Quick Reference

Calan Gaeaf. Welsh calendar festival for 1 November, a counterpart of Irish Samain, Cornish Allantide, and Breton Kala-Goañv. A remnant of the old Celtic New Year, Hollantide was a time of ghostly visitation, divination games, bonfire burning, and post-harvest merrymaking, traditions which largely vanished in the 19th century to be replaced by the wassailing common to the other holidays. As dark preceded light on the Celtic calendar, the dark time, i.e. of death, comes before the celebrations of spring and summer. At such a time Welsh people might encounter the apparitions known as Y Ladi Wen [the white lady] and the hwch ddu gota [bob-tailed black sow]. On the night before Hollantide it was believed that those who were going to die in the coming year could be seen through the church-door keyhole. Less ominously, young people sewing hemp at crossroads at night could make their future sweethearts appear.

See Trefor M. Owen, Welsh Folk Customs, 3rd edn. (Cardiff, 1974).

Subjects: Religion.

Reference entries