Wales is one of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Hence, the Christmas celebrations here are in adherence to the British observation of the festival. Christmas Day is celebrated here annually on December 25.
Christmas in Wales, a part of the United Kingdom, is celebrated with a mix of traditional customs, cultural traditions, and a strong emphasis on family gatherings. The holiday season in Wales is deeply rooted in Christian traditions, but it also includes a variety of secular customs. Here's how Christmas is typically celebrated in Wales:
The Christmas season begins with Advent, and many Welsh households have Advent calendars and Advent candles. Lighting the Advent candles is a common tradition.
Homes, streets, and towns are beautifully decorated with festive lights, ornaments, and Christmas trees. The Christmas tree, often adorned with baubles and tinsel, is a central decoration in both homes and public spaces.
Many Welsh cities and towns host Christmas markets, where visitors can shop for gifts, enjoy seasonal foods, and soak in the festive atmosphere.
Christmas Eve, known as "Noson Gyflaith" in Welsh, is the main night of celebration. Families come together for a festive meal, which typically includes dishes like roast turkey, roast beef, and mince pies. After the meal, people exchange gifts.
Exchanging gifts is an important part of the Christmas celebration in Wales. Children often receive gifts from Father Christmas or Santa Claus.
Caroling is a cherished tradition in Wales, with groups of carolers singing traditional Christmas carols in communities and visiting homes. The sound of carolers, known as "plygain" in some areas, adds to the festive atmosphere.
Many Welsh people participate in acts of charity during the Christmas season, helping those in need and supporting local charities and community organizations.
Some communities in Wales hold special Christmas Eisteddfodau, which are cultural gatherings featuring poetry, music, and singing.
The day after Christmas, known as St. Stephen's Day or "Gwyl San Steffan," is often a time for family gatherings and outdoor activities.
The holiday season in Wales extends into New Year's Eve, with fireworks, parties, and celebrations to welcome the new year. Welsh traditions, like "calennig" (New Year's gift-giving), are also observed.
In some parts of Wales, there is a traditional custom known as "Mari Lwyd." It involves a person carrying a decorated horse's skull on a pole, visiting homes, and engaging in rhyming exchanges.
Christmas in Wales is a time for tradition, togetherness, and creating a warm and festive atmosphere. The combination of festive decorations, traditional customs, and a rich culinary heritage makes it a special time for both the Welsh and visitors to the country.
In the days leading to Christmas, a small tree is beautifully decorated with colourful lights and trinkets and set up in every Welsh household. Paper decorations of various colours and lovely flowers (such as mistletoe and holly) are used to adorn the interiors of houses. Mistletoe is believed to protect the home from evil and holly stands as a symbol of eternal life.
"Eisteddfodde" or Caroling is the most pleasurable activity of the Welsh Christmas. The Welsh are great lovers of music and every year they throng to local churches in large numbers to sing carols during Christmastime. These are sung often to the accompaniment of a harp. Caroling is also done in individual homes around the Christmas tree. In many places, groups of people set out at dawn on Christmas morning, going from house to house and caroling before the doors and windows of the houses they visit. Families wake from sleep and traditionally ask them in for refreshments.
Every year, new carols are submitted by thousands of enthusiastic carolers in the hope that their composition may be included in the list of popular carols already known and sung in Wales. During Christmas, many people gather in the public square for the announcement of the lucky one who would win the annual prize for submitting the best music for a new carol, and the formal pronouncement of it as the carol of the year.
On Christmas Day, people in many parts of Wales wake up very early to attend a special church service known as "Plygain" (daybreak), that is held between 3am. and 6am. Men gather in local churches to sing(mainly unaccompanied) three or four part harmony carols in a service that goes on for nearly three hours. These days, the custom is seen to be practiced mainly in the rural areas. The service over, feasting and drinking begins and continues for the entire day. Gifts are exchanged later during the day. The Christmas meal traditionally consists of roasted turkey with different vegetables, followed by a delicious pudding.