerleon.

Y Fari Lwyd

Mari LwydWhilst Cardiff celebrates the New Year with music, ice skating and fireworks, the people of the small village of Llangynwyd near Bridgend celebrate in a totally different and unique way.

The village is home to the Mari Lwyd, one of the strangest and most ancient of a number of customs with which people in Glamorgan and Gwent used to mark the passing of the darkest days of midwinter.

The Mari Lwyd consists of a mare's skull fixed to the end of a wooden pole; white sheets are fastened to the base of the skull, concealing the pole and the person carrying the Mari. The lower jaw is sometimes spring-loaded, so that the Mari's 'operator' can snap it at passers-by. Coloured ribbons are usually fixed to the skull and to the reins.

During the New Year's Day ceremony, the skull is carried through the streets of the village by a group of people and calls at a number of houses and pubs along the route.

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.

Victory in the debate would ensure admission into the house for the Mari Lwyd group, to partake of cakes and ale and perhaps collect a money gift as well. 

The tradition can still be seen today in Llangynwyd as well as several other villages in Southern Wales.

(Thanks to www.folkwales.org.uk and www.museumwales.ac.uk for providing information for this blog and Cardiff Boy 2 for the picture)

Christmas at St Fagans

St Fagans Christmas NightsThe National History Museum is one of Wales most popular visitor attractions.  Located in the village of St Fagans, just a couple of miles from Cardiff City Centre, the outdoor museum is home to dozens of buildings brought to the site from every corner of Wales before being re-built brick by brick.  Each building tells the story of Wales from a different era and perspective.  Buildings include a row of ironworkers cottages, a school and even a church.

St Fagans is a wonderful place to visit the whole year round, but is especially atmospheric in the run up to Christmas.  Its Christmas nights events are especially popular.  This year's event runs from 8-10 December and sees the whole site lit up to get you in the festive spirit.

Father Christmas sets up his grotto in front of the roaring log fire in one of the old farmhouses, there's carol singing, brass bands and a chance to experience the ancient Welsh tradition of the Mari Lwyd.  There are also traditional fairground rides, craft stalls and plenty of festive food and drink.

Don't forget to wrap up warm and bring your torch!  Nadolig Llawen