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'Gwyl Fair forwyn ddechre gwanwyn'

Candlemas. One of my favourite things about writing novels is the research ( the other's the weird subconscious things you dredge up without realising!). Even after the Reformation the country year was peppered with special days, some dating back to pagan times, others to the early Church. Each had its strange ritual practices, objects and food. In the 1750s, the people would celebrate many festivals that are all but lost to us in Britain today. One of my favourite is Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllhau on the second of February. It both celebrated the Purification of the Virgin Mary and foretold the impending approach of Spring. So many church festivals were linked with seasons and the passing of time in the natural world. On these special days the future could often be told - by throwing cups on the floor or cooking toasted cheese and washing your clothes in spring water, for example - bonkers, but fun! Candles, symbolic in a Christian sense, were also a sign that sunlight was returning to the land. The candle, ceremonously handed to the head servant in the autumn, was ritually given back on the second of February when natural light could be used instead when feeding the animals. Noticing the mornings and evenings lighter, snowdrops and even crocuses out, I can't help feeling that it would be great to have some communal way of acknowledging it again

... With thanks to Trefor M. Owen's study 'Welsh Folk Customs'

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