Happy New Year in Pembrokeshire

Published: Monday 13th Jan 2014

Written by: Ginnie James

You may think Christmas and New Year celebrations are way behind us by now but, in the Gwaun Valley in Pembrokeshire, the arrival of the New Year has not yet been celebrated. Back in 1752, the Julian calendar was abolished and replaced with the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar cut 11 days from September 1752 out of existence in an attempt to correct a growing discrepancy between dates of festivals and the actual seasons. However, the people of the Gwaun Valley near Fishguard ignored this decree and carried on regardless.

Ever since then, their New Year or ‘Hen Galan’ has been celebrated on 13 January. Children from the valley still go visiting neighbours on Hen Galan singing traditional songs, unaltered for centuries, to ‘let in’ the coming year and to wish the occupants health and happiness. Maintaining the tradition, householders give the children sweets and money - or "calennig", meaning "New Year gift or celebration". At one time, Hen Galan was a more important festival than Christmas in the Gwaun Valley, with special food and drink being prepared well in advance. Skewered fruit, such as an apple decorated with a sprig of an evergreen, were carried, which was a symbol of prosperity for the year ahead. For accommodation in the area, check out Wales Holidays cottages in Pembrokeshire and West Wales.


Ginnie James

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