It's not that early - 7:45 here in Bordeaux - but I'm still the only one up so far. This year there's been more talk of Plygain that usual.

Plygain is the old Welsh tradition of carol services. They'd take place in the early morning, usually in a country church or chapel, and people would turn out in droves - just as popular as Carol Services today or more so. The local clergy person would open proceedings then invite people up to sing, and unrehearsed groups, in the old days generally of men, would come to the front and sing the old traditional carols by heart.

The old Welsh traditional carols were full of biblical references identifying the infant Jesus as the one who came from Bozrah, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, the promise given to Adam, the lawgiver on Sinai, and so on.

I think the fear is that the tradition is now dying out and all memory of it, too. One church in Montgomeryshire where the plygain had its roots has just closed. Children who grew up with plygain are now in their 80s or 90s. 

Times do change. Maybe plygain is dying out, but this year there's been a flurry of recordings and reminiscences. A couple of internet searches will find you lots of information, from people translating some of the best-known songs - "Ar gyfer heddiw'r bore" (my favourite) and "Wele cawsom y Meseia" , for example - along with versions sung by opera stars and shepherds - and even a "plygain rhithiol" - a virtual plygain. That's one way to learn the Welsh word for virtual...



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