New Year traditions in Wales: Calennig and Hen Galan


BBC Wales is marking the festive season by showing clips from the archive that examine the age old traditions that made Christmas and the New Year in Wales special.

For many children in rural Wales the gifts of Calennig were far more important than Christmas.

From dawn until dusk on 1 January small parties of boys would pass from house to house in the village or town, carrying twigs of evergreen plants and cups or jugs of water. They would use the twigs to splash water at people and, in return, would receive the calennig - gifts of small copper coins.

On 13 January people in the Gwaun valley of Pembrokeshire still celebrate Hen Galan, the old New Year as marked by the Julian calendar which held sway throughout Britain until the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1752.

Hen Galan was once regarded as more important than Christmas for Gwaun Valley residents, with special food and drink prepared well in advance.

On 13 January men would enjoy a chance to go shooting, while at farmhouses in the area the women busily organized the food, such as a lunch of cooked goose and plum pudding.

For the children, Hen Galan was often spent travelling from house-to-house singing traditional rhymes to 'let in' the coming year and to wish the occupants health and happiness.

These extracts are taken from the documentary series A Welsh Way of Life.

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