Mari Lwyd - December 25, 2023

Mari Lwyd
Last Updated on: 25 Nov 2022

What is Mari Lwyd? 

The Mari Lwyd, or Grey Mare, is a Welsh pagan tradition.

It involves a horse's skull decorated with colorful reins, bells, and ribbons. After that, the creature is wrapped in a white sheet and hung from a pole.

Someone crawls beneath the sheet, flanked by a procession of people dressed in traditional costumes.

The group then sings around the village, eventually challenging families to a battle of Welsh rhyming insults.

The battle can last as long as the two parties want, but when it’s over, the house inhabitants let the Mari come inside as they believe that this will bring the household good luck for the future year.

And the celebration continues to the next house.

Mari Lwyd All Quick Overview

  • Time/Date: December 25
  • Category: Cultural
  • Where It’s Marked: South Wales
  • Why It’s Marked: The day is marked as the passing of the darkest day of midwinter and is thought to bring good luck and fortune.

History Of Mari Lwyd

In 1798, the Mari Lwyd festival was first mentioned, and the tradition gained popularity in South Wales in the nineteenth century. The Mari Lwyd is usually made of a horse's skull decorated with colored ribbons and attached to the end of a wooden pole.

To cover the pole and the person carrying the Mari, white sheets are usually fastened to the base of the skull, and sometimes the lower jaw is spring-loaded so that the carrier can snap it at onlookers. Green bottle ends, or colored materials are frequently used to fill its eye sockets. 

The actual celebration would begin at dusk and continue till the night. The whole time, the skull is carried through the village streets by a group called the merry men, who stop in front of each house and sing traditional songs.

The singing can sometimes take the form of an impromptu rhyme and verse contest between the Mari party and the people living in the house. If the occupant can't counter their reason in song, the Mari party explains why they need to enter the home through songs.

The tradition started to fade in the 20th century, partly because fewer people spoke Welsh but also because of the increasing drunkenness and rowdiness that came with it. This behavior was unacceptable, especially as the Chapel and Methodism gained popularity in Wales. However, there has been a resurgence of groups performing across Wales recently.

How to Celebrate Mari Lwyd

If you want to celebrate Mari Lwyd, get a horse skull and decorate it the way you want. You will need a white sheet to cover the pole and yourself. Make your siblings or friends the merry men and visit the neighbourhood.

To make it more exciting, learn some beautiful poems for Mari Lwyd and recite them to enter neighbours’ houses. Continue doing this as long as it seems fun to you and your group members.

Countries that observe Mari Lwyd

Mari Lwyd is typically connected with South Wales and is claimed to be the strongest and most unbroken in Llangynwyd, Bridgend.

Though many areas don’t celebrate the day Mari Lwyd, some areas still act it out. Even St Fagans National Museum in Cardiff puts Mari Lwyd on the show every December. 

People of North Wales have been celebrating the Mari Lwyd over time, and there was a celebration in Anglesey in 2017.

However, Mari Lwyd isn’t just a Welsh celebration; Mari was spotted at the Pagan Pride in Los Angeles, California, a few years ago.

Interesting Facts About Mari Lwyd

  • Mari Lwyd was first mentioned in historical records in 1800.
  • Allowing a Mari Lwyd to enter is good luck because the horse brings good fortune to the premises.
  • Mari and her group attempt to enter the house by reciting verses known as pwnco.

Mari Lwyd Verses

1. For people who choose to go traditional

  • Wel dyma ni'n dwad (Well, here we come)
  • Gy-feillion di-niwad (Innocent friends)
  • I ofyn am gennad (To ask leave)
  • I ofyn am gennad (To ask leave)
  • I ofyn am gennad i ganu (To ask leave to sing)

2. If you want to banish the horse skeleton 

Why should I join with those in Play,

In whom I’ve no delight,

Who curse and swear, but never pray,

Who call ill names and fight.

I hate to hear a wanton Song,

Their Words offend my Ears:

I should not dare defile my Tongue

With languages such as theirs

3. If you want the horse to come inside 

Wine comes in at the mouth.

And love comes in at the eye;

That’s all we shall know for truth

Before we grow old and die.

I lift the glass to my mouth,

I look at you, and I sigh.


1. Is there a link between the Morris dance and Mari Lwyd?

There is no known connection between the Morris dance, which originated in North Wales, and the Mari Lwyd, which was discovered in the country's south.

2. What does LWYD mean?

The Welsh Lwyd surname originated from the word "llwyd," which means "grey."

3. Is Mari Lwyd in any video games?

"Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition" has Mari Lwyds appearance. Mari Lwyd is a spirit that dances through the towns in this game. It sings and looks for temporary shelter.

4. Is Mari Lwyd a demon?

Mari Lwyd is a Welsh zombie horse known as Gray Mary in English that visits houses and pubs.

Mari Lwyd Observances

2021Saturday25 DecemberMari Lwyd
2022Sunday25 DecemberMari Lwyd
2023Monday25 DecemberMari Lwyd
2024Wednesday25 DecemberMari Lwyd
2025Thursday25 DecemberMari Lwyd
2026Friday25 DecemberMari Lwyd

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