Chepstow, Wales, UK. 20th Jan, 2018. Over 30 'Mari Lwyds' (Welsh), or Grey Mare's gather for celebrations at Chepstow, on the Welsh border, a record breaking number. The Mari Lwyd is an ancient midwinter tradition to celebrate the New Year. It is very unusual to see more than one 'Mari Lwyd' on any one occasion and unheard of to have a gathering of so many. Credit: Haydn Denman/Alamy Live News

- Image ID: RE2PAD
Chepstow, Wales, UK. 20th Jan, 2018. Over 30 'Mari Lwyds' (Welsh), or Grey Mare's gather for celebrations at Chepstow, on the Welsh border, a record breaking number. The Mari Lwyd is an ancient midwinter tradition to celebrate the New Year. It is very unusual to see more than one 'Mari Lwyd' on any one occasion and unheard of to have a gathering of so many. Credit: Haydn Denman/Alamy Live News
Haydn Denman / Alamy Stock Photo
Image ID: RE2PAD
Mari Lwyd' celebrations at Chepstow. Morris dancers and public in Chepstow, on the boarder of Wales and England UK, celebrate one of the strangest and oldest of Welsh customs as they take the 'Mari Lwyd' to several pubs and taverns in the small market town. The ''Mari Lwyd' (''Grey Mare'' or "Gray Mary" in English) is a Welsh midwinter tradition, possibly to celebrate New Year, although it formerly took place over a period stretching from Christmas to late January. It is a form of visiting wassail, a luck-bringing ritual in which the participants accompany a person disguised as a horse from house to house or in this case pub to pub. The Mari Lwyd (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈma.ri ˈlʊi̯d]) is a wassailing folk custom found in South Wales. The tradition entails the use of an eponymous hobby horse which is made from a horse's skull mounted on a pole and carried by an individual hidden under a sackcloth. It represents a regional variation of a "hooded animal" tradition that appears in various forms throughout Great Britain. The Mari Lwyd itself consists of a horse's skull that is decorated with ribbons and affixed to a pole; to the back of the skull is attached a white sheet, which drapes down to conceal both the pole and the individual carrying this device. In some instances, the horse's jaw is able to open and close as a result of string or lever attached to it, and there are accounts of pieces of glass being affixed into the eye sockets of some examples, representing eyes An observer of the tradition as it was performed in the nineteenth century noted that preparation for the activity was a communal event, with many locals involving themselves in the decorating of the Mari Lwyd. The Mari Lwyd custom was performed during winter festivities, specifically around the dates of Christmas and New Year.
Location: Chepstow, Wales, UK.

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