Holidays in Wales

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The Cathedral at St. David's, Pembrokeshire

These are the main holidays traditionally celebrated in Wales that are not shared with the rest of the United Kingdom. Except for those that fall at the same time as UK public holidays, none of these holidays are bank holidays. There is, however, much support for the recognition of St David's Day as a bank holiday in Wales, in the same way as St Patrick's Day in Northern Ireland, and St Andrew's Day in Scotland.

Many of the seasoned festivals originate in the Celtic culture of Wales, as does the manner of their celebration.

Historic Practice[edit]

As recorded in the Laws of Hywel Dda, the three main holidays (gwyliau) of the medieval Welsh kingdoms were Christmas (Nadolyc), Easter (Pasc), and Whitsuntide (Sulgwyn).[1]

Other important holidays were the feasts of St Patrick (Gwyl Badric) on March 17; St. Quiricus (Gwyl Giric) on June 16; the Beheading of John the Baptist (called in Welsh Gwyl Ieuan y Moch – St. John of the Swine – as it was the day the pigs were turned out into the woods to forage through the winter[2]) on August 29; St Michael (Gwyl Fihangel) on September 29; and the Calends of Winter (Calan Gaeaf) on November 1, All Saints' Day (yr Holl Saint).[3] A special drink called the "liquor of the Apostles" (gwirawd yr ebestyl) was brewed for and distributed on these saints' days.[4]

Saints' Days[edit]

St. David's Day[edit]

Main article: St. David's Day

The patron saint, of Wales is St David, Welsh: Dewi Sant. St. David's Day (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant) is celebrated on 1 March, which some people argue should be a designated national holiday.

Gŵyl Mabsant[edit]

Main article: Gŵyl Mabsant

On a more localised level, each parish celebrated a Gŵyl Mabsant in commemoration of its native saint. This annual celebration developed from a dedication through prayer to a programme of recreational activities.

Dydd Santes Dwynwen[edit]

Main article: Dydd Santes Dwynwen

Celebrated on 25 January every year, Dydd Santes Dwynwen (the day of Saint Dwynwen) is the Welsh day of love much like St. Valentine's Day.

Gŵyl San Steffan[edit]

Celebrated on 26 December, in Wales Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day is known as Gŵyl San Steffan.

Seasonal festivals[edit]

(listed in order by date of occurrence during the year)

Nos Galan and Dydd Calan[edit]

Main article: Nos Galan

January 1: The Welsh New Year's Eve and Day celebration involving the tradition of giving gifts or money Calennig to celebrate the new year.

Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau[edit]

February 2: Literally translates as "Mary's Festival of the Candles", and it is equivalent to Candlemas and Imbolc. In Paganism, the Welsh holiday name is just Gŵyl y Canhwyllau, meaning "The Festival of Candles".

Alban Eilir[edit]

Main article: Alban Eilir

March 20–21: Spring Equinox, the middle of Spring.

Calan Mai or Calan Haf[edit]

May 1: May Day, the first day of summer and the Welsh equivalent of Beltane.

June 20–21: Alban Hefin (Summer Solstice)

June 24: Gwyl Ifan (St John's Day) otherwise known as Midsummer's day.

Calan Awst[edit]

Main article: Lammas

Around August 1: The first day of Autumn, a time of festival and drinking, the Welsh equivalent of Lughnasadh, or Lammas.

Alban Elfed[edit]

Main article: Alban Elfed

September 22–23: Autumn Equinox, the middle of Autumn.

Nos Galan Gaeaf and Calan Gaeaf[edit]

Main article: Calan Gaeaf

October 31 and November 1: Winter's eve and the first day of winter. A Hallowe'en or Samhain-type festival.

Alban Arthan[edit]

Main article: Alban Arthan

December 21–22: A Winter Solstice or Midwinter festival, the shortest day of the year.


This poetic tradition has been celebrated in eisteddfod, a Welsh word meaning a gathering where people recite verses and sing songs.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Wade-Evans, Arthur. Welsh Medieval Laws, p. 2. Oxford Univ., 1909. Accessed 31 Jan. 2013.
  2. ^ Roberts, Sara E. Llawysgrif Pomffred: An Edition and Study of Peniarth MS 259B. Brill, 2011. Accessed 31 Jan 2013.
  3. ^ Wade-Evans, Arthur. Welsh Medieval Laws, p. 343. Oxford University, 1909. Accessed 31 Jan 2013.
  4. ^ Wade-Evans, Arthur. Welsh Medieval Laws, p. 341. Oxford Univ., 1909. Accessed 31 Jan. 2013.