The custom in Wales that I wrote about yesterday, Mari Lwyd, may have disappeared. One source on the internet says it has not been practiced for about 15 years. However, other sources that are more recent say that Mari Lwyd has been revived. What is definitely true is that there are lots of people searching for and writing about strange customs around the world. There are lots of internet entries with names like “20 Weird Traditions” and “25 Strange Customs” that are good for wasting away an afternoon or filling an evening with very temporary frissons.
Wales once had many unusual holiday traditions that were peculiar to this culture but have mostly died out. What I believe is still true is that some Welsh people still call Christmas nadolig, that Wales was once the home of many far out local holiday practices, and that Wales is one of the few places in the world where caroling is still an ongoing custom. Many report about what is called plygain. This is a traditional Welsh Christmas service. From 3 to 6 am on Christmas morning, some Welsh people gather in churches to sing Christmas songs.
Some say that many common practices began in Wales. Trick or treating was supposedly invented in this part of the United Kingdom. This is a dying practice, I believe, in our own culture where Halloween is still a big holiday with dressing up and partying but saying something clever to earn a treat is no longer a common custom. Some say that holly and mistletoe became part of holiday celebrations in Wales too, which may or may not be true. Who cares? One 2020 blogger claims that in Wales ‘wren hunting’ is still practiced on Boxing Day. If this is true, I suspect it’s accompanied by a lot of drinking as are cold water swimming and running races on Boxing Day.
It’s kind of fun to think that some still believe in the Alpine folklore character called Krampus. Krampus is a horned male monster that is half goat. He is spoken about in several central European cultures although this character originated in Germany. Some say Krampus is still part of Austrian Christmas culture. Krampus is said to punish misbehaving children at Christmastime. You better watch out; you better not cry.
One weird custom I read about while doing research for this involved teeth filing. According to some, this is a practice in Bali where men and women have their teeth filed in preparation for marriage. I also learned not to show up on time while visiting Venezuela, not to ask an Egyptian to pass the saltshaker if you are dining in his home, and how and why to avoid camel fights while in Turkey. I already knew not to clink glasses in Hungary, but I didn’t know that asking for salt in Cairo is an insult to your host.