Updated: Oct 29, 2019
The clocks have gone back, the air is getting colder and the nights are beginning to roll in. Many of us are thinking about Halloween!
Trick or treating (who doesn’t love crazy kids on a sugar rush?!), fancy dress, pumpkin carving… all great fun Halloween activities. A lot of these we have inherited from our American cousins, which got me thinking… what did my Welsh ancestors do to celebrate Halloween?
This is what I found out!
In Wales, Nos Calan Gaeaf is the eve of the first day of winter (November 1st). This was a night full of celebrations and spookiness!
Locals would celebrate the end of gathering & storing their summer harvests, in readiness for the long winter ahead.
A great big bonfire was a must in a Welsh Nos Calon Gaeaf celebration!
Communities would come together and build fires. They would dance, sing, tell stories, cook (roasted apples were a favourite!) and even jump through the fire for good luck! It was all part of the fun to celebrate the start of winter!
A roaring fire on this night, as well as providing light and warmth, kept the dark spirits away.
Welsh people believe that on 31st October, malignant spirits would be able to visit us from the 'otherworld'.
Such as, the Cŵn Annwn, 'hounds of hell', who patrolled the Preseli mountains and the Hwch Ddu Gwta (a tail-less black sow) who roamed the countryside with Y Ladi Wen (a headless lady in white) striking fear into the locals, and bringing bad luck.
Everyone would rush home before the fire died out to avoid these and any other bad spirits that might visit!
“Adref, adref, am y cyntaf, Hwch Ddu Gwta a gipio’r ola!’’
“Home, home, at once, the tailess black sow shall snatch the last!”
While I celebrate Halloween in the 21st century, dressed as a zombie, around a roaring campfire, I will be thinking of my Welsh ancestors.
As they said goodbye to the summer and welcomed the start of winter, using fire to bring us together with friends and family, keeping everyone warm and safe from the darkness of winter nights.
Keep safe this Halloween and watch out for any black piggies with missing tails (don’t worry, Fat Harry, Myrtle and Gertrude our Kunekune pigs all have their tails!)
Why not find out more about Welsh mythology here: