Stars and Ribbons

Winter Wassailing in Wales

Author(s) Rhiannon Ifans

Language: English

Genre(s): Art and Music, Welsh Interest

  • February 2022 · 280 pages ·216x138mm

  • · Paperback - 9781786838247
  • · eBook - pdf - 9781786838254
  • · eBook - epub - 9781786838261

About The Book

Wassail songs are part of Welsh folk culture, but what exactly are they? When are they sung? Why? And where do stars and pretty ribbons fit in? This study addresses these questions, identifying and discussing the various forms of winter wassailing found in Wales in times past and present. It focuses specifically on the Welsh poetry written over the centuries at the celebration of several rituals – most particularly at Christmas, the turn of the year, and on Twelfth Night – which served a distinct purpose. The winter wassailing aspired to improve the quality of the earth’s fertility in three specific spheres: the productivity of the land, the animal kingdom, and the human race. This volume provides a rich collection of Welsh songs in their original language, translated into English for the first time, and with musical notation. It also provides a comprehensive analysis of these poems and of the society in which they were sung.


‘Drawing upon her own authoritative doctoral thesis on our native wassail songs, Rhiannon Ifans has now achieved her long-held ideal of publishing an English-language volume on this significant seasonal tradition thus introducing it, and worthily so, to an international readership.’
Roy Saer, Welsh Folk-Song Society

‘From Mari Lwyd to hunting the wren, the customs associated with winter wassailing in Wales are many and varied. This study presents a rich tapestry of folk traditions linked to the New Year, the greeting of neighbours, and the promotion of prosperity and fertility.’
Rhidian Griffiths


List of Illustrations
An Introduction to Winter Wassailing in Wales
Christmas Wassailing
Wassailing at the New Year
Hunting the Wren
Stars and Ribbons: the Mari Lwyd ritual
Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau (Candlemas)
Beth sy mor feinion
Calennig (1)
Calennig (2)
Cân Hela’r Dryw
Cân y Dryw
Cân y Fari Lwyd
Cerdd Dydd Calan
Consêt Prince Rupert or Prince Rupert’s Conceit
The Cutty Wren
Cyfri’r Geifr (1)
Cyfri’r Geifr (2)
Y cyntaf dydd o’r Gwyliau or The first day of Christmas
Deffrwch! Benteulu
Dibyn a Dobyn
Y Fedle Fawr
Ffarwel Gwŷr Aberffraw
Hyd yma bu’n cerdded
Joan’s Placket
Leave Land or Gadael Tir
May Day
Y Mochyn Du
Peg O’Ramsey
Sosban Fach
Tri Thrawiad Gwynedd
Y Washael (Wel, dyma enw’r feinwen)
Ymdaith Gwŷr Harlech or The March of the Men of Harlech
Winter Wassailing Songs and Poems 1–49
Verse forms
Index to first lines
Index to poets
Index to tunes
General Index

About the Author(s)

Author(s): Rhiannon Ifans

Rhiannon Ifans is retired Dyson Fellow in the Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts, University of Wales Trinity Saint David. She is General Secretary of the Welsh Folk Song Society, and editor of the annual journal Canu Gwerin / Folk Song.

Read more


Enjoy 50% off selected titles until 29 February!