This from Wales Online:
Celebrations for the traditional event are still held on Anglesey every year
The shortest day in the annual calendar is marked on December 21 every year and is celebrated by people across the UK as Winter Solstice. It once held huge significance for Celtic people and while it tends to come and go with very little fanfare now, there are still people who like to mark the occasion.
Ancient druids once called Anglesey their home and would have celebrated the tradition every year, marking the imminent return of the sun and acting as a symbol of death and rebirth. To the surprise of some, this tradition is still celebrated on the island today.
For years rituals have been held to mark the arrival of Winter Solstice at Bryn Celli Ddu, a Neolithic burial chamber on Anglesey, conducted by the modern-day Anglesey Druid Order, and 2022 was no exception. And NorthWalesLive reporter Christopher Davies went along to the celebration – here’s what he had to say on the event.
Both members of the order and locals looking to celebrate the solstice gather at the chamber during the final hour of light to offer-up their thanks to various figures from Welsh mythology, the Mabinogi and beyond. The chamber is set so that the light from the sun at sunrise on the Summer solstice shines directly into the tomb’s passageway.
Having never attended any solstice events before and a little excited to find out that one was happening on my own doorstep, I decided to go along and see what it was all about. This year around 40 people had shown up for the event, which began on the roadside a short walk away from the Bryn Celli Ddu site. On this occassion the celebration was held early (Sunday, December 18), presumably to allow more people to attend the event than would be possible on a week day (Wednesday to be exact).
It was a short five minute walk down the path which, by the time we arrived, was a little muddy after the wet and snowy weather of recent weeks but for the most part easily accessible and a scenic autumnal walk to enjoy. As I arrived at Bryn Celli Ddu a little early, the Druids were still preparing for the ceremony and only a few people had made it down to actual chamber already – the rest arriving shortly after in a procession.
Before the ceremony got underway, the Druids encouraged everyone to move in close and the guests crowded around them at the front entrance of the chamber. A small cauldron covered with mistletoe acted as the central point of the proceedings.
Judging by the sky above, the clouds were doing everything they could to stop the rain from falling and sadly the midwinter sun was hidden just beyond them. The Druids played this off with a joke about how they’d only seen the sun once in ’20 plus years’ of Winter Solstice ceremonies.
With everyone set the ceremony began and brief moments were taken to help everyone reconnect with the land, the sky and the sea. Thanks were given to the various guardians and spirits of the site through offerings of alcohol bestowed on the land and to the Goddess Môn of the island.
This continued with several traditional mythological figures being honoured with offerings, while those attending the event were encouraged to join-in at certain points in the ceremony by giving thanks and saying a few words. They spoke of the people who roamed this island long ago, people who once feared this time of year – a period where the light slipped away, bestowing upon them the belief that they’d been left in perpetual darkness until Christmas morning when the light returned once again.
A moment in the ceremony dedicated to celebrating the sun led to a number of jokes and a recitation of the story of Lleu, the light giver from the Mabinogi, to which the Druids explained their purpose of ‘bringing the sun back’. The event was rounded-off by the appearance of the Mari Lwyd – a famous figure in Welsh folklore bearing the skull of a horse and glowing eyes crowning a body shrouded in a white cloak – and offerings of coins and beer were made to her. Mari meanwhile snapped her jaws back at the various gifts, much to the delight of the young children who had come along to the event.