When: 20th January 2018, from 1.30pm until late
Where: Chepstow, Monmouthshire
£: Free (except the Ceilidh which costs £7 for adults and £3 for children)
What is it?
The Chepstow Wassail and Mari Lwyd is a popular annual family friendly event; featuring old traditions, strange customs, capers, and weird creatures.
The wassail is an ancient tradition of blessing apple trees and asking for a good harvest in the coming year, with lots of singing, dancing and cider drinking. The whole procedure is organised by a character known as the Wassail Butler.
The Mari Lwyd is an ancient Welsh custom which involves taking a horse skull, dressed in a shroud, from house to house… and pub to pub. It is a kind of First Footing Tradition, and is meant to bring good fortune. The Mari Lwyd (grey mare) is carried by the Mari group who try to gain entry to a house or pub by singing and riddle telling.
For Chepstow’s event there are usually around six Mari Lwyd groups, which come from all over the Wales and England, along with a variety of characters such as The Green Man, who sometimes turns up from the deepest part of the Forest of Dean.
This year’s event kicks off with a Mari Lwyd ceremony at the Greenman Backpackers, followed by Morris dancing and capers outside the Three Tuns at 3pm. There’ll be a wassail of the apple trees in the Castle Dell with singing, dancing, toast and cider; before a pageant of the traditional Mari Lwyd horse heads takes place.
The highlight of the event is the Meeting on the Border, known as ‘The Oldest New Tradition in Wales’. At around 6.30pm, the English Wassailers and the Welsh Mari Lwyders come together at the border (the middle of the old iron bridge) to exchange flags and drink from the Wassail Bowl.
They wish each other a Happy New Year, along with much dancing and celebration. Afterwards the group head back into Wales for the Mari Lwyd ceremony at Chepstow Museum (with the promise of hot mulled cider).
The event rounds off with a Ceilidh at the Drill Hall at 8pm. The ceildh costs £7 to attend, and everyone is welcome.
More info: chepstowwassailmari.co.uk