Which is what we did at the Chepstow Mari Lwyd festival. In spite of the bitter cold and knee deep snow a goodly crowd joined the Widders morris side in this annual winter festival which is a form of wassailing peculiar to Wales.
Much like the English Wassailers, the idea is to bring luck in the coming year both to visited households and surrounding apple orchards. Someone dresses up as a horse, (a rather grotesque version consisting of a bleached skull bedecked with ribbons and bells), which is then accompanied by a crowd of supporters who sing for admittance at local pubs. Originally there were five or six of these “merrymen,” playing a variety of musical instruments, some dressed as Punch and Judy or other characters and led by a smartly dressed leader carrying staff or whip.
The Chepstow Mari Lwyd now features a traditional wassail ceremony which was carried out at several places around the town including the newly planted apple trees in the castle dell. In keeping with tradition, toast was hung amongst the branches, songs sung and libations of cider shared with the trees and the jolly wassailers which sang to them.
Organised by the Widders border morris side, which treated us to several fine displays of dancing, the Chepstow Mari Lwyd has grown into a rollicking good festival of music, dancing and song which ends with a meeting between English and Welsh on the town bridge which, thankfully is closed for the occasion!
Spiced cider is served in the local pubs and at the museum where mummers perform and impromptu songs sung. The evening rounds off with a ceildh in the Drill Hall or an open mic in one of the local pubs.
The charm of the festival is its friendliness and informality. The many forays into the pubs for warming drinks and food offered lots of opportunity to socialise and those with the inclination were welcome to share their talents at the open mic or during the Mari Lwyd pub visits.
The only cost is the pay on the door ceildh which at £5 is hardly likely to break the bank!
The festival takes place each year so here’s the link to bookmark.
… and a few more photos!