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The Mari Lwyd (pronounced Mah-ri Lloyd) is a wassailing folk custom found in South Wales. The name means “grey mare,” and refers to a hobby horse made from a horse’s skull mounted on a pole, which is carried by an individual hidden under a sackcloth.
A group of people would accompany the Mari Lwyd to local houses, where they would request entry by singing a song. The householders would be expected to turn them away, replying through song, and the two sides would continue singing their responses to one another until one side relented. If the householders gave in first, the Mari Lwyd team would be invited in and supplied with food and drink.
This tradition typically takes place sometime between the winter solstice and New Year’s Day. While some scholars have tried to append a Christian interpretation to the Mari Lwyd, claiming it somehow represents the Virgin Mary (?!?!), my own personal belief is that it stems from Welsh pranksters trying to scam booze and food from their neighbors by way of a horrifying puppet, and is closer in spirit to Halloween than Christmas.
As someone of Welsh descent, I wanted to create a winter holiday card that spoke to that aspect of my heritage, and which leans into my (perhaps relentless) love of Halloween.
Either way, I wish you a happy time this winter, with bountiful food and drink of your choosing!