A concert which is to be held at St Mary’s Church, Fishguard, on Friday, 19th January, will be presenting an ancient tradition in a modern way.
For centuries, the Old New Year was celebrated in Pembrokeshire as well as other parts of Wales, on or around the 13th of January. However, during the last century, the tradition dwindled and, of late, the custom is associated with the Gwaun Valley in particular.
The local school children lose a day of school to visit houses and farms, singing verses of good cheer and receiving money and sweets in return. Some walk, others even go on horseback, but most often, wind, weather, health and safety combine to require the use of cars.
After dark, families meet to celebrate and sing together. In years gone by, this was the occasion for sampling ‘home brew’, and even though the skill of brewing is not forgotten in the valley, nowadays, Hen Galan is celebrated in the local pub or hotel.
Many of the verses which are sung are unique to this celebration and area. Here is an example –
Old New Year at last is dawning
Such a special feast this morning
One for giving and receiving
Thirteenth day! O hear our greeting!
Give with grace to the poor. x 2
Those who give each year with kindness
Will receive again much more.
In 2011, many local societies in the Fishguard and Goodwick communities saw an opportunity to raise awareness of this unique local tradition while raising money for good causes. The concert has been held annually since, on each occasion at a different venue. In January, it will start at 7pm, with hot punch, welsh cakes and time to mingle at 8pm. Cor Abergwaun, Goodwick Brass Band and items by local school children will entertain us. Everybody is welcome to attend.