Ghost stories for Christmas and the Mari Lwyd: December on the Ghosts and Folklore of Wales podcast

Ghosts and Folklore of Wales with Mark Rees podcast

Ghost stories for Christmas are a long-standing tradition, but unlike the chilling tales of Charles Dickens and M.R. James, the festive accounts on this podcast are not works of fiction – these are real-life ghost stories! December on the Ghosts and Folklore of Wales podcast also saw the return of everyone’s favourite yuletide visitor, the horse-skulled Mari Lwyd, a look at the never-ending Christmas parties in Victorian Wales, and even a few accounts of spirits of the living – the shades of those yet to shuffle off this mortal coil. Merry Christmas/ Nadolig llawen!

EP82 The Endless Christmas Party: Curious festive customs in Victorian Wales

In Victorian Wales, the 12 Days of Christmas became the 12 Days of Carnage for some, with a little too much merriment leading to fisticuffs and debauchery.

At the heart of the festivities was music, and it was during this period that Wales became known as the “Land of Song.” There were mummers and Christmas carol singers in the streets, and a certain horse-skulled creature called the Mari Lwyd.

But there was a fierce rivalry among the musicians to match any sporting rivalry, and the bell ringers, waits and singers all fought it out – quite literally in some cases – to find the best music makers in Wales.

EP81 Ghost Stories for Christmas: Festive spirits haunt the wilds of Wales

One of the best Christmas traditions is telling creepy ghost stories by candlelight, but unlike the tales of Charles Dickens and M.R. James, what if these spooky yarns were not works of fiction, but real-life tales of terror?

In one tale, a wife heads out into the wilds of Wales one chilly Christmas Eve in search of her missing husband, but finds something far more terrifying.

In another, a family ghost appears every festive season with a warning from beyond the grave. But what does it all mean?

EP80 Mysteries of the Mari Lwyd: The Welsh ”Christmas Horse” goes from folk favourite to folk horror in Victorian Wales

Explore Wales’s weird and wonderful Christmastime tradition, the festive “bone horse” that is the Mari Lwyd!

The Mari Lwyd is a curious custom which sees a hobby horse-like like creature challenge people to a battle in verse – what some call a “rap battle” – and, if victorious, enters their home to eat their cakes and ale.

But what began as a good-natured folk tradition soon descended into one of chaotic folk horror, and as we discover on this episode, it got so out of hand that the Mari Lwyd was outlawed.

EP79 Spirits of the Living: Apparitions of people still alive have long been sighted, but why?

Ghosts of the living come in all shapes and sizes, from lost souls minding their own business to stone-hurling poltergeists.

But what does it mean to see a spirit, of somebody who is still alive?

In this creepy collection of “real life” paranormal encounters, they are seen in the middle of the day and the dead of night, some with messages, and some with somewhere to get to, and some who simply vanish into thin air.

Enjoy these podcasts? Read more about the ghosts and folklore of Wales in The A-Z of Curious Wales!

Ghosts of Wales by Mark Rees, host of the Ghosts of Wales podcast

The A-Z of curious Wales by Mark Rees – as well as Mark’s other weird and wonderful books – is available now from all good bookshops, and online from the books page.

Published in 2019 by The History Press, here’s the blurb:

Wales’ history is packed with peculiar customs and curious characters. Here you will discover alien landscapes, ancient druids and a Victorian ghost hunter.

Find out why revellers would carry a decorated horse’s skull on a pole door to door at Christmastime, how an eccentric inventor hoped to defeat Hitler with his futuristic ray gun, and why a cursed wall is protected by a global corporation for fear it might destroy a town.

From the folklore surrounding the red dragon on the flag, to the evolution of the song ‘Sosban Fach’, this compendium of weird and wonderful facts will surprise and delight even the most knowledgeable resident or visitor.

Click here to order The A-Z of Curious Wales by Mark Rees