The tradition of Hen Galan

In the Gwaun Valley

A true Welsh celebration

Hen Galan

In a small wooded valley near Fishguard, the inhabitants of Cwm Gwaun are getting ready for their annual New Year celebrations on the 13th of January.

No, they’re not two weeks late – they still run according to the old Julian Calendar.

The Julian calendar was abolished controversially in 1752 and replaced with the Gregorian calendar, which was approved by Pope Gregory XIII nearly 200 years earlier. But the people of the Gwaun Valley resisted the change.

In true Welsh tradition, the children go from door to door singing and are given ‘Calennig’ in return: sweets or money.  The most frequently heard one in these parts in this little ditty:

Blwyddyn Newydd dda i chi

A happy new year to you

Ac i bawb sydd yn y tŷ

And to everyone in the house

Dyma fy nymuniad i

This is my wish

Blwyddyn Newydd dda i chi

A happy new year to you

Hen Galan. ©The National Library of Wales

In Bessie’s infamous front room pub (The Dyffryn Arms) which has been in the same family since 1840, revellers gather to share a tipple, and the locals cook a large meal for the family. Traditionally Hen Galan was a bigger celebration than Christmas, so turkey or goose was the regular table offering.

If you like, you can also carry on the tradition of Mari Llwyd, where a horse’s head (a grey mare- hence the name) is paraded around on a pole, decorated with ribbons and greenery. In years gone by this used to be a real horses skull, but in the last few decades, a wooden effigy has been preferred! Apparently, when Mari Llwyd accompanies the singers, she brings good luck and fortune on the houses she visits.

So if like us, Christmas and New Year passed you by a little too quickly this year, or if you’re here on a winter break, head on down to the Gwaun Valley to extend the festive period, it’s like stepping back in time and really worth exploring. It’s a superb area of Pembrokeshire, perfect if your spending 48 hours in Fishguard.

We’ll let Bessie know you’re on your way…

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.