We all know the Christmas carol, but what the hell is wassailing?
Wassailing may sound more like the cheerful cousin of trick-or-treating: people travel from door to door, singing and offering drinks in exchange for small gifts and food. But the most twisted version of wassailing comes from South Wales and may or may not include a dead horse.
Mari Lwyd was first recorded in the history books in 1800 (though no doubt has pre-Christian origins) and is still practiced in some Welsh communities today. A horse’s skull is attached to a pole and carried by an individual hidden beneath a piece of cloth. Sometimes ribbons and colorful ornaments decorate the skull to add a bit of festive flair.
The hobby horse would be accompanied by several others members of the community as they wandered from door to door, demanding to be let into homes via a song. The homeowners would respond with their own song and the singing contest would go back and forth until the homeowners relented and brought the wassailers in for food and drink.
It may be dark and macabre to some, and it was met with resistance from church groups in the mid-20th century, however, the Mari Lwyd has seen a spike in popularity over the last few years.
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