Cultures around the world celebrate dozens of holidays during the month of December, but even groups that celebrate the same holiday often have wildly different traditions, depending on their geographic location.
Enter: the Mari Lwyd.
The Mari Lwyd is quite literally a giant hobby horse that employs a horse skull attached to a broomstick that is then draped with a white cloth and decorated with ribbons, baubles, or holly and Ivy. Revelers go around town with the Mari Lwyd, either singing songs or exchanging jokes with who ever answers the door in an attempt to be let in. If the resident is unable to respond in verse, the Mari Lwyd is granted entry and provided with food and drink.
While the exact origins of this door-to-door wassailing festival from Wales are unknown, the tradition still survives to this day. The earliest recorded mention of this tradition dates back to 1800, but folklorists have differing opinions on whether or not this custom has pre-Christian roots – it may, but there is no surviving evidence to corroborate this guess. Even the name, Mari Lwyd, has different interpretations. Some suggest the name translates to Grey Mare, an obvious reference to the horse skull, while others suggest the name means Grey Mary, a reference to the Nativity.
At this summer’s BreyerFest: Celtic Fling, workshop instructor Erin Krembs walked participants through the creation of their own Mari Lwyd in miniature. You can check all her creations out on Instagram @fancyunicornparty. If you’d like to create your own Mari Lwyd to help you celebrate the holiday season, you can find the instructional video and all the supplies you’ll need to complete your project below!
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